Ben Franklin Essay, Research Paper
Ben Franklin was the definition of the self-made man. He began his career as a simple apprentice for a printer (his brother) following leaving school at the age of 10, but he and his writings went far beyond the shop where he first started. He spent the early years of his life as a printer, moralist, essayist, scientist, inventor, and a philosopher. He later went on to become a civic leader, statesman, and diplomat. Upon man of those careers he was a strong force in developing the new nation of America. His political views showed him to be a man who loved freedom and self-government. His common sense, his whit, and his ability to negotiate behind the scenes lent a hand in the formation of the new country.
Ben was put in charge of the paper at a young age when his brother was arrested when Benjamin was sixteen for his liberal statements. A year later, he left for England to become a master printer. There he lived among some of the more inspiring writers of London. He was well respected in England, but his love of liberty and his desire to promote the well being of Pennsylvania pushed him toward independence for the colonies. Since he was still well respected in England, he was “the Establishment man-even if he felt now a deep unease on the question: What was the authority of Parliament over the American colonies?”(Cite) Franklin first wanted to America to be free under the watchful eye of the British Empire. “He had a dream?of a great British Empire, gridding the globe, based upon the commonwealth of free nations, each with it’s own laws, it’s own government, and freedoms, but bound together by compact with the crown for mutual benefit, mutual defense, and the propagation of English freedoms”. The reason for this type of mother daughter relationship was that Franklin still had the belief that Britain still had “the best and freest government in the world”.
In regard to the taxation, the Stamp Act and the Townshend Act, that Britain had chose to impose on the new colonies were not agreed upon by Franklin and he made it known to them in his writings. “The sovereignty of the British legislature out of Britain, I do not understand.” He felt as though the colonies were in the position to create their own legislation. The colonies already had their own parliaments in place and felt as though these assemblies could properly legislate for these colonies. He once wrote in a letter that he would rather have “either Parliament could make all the laws for the colonies, or they can make them all for themselves”. He preferred the second scenario.
Later in life, Ben Franklin became known as a revolutionist signing the Declaration of Independence at the age of 70 in which he help develop a draft. Most men, even by today’s standards would take it easy this far into their lives, but up until he was 80, he was still active in many of Americas business. After signing the Declaration, he continued on as a diplomat, purchasing agent, recruiter, and revolutionist. At the age of 80, he oversaw the dispatch of French armies and Navies to North America to supply America with French munitions. He also supplied loans to the almost bankrupt French Treasury. Through his 80th year, he accepted the presidency of Pennsylvania for three years and later remained active in the promotion for abolishment of slavery. Franklin died three years following the Constitutional Convention of 1787 where he attempted to assist bitter disputes with his wit and good humor.
The 13 virtues
Franklin had come up with many familiar writings, but after years of reading others’ works, he came up with 13 virtues that he noticed were, in that time, desirable to live a better life.
1.Temperance- This virtue I may not be right on within, but this may have have to do with indulging on the appetites or passions that come along with drinking. Basically, if you are to drink, know your limits so as to not loose track of your actions.
2.Silence- This has to do with speaking about nothing. Gossiping. It means that if you are to say something, say something worth listening to.
3.Order- Keep your life in order. Make sure that everything and everyone have a place. This could mean in your head, your heart, or something as simple as keeping the things in your home in the right places at all times so that they are there when you need them.
4.Resolution- This is more confusing than any of the others. I would have to say that Franklin wants one to resolve situations in life without conflict. If you are to resolve things with an enemy, do it so that it does not cause any more trouble.
5.Frugality- Basically, live life thrifty. Be economic with the things that are purchased and do not purchase any unnecessary items.
6.Industry- be employed at a job that makes a difference. Do not work for the sake of working. By doing this, one may be inclined to go through the motions and not commit to that job.
7.Sincerity- No deception. Be honest and truthful if you speak. Do not spread lies about yourself or others.
8.Justice- Do not wrong anyone and admit it when you do. This could either be a reward for something that is good or punishment for something that is bad.
9.Moderation- Avoid going to extreme. This may not apply today due to the fact that in this time, going to some extremes may pay off in the end whether it be to get a job or something else that one may need such as a car when dealing with the car dealer.
10.Cleanliness-This virtue is self-explanatory. It applied then, it applies now.
11.Tranquility- This has to do with being calm and keeping your cool. People have a tendency to overexagerate certain situations such as arguments and misunderstandings. Franklin feels that staying calm may assist in quickly solving those problems.
12.Chastity- Sexual purity was a more followed virtue in Franklin’s time because they were more into religion than most are today, and more than likely there was probably less temptation then than now. For reasons such as pregnancy and diseases, this virtue should be followed today to an extent.
13.Humility- Act as Jesus did in the way he lived and acted.
Upon writing Poor Richard’s Almanac, Franklin conjured up hundreds of witty quotes, a few which are popular today. Upon going through these writing, I would like to take a few that I enjoy and attempt to read into them a bit.
A good conscience is a continued Christmas- Christmas is a time where people do things to help others that make them feel good about themselves. By doing these kinds of things on a regular basis, one would feel good all the time while helping others instead of a few weeks or days a year.
A lie stands on one leg, truth on two- Lies may not last. The truth may be uncovered eventually unlike when the truth is told. It will always stand because there is no other story to be told opposite that and it is easier to follow the truth than protect a lie.
Be civil to all; sociable to many; familiar with few- I follow this in my own experiences. It means to act civil to everyone, regardless of who they are. Be able to socialize with a good number of people, and allow only a few into the best part of you life where you can trust them fully.
He does not possess wealth that allows it to possess him- If people are wealthy to the point of having large sums of money; they are not wealthy if they allow that wealth to run their lives because they are never able to enjoy it.
He that lives upon hope will die fasting- one must get out there and accomplish what they want. It is not enough to just want it. To accomplish that need, one must get out there and do it themselves and they will appreciate it more if they do get it.
People who are wrapped up in themselves make small packages- Arrogance is a vice that causes one to have nothing to offer others. If people are into themselves, they will not see the need of others around them and will not be able to contribute much to relationships.
That it is better 100 guilty persons should escape than that one innocent person should suffer, is a maxim that has been long and generally approved- It is unclear if Franklin agrees with this or not, but it means that one innocent person in prison is worse than 100 free guilty men. I take from this that because guilty men will be brought to justice eventually, but it is much harder for an innocent man to get out of his situation.
Wise men don’t need advice. Fools won’t take it- Wise men have taken advice over the years and have applied the good advice to their lives, while fools deny that advice and end up making some bad choices.
He that waits upon fortune, is never sure of dinner- Fortune will never fall in the lap of most people. If one is to wait for that fortune, they may end up without any of life’s necessities.
Search others for their virtues, thyself for thy vices- Seek out the best in people. Try to find their best qualities while trying to remedy the vices that you may have.
If you would be wealthy, think of saving, more than of getting- Wealthy people need to save their money for later in life when they may need it and are not able to work for it. Save what you have now and enjoy it later.
Fleming, Thomas, ed. Benjamin Franklin: A Biography in His Own Words. New York:
Newsweek. Distributed by Harper & Row, 1972.
“Benjamin Franklin: His Life As He Wrote It” Edited by Esmond Wright, Harvard University Press,
Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1989.