After reading part one of Franklin’s autobiography, I think that he is a good representation of America’s promise: hard work, dedication, and ingenuity leading to success. Getting to the position he’s in by the end of part one, printing his own paper, was a difficult and long process. First apprenticing under his brother, Franklin wrote anonymously to avoid being confronted by his brother, since he wasn’t the nicest person.
When he published something in offense to the Assembly, he was imprisoned. After being released, he was forced to let the New England Courant be published under Franklin’s name. Once Franklin left Boston for Philadelphia, (which was a hard journey in itself) he struggled to find work, as well as a place to sleep. He settled under a man called Keimer, who he’d go back and forth between for some time.
Through Keimer, Franklin met the Governor and returned home with a letter from him 7 months later. The Governor wanted Franklin to set up his own business in Philadelphia, and was confident that he would be very successful. Franklin just had to return to Boston for his father’s approval. However, his father said that Franklin was too young (just 17 years old) and wouldn’t know how to operate his own business.
Franklin’s next voyage was across the ocean to London, where he arrived on Christmas Eve. There, the Governor was supposed to send him letters of credit for Franklin to be able to afford things in London, but when the boat arrived, he was told that there were no letters for him. His friend Denham had explained to Franklin how that wasn’t rare of the Governor to do; so Franklin got a job at Palmer’s, and then Watt’s. Meanwhile, his friend Ralph consistently borrowed money from Franklin, and had yet to repay him.
An example of dedication was Franklin’s diet and attitude while working at Watt’s. All of the men he worked with were known for drinking beer at any given instance, while Franklin only drank water. This allowed him to be able to lift heavier things and be overall stronger, much to the men’s surprise, since they were “beer-strong.” It also allowed him to save a decent amount of money, since he didn’t have to pay the liquor boy for bringing him beer.
Through this printing shop, he met a man named Wygate, who he grew close with after going swimming with him. Wygate proposed another business opportunity to Franklin: to travel around Europe with their business, supporting each other.
After talking it over with his friend Denham, who was returning to Pennsylvania soon, Franklin decided to go with him instead of traveling around Europe with Wygate. In exchange for talking Franklin out of Wygate’s business proposal, Denham offered to hire Franklin himself as a clerk, since he was bringing over many things from London to Philadelphia. Franklin agreed, and they docked at Philadelphia on October 11th, 1726.
There, he eventually worked under Keimer again along with a handful of other men. He gained popularity under Keimer by being known for working around the clock: another supporting factor of America’s promise. He was up working before his neighbors left their beds, and didn’t stop working when everyone else did. Franklin bounced from employer to employer, and married his wife, Miss Read, on the 1st of September, 1729.
The next part starts with copies of letters that were written to Franklin while he lived in Paris after the American Revolution (the end of the first part stated that there was a writing gap between both parts due to the revolution). The first, and shorter, letter is from a man named Abel James. He talks about how pleased he was to be able to read the first part of the autobiography, and states how he wants Franklin to keep writing it.
He thinks it would be a positive impact on younger people, like teenagers or people in their 20s. Franklin shows the letter from James to another friend, Benjamin Vaughan, which inspires Vaughan himself to write a letter to Franklin, which is the second one shown in the book. He also urges Franklin to continue writing, and that it acts as an advertisement for America. He compared Franklin to other brook-writers like Caesar and Tacitus. He backs up James’ comment by saying the autobiography will be good for the younger people.
At this point in history, Franklin is living in Passy, France, in the year 1784. This means that it had been thirteen years since Franklin had written the first part of this book. Franklin and the Junto club had decided to form a book lender; Philadelphia’s first public library.
He explains how it works, and that in order to borrow the books you have to be subscribed to the club. Even with slow business at first, it doesn’t take long for nearby towns to copy Philadelphia and establish public libraries of their own. Franklin’s themes of dedication and education are shown once the library is made.
He decides to go there on his own time, and studies there every day. He also doesn’t go to church, despite believing in God. Instead, he devotes that time to reading as well. Before he writes down his thirteen virtues, they are mentioned in two specific people. His wife shares his frugality with him, and Franklin didn’t go to church sermons because he believed that the pastor needed to improve his morality. Franklin notices that that’s something he should improve in himself, and creates his virtues.
There were twelve: temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, and chastity. That was going to be the end of it, but after a Quaker friend of his told Franklin that he should work on his humility, that was added as the thirteenth. He made charts in a small book, one page per virtue, and a column for each day of the week.
He carried the book with him wherever he went, and would make a tick in the column of the day, and on the page of the virtue, if he felt that he had offended the virtue. He does each of them one at a time, for years until he feels he had conquered them. Franklin stated that the hardest one he had a time with was order. He said it was because other people were able to interrupt his order, but he probably wasn’t the most organized person, either.
He planned to write a book about what he had done called The Art of Virtue, but that never happened. However, this part seemed like it would’ve been a good excerpt from the book, if he ever did write it. Franklin closes part 2 by saying that the hardest thing to overcome was pride, which seems true. Even if he managed to be one hundred percent humble, that’d be something to be proud about. But, I don’t think that’s something we should conquer. Everyone deserves to be prideful of things they do.
