Benjamin Franklin: Man Of Manytalents
To say that Benjamin Franklin was a jack-of-all-trades is an understatement. Franklin, a notable polymath, excelled in politics, diplomacy, writing, printing, math and science. His inventions, both physical and social, subsist in modern societies worldwide. But Franklin influenced no country more than the land he fathered, the United Sates of America. His signature is on our Declaration of Independence, but Franklin’s influence does not stop there. His signature is also on the lightning rod, glass harmonica and bifocal glasses.
His signature graces the abolition movement, republicanism and the Franklin Institute of Boston.
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Franklin’s contributions to the advancement of the United States of America were diverse and long-standing. Verification lies in Franklin’s involvement with the American Revolution and abolitionism, as well as his lasting legacy in American society. To understand a person and his contributions, it is important to know the man behind the ideas. Benjamin Franklin was born in 1706 to Puritan parents Josiah Franklin and Abiah Folger. Benjamin was one of Josiah’s seventeen children, ten of which were born of Abiah Folger.
From a young age, Puritan values were instilled in Benjamin’s daily life. Hard work and equality are two such values that followed Franklin through his professional career. At twenty years of age, according to his autobiography, Benjamin penned a list of thirteen virtues by which he should conduct his life. The list includes common Puritan values, such as humility, moderation and chastity. Franklin also added a few of his own principles, including resolution, order and justice. “These names of virtues, with their precepts were: 1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
2. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation. 3. Order: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time. 4. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve. 5. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself, i. e. , waste nothing. 6. Industry: Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions. 7. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly. 8.
Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty. 9: Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve. 10. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation. 11. Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable. 12. Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation. 13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates. ” This diverse list would prove invaluable throughout Franklin’s career.
Be it his diplomacy during the American Revolution, the abolition movement after the war, or his lasting contributions to American society, Franklin rarely saw a dichotomy between personal beliefs and public persona. Our first glimpse into the mind and times of Franklin came via his 1733 publication of Poor Richard’s Almanack. Under the pseudonym Richard Saunders or “Poor Richard,” Franklin composed an abstract almanac. The publication included conventional information such as calendar, weather astronomical and astrological information.
It was abstract, however, in that Poor Richard’s Almanack contained proverbs composed personally by Benjamin Franklin. The same pages that included temperature fluctuation and moon cycles also housed some of the most recognizable maxims of modern history. “Fish and visitors stink in three days,” warned Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanack. Some sayings have changed slightly over time. For example, we know “a penny saved is twopence dear” as “a penny saved is a penny earned,” but both hold true in modern society. The mere compilation of information and statistics was commendable in Franklin’s time.
Poor Richard’s Almanack was notably accurate and popular among American citizens. The annual publication ran without interruption from 1733 through 1758. Franklin sold roughly 10,000 copies of Poor Richard’s Almanack per year, an amount comparable to nearly three million copies by today’s standards. Franklin was not content publishing a traditional almanac. In 1750, Franklin reported what would prove to be our country’s first unofficial demographic. Franklin continually redefined and remolded Poor Richard’s Almanack throughout its tenure.
However, it would be Franklin’s proverbs of Puritan virtues that proved most noteworthy of Poor Richard’s Almanack subject matter. Nowhere are Franklin’s virtues more apparent than in his support in the abolition of slavery. It was not until after that American Revolution that Franklin declared himself an abolitionist. However, it goes without saying that Franklin’s Puritan morality had been leading him there for some time. It is also interesting to note that Franklin’s maternal grandmother, Mary Morrill, was an indentured servant prior to marriage.
It could be said that abolitionism ran through Franklin’s veins. Franklin’s first public exposure to slavery and abolition came during the American Revolution via a British court ruling by Lord Chief Justice Mansfield. Mansfield presided over the case of James Somerset, a British-owned slave who ran away from his master. After much deliberation, Mansfield ruled in favor of the runaway slave. Mansfield determined that since slavery had never existed as an institution under British law, Somerset was free. This marked the beginning of the end of slavery in England.
While abolition was a giant step for human rights in England, Franklin and the other colonists viewed the ban on slavery as contempt toward America. The end result was an increase in revolts among American-owned slaves. Franklin finally stepped in after the British downplayed America’s call for human rights. The British labeled the Americans hypocritical for preaching human rights while many of their leaders still owned slaves. Franklin responded publicly by mocking England’s so-called attempt toward abolition.
Franklin pointed out that freeing one slave, yet still permitted the Slave Trade is also hypocritical. After the war, Franklin led by example, freeing both of his slaves. In 1787, Franklin accepted the presidency of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. As outspoken as he was on the issue of slavery, Franklin understood the dangers of premature abolition. “‘Slavery is such as atrocious debasement of human nature that its very extirpation, if not performed with solicitous care, may sometimes open a source of serious evils,’ Franklin wrote in a November 1789 address to the public from the society.
” Franklin still fought for the abolition of slavery. He also took special precaution by establishing a twenty-four-person committee divided into the following subcommittees: “Committee of Inspection, who shall superintend the morals, general conduct, and ordinary situation of the free Negroes, and afford them advice an instruction. Committee of Guardians, who shall place out children and young people with suitable persons, that they may (during a moderate time of apprenticeship or servitude) learn some trade or other business.
Committee of Education, who shall superintend the school instruction of the children and youth of the free blacks. They may either influence them to attend regularly the schools already established in this city, or form others with this view. Committee of Employ, who shad endeavor to procure constant employment for those free Negroes who are able to work; as the want of this would occasion poverty, idleness, and many vicious habits. ” Franklin’s petitions for abolition were strongly denounced, especially in the South.
