He helped to frame the Declaration of Independence. He was a diplomat in France. In his literary efforts he showed little creative originality- journalistic, straightforward style in for example Poor Richard’s Almanach.
Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He is often thought of as the revolutionary figure who led protests against the Stamp Act, helped draft the Declaration of Independence, coordinated the peace treaty ending the American Revolution, and co-wrote and signed the U.S. Constitution It is ironic, however, that Franklin is remembered more as the civic figure--the man on the $100 bill--than as the man who invented the stove or the man who formulated his own theories about lightning and electricity. The irony stems from the fact that Franklin often thought of himself as more of a scientist than a political thinker. This self-identification comes through in the Autobiography, which does not discuss the Revolution in any capacity and hardly even refers to events after 1757. Indeed, in the Autobiography, we get a full picture of Franklin as the Renaissance scholar, fascinated by all types of learning and interested in doing whatever he could to make life a little bit better for mankind, based on the notion that the way to please God was by doing good to other men. This interest manifested itself in public service and scientific progress.
Plot and structure:
Born 1706 in Boston, Benjamin Franklin was the 15th of his father's 17 children. He went to school as a child with the intent of becoming a minister, as his father, Josiah, intended. However, that idea was dropped after Franklin showed a keen interest in reading and writing. He was apprenticed to his brother, James at a young age, but after fighting with his brother he quit the job and moved to Philadelphia, where he worked for a man named Samuel Keimer. After befriending some prominent political figures, including the royal Governor, Franklin left for England, where he spent 18 months working for a printer with his friend James Ralph, with whom he later became estranged. Shortly after returning to America in 1726, Franklin formed a debating club called the Junto. Two years later, he took over The Pennsylvania Gazette from Keimer and turned it into a successful publication with tools from London. In 1730, Franklin wed his old sweetheart, Deborah Read, with whom he had two children. The first, William Franklin, was born approximately one year later; he is the man to whom the Autobiography is addressed in Part One.
Throughout the 1730s, Franklin held some minor positions doing printing work for the government. In that time, he began Poor Richard's Almanac and became postmaster of Philadelphia. Towards the end of the decade, he invented the Franklin stove. In the 1740s, Franklin worked on several projects, including the fire brigade, the police force, the University of Pennsylvania, the street sweeping service and some other smaller public works projects. He retired from the printing business in 1748 and began to conduct scientific experiments in lightning. In 1753, he was awarded honorary degrees from Harvard and Yale, and he became Postmaster General of America. The following year, when war broke out between England and France (the French and Indian War Franklin began to draft proposals outlining means by which funds could be raised for colonial defense. He succeeded in many of his proposals, and he personally played a large part in organizing the war effort. The Autobiography, however, breaks off in 1757; it is left unfinished.
The Autobiography itself was written in three different times: 1771 in England, 1783-83 in France, and 1788 in America. If Franklin meant to complete it, he died before he got the chance.
Benjamin Franklin: The author and protagonist of the Autobiography; he writes the work ostensibly to tell his son about his life and to provide a model of self-betterment for anyone interested. Born into a modest Boston family, Franklin moved to Philadelphia in his late teens and eventually opened up his own newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette. The Autobiography tells of the major events of his life and many of his important scientific and political ideas, but the work does not discuss the American Revolution, in which Franklin was a major participant.
William Franklin: Benjamin's son and royal governor of New Jersey in 1771 when Ben begins writing the work. Ben begins the Autobiography as a letter to William with the intent of telling him about his life.
Parents: Ben's parents were named Josiah and Abiah. Abiah is mentioned very little. Josiah's second wife, she mothered ten children with him. Ben was the eighth of these children. Josiah took a large interest in Benjamin, teaching how to debate and how to write effectively. Ben respected him enormously. After both parents died, Ben had them buried and erected a monument to them in a prominent Boston cemetery.
James Franklin: Franklin older brother who owns a printing house in Boston. Ben is apprenticed to James when Ben is 12, and while they do not always get along very well, Ben learns much from James and proves to be quite helpful. When James is arrested for holding subversive political ideas, Ben takes over the paper until James' release. When Ben breaks his contract and leaves for Philadelphia, James grows angry and spiteful
John Collins: A "bookish lad" whom Ben befriends in Boston. They two practice their debating skills in Boston. John resolves to go to Philadelphia with Ben several years later, but his plans evaporate when he becomes an alcoholic and ends up moving to the Caribbean. Ben loans him a large amount of money which Collins never repays.
Andrew Bradford: A printer in Philadelphia, he is unable to hire Franklin but he does allow Franklin to stay in his house. Later on, when Franklin runs his own paper, the two are competitors until Bradford leaves the printing industry.
Samuel Keimer: The printer in Philadelphia for whom Franklin works. Their relationship deteriorates over time, and eventually they have a falling out. Keimer, however, tries to make amends when he realizes that Ben can supply him with important printing tools.
John Read: A resident of Philadelphia, he houses Franklin shortly after Franklin arrives in Philadelphia.