It had been five years since Franklin had wrote part 2, and at this point he’s back to living in Philadelphia. He talks about how he lost many papers he would’ve liked to write more about- all except for one, called “Observations on my Reading History” that he wrote in 1731. The main point of this paper is that people may bond in parties to make a change in social structure, but what it all comes down to is that each person is thinking about their own interest.
Franklin thinks that there should be a political party based on virtue, which he is pretty knowledgeable on, considering the previous part. There are several hints to major themes of the story in this part: religion, education, and family. To me, the most important one in this part is family. It had been ten years since Franklin had first left his home and many siblings in Boston, so he decided that it was time to pay another visit.
Arriving back in Boston, he has a plan to finally make up with his brother James. It turns out that he is dying, and he asks Franklin to take in one of his sons and teach him to be a printer. Franklin promises to do so, which he says makes up for the way he treated his brother before he moved to Philadelphia. Another family issue is something else that Franklin brings up; one of his own sons, Francis, had died due to not being vaccinated for smallpox.
Franklin returns home and begins considering expanding his Junto club. Instead, he suggests that each current member should start a separate club under the same ideas; like branches coming from a tree trunk. Now, Franklin begins his political career. In 1736, he becomes the General Assembly Clerk, and 2 years later, becomes the Philadelphia Postmaster.
Franklin decides to reboot the City Watch, and writes a paper that states that proper people should be hired and paid by tax. Years later, this paper becomes a law. He also creates Philadelphia’s first fire department, due to another paper written about the dangers of fire. The group of firefighters was called the Union Fire Company, and the company prevented fires from spreading house to house. Later on, after his university is established, he does several civic jobs, and negotiates with the Speaker of the House.
On the theme of religion, there are 2 pastors in this part that peak Franklin’s interest. The first is a minister Samuel Hemphill. Franklin is instantly a big fan of him because he preaches about virtues. Franklin writes pamphlets on his behalf, since most people don’t like him due to the fact that he borrows things to use in his sermons. Eventually, Hemphill gets kicked out by the congregants, and Franklin stops going to church. Later, he introduces George Whitefield, who becomes popular across the whole country.
Lastly, the theme of education. Franklin wants to open a university, so he and the Junto write a pamphlet to raise money. They raise 5,000 pounds, and get a board and constitution written for the university. Students began enrolling in 1749. It becomes known as the University of Pennsylvania. This part of the autobiography emphasized all of the new things Franklin had introduced to Philadelphia, both politically and educationally. The part ends with Franklin and his son going back to London in July of 1757.
In July of 1757, Franklin and his son get to where they were staying in London, and Franklin visits a man named Doctor Fothergill to talk about the issue with the Governor and the Assembly. Fothergill suggests he go to the Proprietaries. He meets John Hanbury through another man, Collinson, and they go together to speak to Lord Granville.
In the meeting, Granville says that Americans don’t fully understand their constitution and that they think the King isn’t giving them laws, but instructions. Franklin disgarees and thinks that America makes their own laws, it’s just that the King needs to approve them. He and Granville go back and forth with disagreeing in how they see this situation. Franklin writes down the conversation to use for a future reference.
Fothergill goes and talks to the Proprietors, aka colony owners, and they meet with Franklin at Thomas Penn’s house. Thomas Penn was the Proprietor of Pennsylvania. At the meeting, they all started out as friendly and had a calm discussion, but still can’t agree.
Franklin writes down what the colonists have complained about, but they hand those over to the lawyer named Ferdinando John Paris, who definitely isn’t nice and isn’t a fan of Franklin, either. He refuses to deal with Paris, so they give the complaint to another Governor who ends up sitting on it for an entire year. Even though they never respond back to Franklin directly, they contact the Assembly to state that Franklin is a rude man and they refuse to deal with him.
Eventually, both the Assembly and the Governor finally agree to tax both the people’s estate and the Proprietary Estate (which was the big problem to begin with). However, people still don’t like this and petition the King to prevent it from happening. They go to court with four lawyers- two on each side. The Proprietors think that the act will get rid of their favor in the people, and Franklin’s side points out that it is meant to be an honest form of taxation that isn’t meant to harm anyone.
Franklin is later taken by a man named Lord Mansfield, who talks between him and Paris calmly enough to convince both of them to sign an agreement created. Mr. Charles also signs it, and then the law is passed. Later, everything turns out to be true, as the Assembly realizes that everyone was taxed equally. They give Franklin their thanks for working on it, but the proprietaries are yet again unhappy with Governor Denny for passing the act. They get him fired, and also threaten to sue him. The Governor gets out of it because he has friends in higher ranks, so the threats of a lawsuit are dropped by the proprietors.
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin was a book that served as a great example for America’s promise, as stated in the first page of this journal. Franklin was known throughout his life for being a dedicated and ingenious individual, no matter what kind of career he was doing; printmaking or politics. From working from sun up to sun down in his new print shop on the streets of Philadelphia, or being a respected political man who helped pass an act to help all of America, Benjamin Franklin improved the country for the better, with things that are still in effect today.