Benjamin Franklin is arguably one of the most alluded to individuals by today’s scholars and philosophers. He is a source of inspiration to many people through his literary work, his life as an inventor, politician, a printer and a scientist. It is not fallacious that Benjamin Franklin paved and shone the light for today’s crop of scientists. Yet in his grandeur and spectacular, he believed in very basic ideals. As will be espoused in the paper, he believed in virtue to civic duty and personal life, personal conduct and learning how to read and write. While some of his beliefs are taught at the most elementary level of education today, the other values are core to good citizenship and business. It is undoubted that even in his death, Benjamin Franklin still influences day to day activities vary many years later.
Why does Franklin believe that reading widely and learning to write well are important to his development?
Knowledge of someone’s lineage is important to us, and Benjamin was no exception. Through reading widely, Franklin was able to trace his lineage to the year 1555. Through this inquiry, he was able see the business history in his family. This is probably what motivated him to venture in business. It is also probable that Benjamin’s political career was inspired by his uncle. While abiding with his uncle, Benjamin learnt how to write in short-hand, something that his uncle had formed. It is during this time that he followed the political career of his uncle. He perceived him to be too much of a politician for his station. Benjamin’s scholarly life started out at a tender age. While his brothers were apprentices to different trades, Benjamin was out to grammar school at age five and later in another school to learn arithmetic (Franklin & Chaplin, 2012).
Benjamin believes that reading widely and learning how to read and write well was core to his development because I paved a way for his illustrious career in many fields. He earned the title, ‘The First American’ due to his indefatigable lobbying for colonial unity as a spokesman and an author in London. As an accomplished writer, Franklin became a newspaper editor in Pennsylvania. He also gained a lot of wealth in the publishing field. As a scholar, Franklin gained global recognition through his experiments in electricity. He also played a key role in naissance of the University of Pennsylvania subsequently getting elected as the premier president of the American Philosophical Association (Franklin & Chaplin, 2012).
All this, Benjamin believes was achievable because of the basics he acquired when he went to grammar school to learn how to read and write well. He also lived in a family that adored knowledge; therefore he had encouragement from all quarters. His love for reading also contributed to the triumph. As he says, he used every last cent he had in the purchase of books. This instilled a culture of reading in him.
How does he conduct himself in business as a printer?
As a printer, Benjamin Franklins was a very illustrious businessman. As an apprentice printer after moving to Pennsylvania, Benjamin’s work was so impressive that the Governor of Pennsylvania promised him a business of his won on condition that he went to London to buy printing equipment and fonts. Benjamin was unyielding in his quest for success in the printing business. When the governor reneged on his promise of a business, Benjamin spent several months in London doing printing work. Benjamin was a very hard working businessman. After he borrowed money from the owner of the shop where he worked as a tyro printer upon returning from England, he worked all the time (Franklin & Chaplin, 2012).
His diligence caught the eye of citizens and not long after he got government jobs on a contractual capacity. As the enterprising businessman he was, Benjamin bought the Pennsylvania Gazette. To show his enterprising nature, Benjamin also contributed articles to the paper even though he was the owner. Through his illustrious nature, the newspaper was the most successful among the colonies. The newspaper also printed the first political cartoon (Franklin & Chaplin, 2012).
How did Franklin define ‘virtue’ as having both a person and a civic importance?
Benjamin Franklin was a man of great virtue as evidenced by his coining of the thirteen virtues at age twenty. Although he admits to falling short of his virtues severally, he puts it that the attempt made him a better a better man. In his reading, Benjamin realized that many authors either used more ideas or lesser to define a certain virtue. More often than not, he found them confusing; so he decided to offer clarity by using more words and attaching very few concepts to each virtue. It was this way he was able to come up with the thirteen virtues to help him achieve moral perfection (Franklin & Chaplin, 2012).
In his definition, the word virtue assumed both a personal and civic importance. This was from his view that our personal conduct reflects on the societies; so do our virtues. For instance, as pertains justice, Benjamin pleads with us not to wrong people by causing them harm or denying them the benefits of our duties. This has a reflection on our social responsibility to shun crime and embrace integrity in carrying out our duties. On moderation, he asks that we avoid extremes and exercise tolerance and forgiveness. This is the foundation in which a peaceful and democratic society is built on.
Benjamin’s autobiography tells the life and tales of an American patriot dabbed ‘The First American’. From his life, we can learn a lot. His life teaches our younger generation of the importance of education, the mature generation of the value of hard work and diligence in our undertakings and the entire society of the value of virtues in the pursuit of moral perfection.
Franklin, Benjamin, and Joyce E. Chaplin. Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography: An Authoritative Text, Contexts, Criticism. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2012.)