Benjamin Franklin Autobiography
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was a famous American political leader, inventor, and reformer, who is considered to be one of the greatest Americans along with George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. At the same time, no one of the abovementioned political leaders had such great appreciation in the United States and the world for their works and practices on science, philosophy, diplomacy, urban improvement, public and educational establishments, and the further development of the American civic society. A famous American historian, Richard B. Morris states that there are seven most important American personalities: John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington (2). Moreover, Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, one of the signers of the Constitution, and the sole American leader who signed “all four of the major founding documents including the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Alliance with France, the Treaty of Paris officially ending the Revolutionary War, and the U.S. Constitution” (Gingrich 104). Benjamin Franklin’s life is a real example to be followed. Only such perception of reality and continuous work over the self-improvement lead to a successful life. The goal of the paper is to analyze on the ground of Benjamin Franklin’s statements in his book The Autobiography and Other Writings, his attitudes to life and its goal, God and religion, and Franklin’s influence on changes, which emerged in the United States by the middle of the eighteenth century. Benjamin Franklin’s goal in life was to improve people’s life by applying practical knowledge obtained as a result of self-education and research works.
Benjamin Franklin’s father, who was a candle maker, lived in Boston when Franklin was born. His date of birth was January 17, 1706. Benjamin had sixteen brothers and sisters and was the smallest son in the family. He was fond of learning at school, but his father had to take him to work at the age of ten. Little Benjamin assisted his father in making candles and soap. Benjamin did not like this business, and he always dreamt of the sea, but his father did not like Benjamin’s idea to become a sailor. When Benjamin was 12, he started to work in his brother’s print shop. They issued a newspaper The New England Courant (Franklin 2008, 23). In addition, they printed various books. Benjamin liked to work there, and he learned Mathematics, Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish languages without any teachers because he liked to read and had a very good memory. As Franklin (2008) states, “I do not remember when I could not read” because he learned to read very early (10). In addition, he learned to write articles for the newspaper under the pseudonym of Silence Dogood. His articles were very successful, and the newspaper became one of the most famous newspapers in the town. It was his first success in life because Benjamin Franklin became one of the most favorite authors of the town’s community. Therefore, since his childhood, Benjamin Franklin realized what he wanted to achieve in his life. Reading books and other written works had formed and developed his ultimate goal in life, to be useful to people by improving their life. It was no coincidence that Franklin had chosen such a pseudonym as Silence Dogood, and his articles proved it.
Besides literature works, Benjamin Franklin became one of the most famous scientists in the world because his discoveries in electricity of positive and negative poles, inventions of electric lighting, lightning rod, and many others (Isaacson 2) inspired European scientists to the further development of his ideas, which led to tremendous discoveries. Of course, it was possible only in countries where any European totalitarian monarchical regime was absent and no one could pose any obstacles to inventors and researchers for any religious, political, or social reasons. At the same time, scientific and practical literature was available for studying. Therefore, Benjamin Franklin had every opportunity to create and invent. Such inventions as Franklin stove, burning powder, killing animals with electricity, bifocal glasses, lightning rod, and a flexible urinary catheter were well known in the world, but at that time, no one knew a name of the inventor because Benjamin Franklin did not patent his works. Franklin states that, “…as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously” (Franklin 1963, 126). At the same time, Benjamin Franklin considered money as one of the most important conditions for life and creation. As he recognizes in his book, “From a child I was fond of reading, and all the little money that came into my hands were ever laid out in books” (Franklin 2008, 15). At the same time, Benjamin Franklin could sell some of his books for travelling to another town to work. Therefore, he did everything for the sake of public appreciation and improving people’s life.
Having received a good education, Benjamin Franklin understood that first of all the American society should be moral, cherishing all human virtues and observing Biblical laws. As his parents were Puritans, Benjamin Franklin became a Christian from his first days of life, but at the age of fifteen, Franklin changed his thoughts concerning Christian churches. When Benjamin Franklin lived in Europe as a representative of the United Sates, he met Voltaire, whose ideas were dear for him. He asked Voltaire to bless Temple, his grandson. Voltaire answered, “God and Liberty… this is the only appropriate benediction for the grandson of Monseiur Franklin” (Isaacson 354). It was the major driving force for Franklin. In the eighteenth century, all successful scientists, political leaders, and philosophers in Europe believed in God and were Christians. Therefore, Franklin believed that “the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this” (Franklin 2008, 343). At the same time, he rejected some Christian dogma because he became a deist at the age of fifteen, when he read a lot of literature on Christianity and deism (Franklin 2008, 69). Thus, Benjamin Franklin believed in God and considered that the American people should observe the Christian moral virtues (Isaacson 486). At the same time, Franklin could not attend churches and tolerated all Christian religious studies and sects. His attitude to God and Christian Churches became a base for the future American democracy and the development of American exceptionalism, uniting all individuals by Christian virtues, liberty, and striving for a happy life. Nevertheless, Benjamin Franklin was the first American who lived with his common-law wife, fed his family, and adopted his elder son, William. Therefore, Benjamin Franklin considered that an individual should find God’s truth using nature and reason, and no one could achieve any success in life without God’s help.
Benjamin Franklin lived in a society and reflected all ideas that existed in the eighteenth century. Thus, he used certain freedoms and rights to get education and make his discoveries and research works, which could improve life in the society. In addition, he introduced much needed reforms, which cardinally changed life in America. Thus, Benjamin Franklin established the first American post office (Isaacson 157), the fire command, the first public library and hospital, and a philosophical club, which turned into the Philosophical Society. Also Franklin was famous for his diplomatic service in Britain and France and for repealing the notorious Stamp Act. Franklin convinced the French government to give the United States money to conduct the War for Independence, and he managed to conclude the Peace Treaty with Britain in Paris on September 3, 1783 (Isaacson 416). It changed the life in the United States. Benjamin Franklin managed to convince delegates to sign the Constitution at the Constitutional Convention. Nevertheless, David Waldstreicher states that Benjamin Franklin did not “always apply his principles to his private life” (25). It is about his attitude to slavery. Thus, when Benjamin Franklin gained a certain success in life and created a family, he had two slaves. To have slaves was an everyday occurrence at that time. Moreover, when Benjamin Franklin had to live in Europe, he adopted all British points of view on slavery, believing that no one should free slaves because it was bad for them. When Franklin returned to America, he continued to protect slavery. It lasted until Franklin became convinced of the damage that could be caused by slavery. In this case, the society changed Franklin’s point of view on reforms, making him more progressive.
Benjamin Franklin is a real glory of America. His whole life is an implementation of the American Dream. His diplomatic service, literary works, scientific discoveries, inventions of a stove and a lightning rod, establishment of the postal service, a public library and hospital were the most progressive things in the world. Since Benjamin Franklin’s achievements were recognized all over the world, his self-education is a real example of how to achieve a great success in life. After considering Benjamin Franklin’s work The Autobiography and Other Writings, it is necessary to conclude that Benjamin Franklin did everything in his life for the sake of people. His ultimate goal in life was to improve their well-being. At the same time, changing the life in the society, Benjamin Franklin was changing his attitudes. He was improving his point of view on such phenomena as slavery, Christian Church and its role in the society, and human happiness.