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What can we learn about US history from the biographical account of Benjamin Franklin’s life??

By Ravi Blank In every age there have been a few heroic souls who have been in advance of their time who have been misunderstood, maligned, persecuted and sometimes put to death…Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Paine and their compeers were the rebels of their day…But they had the moral courage to be true to their convictions … We are going to explore the heroic soul of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin began writing his autobiography in 1771, but before he could finish writing his whole life story, he died in 1790. One challenge the book poses for us, then, is that it doesn’t cover a lot of the interesting and important stuff that happened in Franklin life, like the American Revolution or the time he spent working as a diplomat in Paris. Through his work as a writer, printer, statesman and inventor he forever established himself as one of America’s greatest figures. We see Benjamin Franklin’s influence during his lifetime, in the majority of major developments in U.S. History. His hard work and dedication to bettering himself and the lives of fellow American’s actually paved the way for Colonial America to separate itself from Great Britain and establish it’s self as a major world power.

“A Man story is not told by list of his grand accomplishments, but rather by his smaller daily goods.” We see how his influence, which derived from his dilegence and dedication, helped shape the course of U.S. history. Benjamin Franklin was an American pioneer. It is amazing the vast amount of contributions he has made to U.S. history and American life. When one thinks, “What we can learn about U.S. history from this autobiographical account of Benjamin Franklin’s life?” you have to know that is actually a simple question. We learn that he helped make it possible for the, then colonist to realize the power of freedom. Through the freedom of education, the freedom of thought, and the freedom to search the soul for personal meaning, he opened the door towards the American dream. It is difficult to imagine modern life without the contributions of Franklin. Benjamin Franklin started the Junto a “club for mutual improvement” in Philadelphia 1927 for weekly discussions of political and economic questions, which evolved into the American Philosophical Society. Within that organization the first American fire department is founded. Franklin founded a newspaper called the Pennsylvania Gazette. He established hospitals, universities and libraries. He paved the course nurtured the American civil rights movement. He built the Franklin stove which is still used today. He was the father of electricity and he invented bifocals and glass armonicas. Franklin tells us his diplomatic and professional strategies, involving us in how he got things to happen in business and politics. In short, the Autobiography shows us how easy and important it is to try and contribute to social change, while also looking to improve one’s economic position. Benjamin Franklin was involved in almost all of the major historical changes tht occured in his lifetime. ‘He believed that salvation came through good works, that the only religious doctrine he could be sure of was to serve your fellow men. He explained this in a letter to his mother, which ended with the wonderful line “I would rather have it said, ‘He lived usefully,’ than, ‘He died rich.’” One of the important changes was the Great Awakening in which he helped to influence by supporting George Whitefield, the father of this awakening, by printing his sermons and journals. Another event was the creation of the Declaration of Independence, where he wrote “We hold these truths to be self-evident”; his point was that our rights come from rationality and reason and depend on the consent of the governed, not the dictate or dogmas of a particular religion. In the American Revolution, Franklin drafted the Albany Plan of Union at the outbreak of the Seven’s Years’ War, he also gave testimony and insights that helped repeal the Stamp Act, the Townsend Acts and Tea Tax laws which led to the Boston Tea Party. The self-educated Benjamin Franklin’s wide range of activities--establishing a newspaper, debating club, and library; Publishing the widely circulated the Poor Richard’s Almanack; and conducting experiments to demonstrate that lighting is a form of electricity—exemplified the Enlightenment spirit and made him probably the best-known American in the eighteenth century.

Benjamin Franklin was a man who believed in service to the greater good. He was a model of want it means to be an American in chase of a dream. He put together 13 virtues to live by. “My intention being to acquire the habitude of all these virtues, I judg’d it would be well not to distract my attention by attempting the whole at once, but to fix it on of them at a time; and, when I should be master of that, then to proceed to another, and so on, till I should have gone thro’ the thirteen…” With natural wit, being a diplomat, scientist, philosopher, businessman, inventor and born vivant, Franklin was in every respect America’s first Renaissance man. From penniless runaway to highly successful printer, from ardently loyal subject of Britain to architect of an alliance with France that ensured America’s independence, Franklin went from obscurity to become one of the world’s most admired figures. We see Benjamin Franklin’s influence during his lifetime, in the majority of major developments in U.s. History. His hard work and dedication to bettering himself and the life for fellow American’s actually paved the way for Colonial America to be separate itself from Great Britian and establish it’s self as a major world power. Finally to answer the question, about what can we can learn about U.S. history from the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (even though the biography leaves out a great many of his accomplishments), we see that one man can make a difference in the lives of his fellow countrymen and the masses as well. Franklin shows that with dedication, determination and pursuit of personal excellence anyone with the desire to make a difference can make a change. Benjamin Franklin in my eyes is one the most exceptional men that I have read about.


Foner, Eric. (2012), “Give me liberty: An American History” 155-157, 160, 173, 734

Fleming, Candace. (2003), “Ben Franklin’s Almanac: Being a true account of the good genlteman’s life”, Cover inset, Introduction

Franklin, Benjamin. (1996), “The autobiography of Benjamin Franklin”, 64

Talbott, Page. (2005), “Benjamin Franklin: In search of a better world”, 5,6

Brands, H.W. (2000), “The first American: The life and times of Benjamin Franklin backcover…...

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