Still, Franklin dedicated the latter part of his life to anti-slavery lobbying in the form of essays and actions. Franklin is best known for his involvement in the American Revolution and subsequent drafting of the Declaration of Independence. Ironically, it was Franklin, a plain-clothes politician who never stepped foot on the battleground, that made as lasting an impression as any on the American Revolution. “Franklin had been instrumental in shaping the three great documents of the war: the Declaration of Independence, the alliance with France, and the treaty with England.
” Franklin used the pen instead of the sword to fight for his country. Franklin was unanimously chosen as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, which was to meet amidst the battles of the American Revolution. Franklin would prove quite useful in the Continental Congress. “In the Congress, Benjamin Franklin accepted every duty thrust upon him. After all, he had more experience, more intimate knowledge of British intentions and wiles, more accumulated wisdom than most of the other delegates. ” Ironically, Franklin never made a Congressional speech.
He left that to the orators. Instead, Franklin stuck to his strong points of organizing, writing and committee regulation. At the time, he was a silent leader in Congress. But history writes him in a different, more honorable light. Today, Franklin is perhaps best known for his patriotism and dedication to the advancement of his homeland during the American Revolution. Temperance was a virtue that made Franklin’s list of Puritan ideals to live by. He practiced temperance, along with humility, chastity and the other virtues in his personal and professional life.
Franklin was diligent in his beliefs, but fortunately for his fellow patriots and the future of our country, Franklin knew when to shift hears. In his autobiography, Franklin published the following letter written to his British companion, William Strahan, on July 5, 1755: “Mr. Strahan, You are a member of Parliament, and one of that majority which has doomed my country to destruction. You have begun to burn our towns, and murder our people. Look upon your hands! They are stained with the blood of your relations!
You and I were long friends: You are now my enemy, and I am, Yours, B Franklin” It should be noted that Franklin never sent the letter to his companion, William Strahan. The letter was, however, used to rile up his fellow American patriots during the early part of the American Revolution. The war had begun; the war to end all wars, according to Franklin’s beliefs. The British had become domineering and inhumane toward Americans. It was time, according to Franklin, to stand our country’s ground.
“It was a true old saying that make yourself sheep and the wolves will eat you: to which I may add another, God help them that help themselves. ” Friendship and pacifism were put on hold starting April 19, 175 at Lexington and Concord, the first battle of the American Revolution. The battles would not cease until July 4, 1776 and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. “This is the greatest revolution the world has ever seen,” Franklin wrote in his autobiography. Attacks and counterattacks plagued these two countries for over two years.
Franklin, his mind leveled upon the cease-fire, understood the severity of such conflict. “The extreme cruelty with which we were treated extinguish’d every thought of returning to [England], and separated us forever. England thereby lost limbs that will never grow again. We too suffered greatly, but our losses would soon be repair’d by our good government, our industry, and the fertility of our country. ” In hindsight, we can acknowledge the progress made by both countries in the years following the American Revolution. Nothing stands out as much as liberty and justice for all.
The Benjamin Franklin legacy exists worldwide, but it is especially strong in Franklin’s homeland, the United States of America. Many of his inventions, including the lightning rod, bifocal glasses and the flexible urinary catheter, are used daily in modern American society. His aphorisms of civic duty and personal virtue are instilled in modern American thought. A positive image of Benjamin Franklin exists in the hearts and minds of most Americans. It is safe to say, however, that Franklin’s most noticeable legacy is his monetary investment in the United States of America.
Franklin donated ? 1,000 each to the cities of Boston and Philadelphia. Rather than being put to immediate use, Franklin requested that the funds be invested in a trust to gather interest for 200 years. The trust resulted from a parody of Poor Richard’s Almanack written in 1785 by Charles-Joseph Mathon de la Cour called Fortunate Richard. Mocking the spirit of American optimism, the story told of Fortunate Richard’s small donation to the United States of America only to be used after a 500-year investment.
Franklin was able to put a positive spin on the parody by accepting the Frenchman’s arrangement in a literal sense. Franklin donated ? 1,000 to his native cities, Boston and Philadelphia, with instructions to invest for 200 years. The trusts grew beyond the million-dollar-mark before the investments came due. The money has predominantly been spent on mortgage loans and scholarships. A portion of Boston’s trust was used to establish a trade school that became the Franklin Institute of Boston. Although Franklin was a man of many talents, he was not a man of many faces.
The most noteworthy aspect of Franklin’s life is that he compromised little to none of his values when shifting duties. Be it the transition from personal to political or political to scientific, Franklin carried his Puritan ideals throughout his life and career. It can be seen in his diplomacy during the American Revolution, the abolition movement after the war, and his lasting contributions to American society. Franklin rarely saw a dichotomy between personal beliefs and public persona. Franklin was quoted as saying, “fear not death; for the sooner we die, the longer shall we be immortal.
” Franklin surely was not fearful; not during his tenure as a politician, or an inventor, or a family-man. Americans are fortunate to have been preceded by such a dedicated man. His patriotism and promise shine all the way through to modern society. ? BIBLIOGRAPHY Aldridge, Alfred Owen. Benjamin Franklin: Philosopher and Man. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1965. Ben Franklin Institute of Technology. http://www. bfit. edu. Gaustad, Edwin. Benjamin Franklin. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Independence Hall Association of Philadelphia.
http://www. ushistory. org. Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003. Jennings, Francis. Benjamin Franklin: Politician. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996. Medicolegal. http://medicolegal. tripod. com. New York Times. http://query. nytimes. com. Skousen, Mark. The Completed Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin. Washington DC: Regnery Publishing, 2006. Virtual Library. http://www. vlib. us. Wikipedia. http://www. wikipedia. org. Wright, Esmond. Franklin of Philadelphia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986.