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Benjamin Franklin’s Life Analysis Essay

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Updated: Jan 4th, 2022

Introduction

Benjamin Franklin is considered the founding father of the United States. He was a renowned author, one of the first printers, one of the finest scientists and inventors among great scientists, and also a great politician and diplomat in the time he worked for the United States. His work in science was exemplary he will forever be remembered for his discoveries and contributions in electricity. He invented various appliances like the lighting rod and the unique glass ‘armonica’. He also initiated a public lending library; the first in America alongside a pioneer fire department that was in Pennsylvania. He had a brilliant mind that somehow revolutionized the world.

Analysis

The purpose of the analysis in this study is to give a brief overview of Benjamin Franklin’s life which will help to answer various questions about his character.

A brief autobiography

On 6th January 1706, the lastborn son of Josiah Franklin was born. He was named Benjamin Franklin. He had sixteen other siblings. Benjamin briefly attended school only until he was ten years old. When he was twelve, he got interested in his brother’s James work who was a printer working for New England Courant. Benjamin progressed well becoming a contributor at some point and later a nominal editor. His progress was not accepted well by his brother who had introduced him to the trade and Benjamin decided to run away due to the constant quarreling. He first seeked refuge in New York, but later came to move to Philadelphia in 1723 (Foner, 12).

He was employed as a printer for a while then Governor Keith persuaded him to go to England. Governor Keith’s promise felt to meet his expectations and he got to work as a compositor until Denman a merchant facilitated his way back to Philadelphia. He was offered a position in Denman’s business where he worked until the demise of Denman. The death of Denman made him go back to his previous trade but this time he opened up his own printing house where he used to print The Pennsylvania Gazette which was a platform for raising local issues that needed reform (Foner, 32). In 1732, he stated distributing Poor Richard’s Almanac which made him quite popular as a writer. He quit his work as a writer for Almanac in the late 1750’s and printed a sermon called Father Abraham’s which was definitely one of the most successful literature works in colonial America.

During this time, Franklin got involved gradually with public affairs and he even set up an academy which would later develop into the University of Pennsylvania. He also founded the American Philosophical Society for the sole purpose of helping scientist to be able to share their findings with one another. He had also started doing electrical researches on his own. Earlier in 1748, he had sold his printing business because he had already acquired sufficient wealth and he wanted to finance his studies. He made significant discoveries which earned his great recognition across Europe (Foner, 55).

In politics, he became popular by being a good administrator and one of the best controversialists. He however tainted his name when he abused his position to help his relatives advance. He is however remembered for his postal system reform. As a statesman, he was only involved in colonial relations with Great Britain and at a later stage France. He was sent to England in 1957 to raise concerns that were emerging concerning the authority of the Penns in the colony government. He continued to shed more light on colonial provisions for five years. He later came back to America and was a key player in the Paxton affair but however could not keep his seat in the assembly. This made him to be sent to England for the second time as a representative for the colony but with a different role of formally requesting to the King take back the government from the administrators (Foner, 70).

He strongly contested the proposed stamp act which made him less popular. In 1767 he went to France where he was regarded a hero. Just before he went back to America, he lost his seat as the postmaster in 1775. He was then elected when he went back to America as a member of the continental congress. Two years later in 1777, he was preferred in the continental congress then elected to be an ambassador of the United States and was sent to France. He worked well as a commissioner for ten years and upon his return, he was appointed as a champion of American independence. He later died only five years after his appointment in April 17, 1790.

Character evaluation

Some may argue that Benjamin Franklin was unusually ambitious but he was a type of person who had a strong will and passion to succeed. The best example is his scholarly achievements. For a person who never graduated and only went to school up to the age of ten, he was really ambitious and got his education through voracious reading. Other people who are greatly recognized for scientific inventions and contributions are people who got an education beginning from a tender age, and gradually grew as they advanced in higher academic institutions. He had a quest for knowledge and he never let anything stop him from succeeding.

A lot of people come across different texts and information about Benjamin Franklin but what remains unanimous is the acknowledgement of his achievements. I personally found Eric Foner’s account to be fascinating because it focused on highlighting the great things that he achieved. But also, going through Franklin’s autobiography one gets to identify the various accomplishments that are attributed to him as the story of his life unfolds in his autobiography. I consider Benjamin Franklin to be one of the greatest individuals who ever lived despite his flaws and my opinion still remains the same even after a keen comparison between Eric Foner’s account and Franklin’s autobiography.

