Ben Franklin1706 1790Well-known printer, scientist, politician, diplomat, inventor: spectacles, Franklin stove, the first public library, Poor Richard's Almanack (1732)the proverbs and aphorisms emphasized prudence, industry, and honesty and become part of American lore.
The AutobiographyDescribes his rise from poverty and obscurity to a state of affluence and some degree or reputation in the worldthe rags to respectability story is born. First published in Paris in March of 1791. The first English translation (left), was published in London in 1793.
Image credit: http://www.earlyamerica.com/lives/franklin/
State of His MindBenjamin Franklin tells his readers that he wishes them to know the "State of his Mind," by which he seems to mean the state of his reading and his religious education (211). He has been brought up in the "Dissenting Way." This Protestantism challenged the inherited Roman Catholic views of authority as residing in a system of hierarchy. "Almost unanimously they saw final authority to reside in the Word of God, which tended in the minds of many to be simply equated with the Bible" ("Protestantism").
DeismDeism is used in contrast to theism, the belief in an immanent God who actively intervenes in the affairs of men. In this sense Deism was represented as the view of those who reduced the role of God to a mere act of creation in accordance with rational laws discoverable by man and held that, after the original act, God virtually withdrew and refrained from interfering in the processes of nature and the ways of man ("Deism" par. 3).
Deism contdDeists deduced the existence of God from the structure of the universe, not from traditional religious authority. In this they were aided by the Enlightenment ideas of Sir Isaac Newton, who discovered that the universe is governed by certain immutable physical laws (McQuade 75).
Experience over AuthorityFranklin's reading is an illustration of this process at work, for instead of digesting "Boyles Lectures," they have an effect on him "quite contrary to what was intended" (211). In other words, as a reader (for Franklin), the act of meaning lies within the individual rather than in the word or the "authority."
Franklins ReadingFranklin's "reading" prefigures a dominant theme in American Literature, "'the dominance of experience' over any conceptual anticipation of 'how things should be'" (McQuade 9), a philosophy that surely paved the way for an American break with its colonial "authority" in England. This empirical or scientific method is surely at work in "The Autobiography," as Franklin deduces his list of "Virtues" more from his own experiences and from a collection of those "I had met with in my reading" (216).
Works Cited"Deism." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 26 June 2000. < http://www.eb.com>Franklin, Benjamin. "The Autobiography." The Harper Single Volume American Literature. Eds. Donald McQuade, et al. 3rd ed. New York: Addison Wesley, 1999McQuade, Donald., et al. The Harper Single Volume American Literature. 3rd ed. New York: Addison Wesley, 1999"Protestantism: Authority of the Word" Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 26 June 2000.
*Plough deep while sluggards sleep,An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure was for fire readiness.