There are a lot of contributions that Benjamin Franklin will be remembered for. Personally, I think he should be remembered for everything that he did but there is one particular contribution that I find outstanding. His marvelous contribution in different inventions and scientific enquiries was a great contribution in the world of science. He was an extraordinary inventor coming up with things like the lighting rod which might not seem extraordinary now but it was unheard of in those days (Franklin, 80). The other great thing about him was his generous nature. He never patented any of his inventions. He asserts in his biography that “we should not only enjoy the inventions of others, but should be thankful to have the chance to help other with our inventions” (Franklin, 88).

There were some instances that potrayed Franklin as a racist in several occasions with the most notable quoted in his autobiography being “why should Africans be brought to America while there is an chance for us to increase if we keep out the blacks and tawneys i.e. Hispanic looking whites e.g. Italians (Franklin, 124)” However he was not a hypocrite in any way he firmly expressed his opinion in all matters.

In matters of religion, Franklin hard a unique perception. He believed that religion’s purpose in life was a tool to make men to do good to other men but he was skeptical about attending services. His religious background stems from the Puritan belief of the old South Church where he was baptized and his parents attended. However, he differed with certain Puritan beliefs on issues of Jesus’s spirituality, the existence of hell, and the possibility of salvation (Franklin, 90). But this did not shake his faith in God, principles, and the belief that there is decency in man.

Although Franklin was born in the United States, he was transatlantic because his father was a Briton and his mother was an American. His father Josiah Franklin was born on the 23rd of December in the remote England son of a typical English farmer and blacksmith father Thomas Franklin and Jane white. Abiah Folger was Benjamin Franklin’s father a native of America from a place called Nantucket in the present state of Massachusetts (Foner, 18).

Franklin tried to achieve moral standards throughout his life and they paid well because they can be linked to his various achievements. These moral standards can be attributed to the Puritan virtues that were instilled in him when he was still young. In his civic works and various published works, he used these morals standards and succeeded to some extent because some of the American cultures are based on his moral standards.

Franklin worked to achieve high moral standards because he wanted to be virtuous and he also knew that the high moral standards would help him succeed in life. A good example is the respect and tolerance that he demonstrated. He condoned the many churches that were coming up he even once said “there are a lot of fresh places of adoration willingly constructed, but no matter what faction, I have never opposed”(Franklin, 108).

Through various projects that he initiated like building one the first fire stations, it was a matter of time before he joined politics. He was a good politician considering his track record. He first got elected as a councilman in October 1748 and a year later got a different role and joined justice of the peace. He progressed further when he was elected into the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1751. Three years down the line, he was assigned a prestigious position of deputy postmaster-general. He got wide recognition in his period as the deputy postmaster general when he initiated reforms that ensured mail was distributed on weekly basis (Franklin, 180).

Franklin was a product of self constructed persona as opposed to the notion of a product of education. As seen in the study, he only got formal education up to the age of ten and he later came to do his own extensive reading and research which made him achieve a lot in the world of science. His perpetual personal reinvention was driven by necessity and also he did it to benefit himself. A good example is his generous nature. He never patented any of his inventions. He asserts in his biography that “we should not only enjoy the inventions of others, but should be thankful to have the chance to help other with our inventions” (Franklin, 88). He saw the need to enlighten others with his inventions.

He also wanted to benefit himself because at some point he sold his well established printing business in 1748 and acquired enough wealth to fund his studies. He also initiated various projects like starting up the fire station and public library so that he could get recognition before venturing into elective politics.

Conclusion

According to the study, Benjamin Franklin is indeed a great scholar and politician not only in America but the entire world. He might be perceived to be a racist or a hypocrite by some but that does not change the fact that he literally brought independence to America, changed the world with his unique inventions, and was a great writer. He has achieved a lot of things despite his humble beginnings. What is inspiring about Franklin is his desire to succeed. Even though it has been over a century since he died, he can still be used as a positive role model in the 21st century to encourage people who are ambitious that everything is possible if a person is determined and sticks to his principals. Franklin was a product of self constructed persona as opposed to the notion of a product of education.

Works Cited

Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty! An American History. New York: Norton, 2009.

Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. New York: Dover Thrift Editions, 1996.

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