Deborah Read: The daughter of John Read, she eventually marries Franklin even though their courtship is interrupted by his 18-month trip to England, during which time she marries another man who disappears-thus allowing her marriage to Franklin.
Gov. William Keith: The royal Governor of Pennsylvania when Franklin arrives in Philadelphia. Keith is impressed by Franklin and resolves to help him, but in effect does very little. He is a man who does not often follow through on what he says he will do.
James Ralph: A local Philadelphia poet whom Franklin befriends and with whom Franklin travels to England. Franklin tells a story of a time when Ralph, who was often disliked and thus overly criticized by his friends in the realm of poetry, asked Franklin to read one of Ralph's poems as Franklin's own, which Franklin did to very high praise. Ralph traveled with Franklin to England, where he leeched off Franklin most of the time and borrowed large sums of money that he never repaid. Franklin and Ralph ended up going separate ways when Franklin hits on Ralph's girlfriend and is rejected.
Mr. Denham: A friendly Quaker whom Franklin meets on his way to England. They remain friends while in England, and it is Denham who eventually convinces Franklin to return to America after an 18-month stay. Franklin works for Denham for a short time in a goods store upon his return.
Meredith: The man with whom Franklin begins a new printing house after leaving Keimer. Meredith, however, does not work very hard, and eventually leaves.
Part One of the Autobiography is addressed to Franklin's son William, at that time (1771) the Royal Governor of New Jersey. While in England at the estate of the Bishop of St Asaph in Twyford, Franklin begins by saying that it may be agreeable to his son to know some of the incidents of his father's life; so with a week's uninterrupted leisure, he is beginning to write them for William. He starts with some anecdotes of his grandfather, uncles, and father and mother. He deals with his childhood, his fondness of reading, and his serving as an apprentice to his brother James Franklin, a Boston printer and the publisher of the New England Courant. After improving his writing skills through study of the Spectator by Joseph Addison and Sir Richard Steele, he writes an anonymous paper and slips it under the door of the printing house by night. Not knowing its author, James and his friends praise the paper and it is published in the Courant, and this encourages Ben to produce more essays (the "Silence Dogood" essays) which are also published. When Ben reveals his authorship, James is angered, thinking the recognition from his papers will make Ben too vain. James and Ben have frequent disputes and Ben seeks for a way to escape James' service.
Eventually James gets in trouble with the colonial assembly, which jails him for a short time and then forbids him to publish the paper any longer. James and his friends come up with the stratagem that the Courant should hereafter be published under the name of Benjamin Franklin, although James will still actually be in control. James signs a discharge of Ben's apprenticeship papers but writes up new private indenture papers for Ben to sign which will secure Ben's service for the remainder of the agreed time. But when a fresh disagreement arises between the brothers, Ben chooses to leave James, correctly judging that James will not dare to produce the secret indenture papers. ("It was not fair in me to take this Advantage," Franklin comments, "and this I therefore reckon one of the first Errata of my life.") James does, however, make it impossible for Ben to get work anywhere else in Boston. Sneaking onto a ship without his father's or brother's knowledge, Ben heads for New York, but the printer William Bradford is unable to employ him; however, he tells Ben that his son Andrew, a Philadelphia printer, may be able to use him as one of the son's principal employees who had just died.
By the time Ben reaches Philadelphia, Andrew Bradford has already replaced his employee, but refers him to Samuel Keimer, another printer in the city, who is able to give him work. The Governor, Sir William Keith, takes notice of Franklin and offers to set him up in business for himself. On Keith's recommendation, Franklin goes to London for printing supplies, but when he arrives, he finds that Keith has not written the promised letter of recommendation for him, and that "no one who knew him had the smallest Dependence on him." Franklin finds work in London until an opportunity arises of returning to Philadelphia as a merchant's assistant; but when the merchant takes ill, he returns to manage Keimer's shop. Keimer soon comes to feel that Franklin's wages are too high and provokes a quarrel which causes the latter to quit. At this point a fellow employee, Hugh Meredith, suggests that Franklin and he set up a partnership to start a printing shop of their own; this is subsidized by funds from Meredith's father, though most of the work is done by Franklin as Meredith is not much of a press worker and is given to drinking.
They establish their business, and plan to start a newspaper, but when Keimer hears of this plan, he rushes out a paper of his own, the Pennsylvania Gazette. This publication limps along for three quarters of a year before Franklin buys the paper from Keimer and makes it "extremely profitable." (The Saturday Evening Post traces its lineage to Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette.) The partnership also gains the printing for the Pennsylvania assembly. When Hugh Meredith's father experiences financial setbacks and cannot continue backing the partnership, two friends separately offer to lend Franklin the money he needs to stay in business; the partnership amicably dissolves as Meredith goes to North Carolina, and Franklin takes from each friend half the needed sum, continuing his business in his own name. In 1730 he marries Deborah Read, and after this, with the help of the league of ordinary gentlemen, he draws up proposals for a "Subscription Library"—the first public library. At this point Part One breaks off, with a memo noting that "The Affairs of the Revolution occasion'd the Interruption" in Franklin's writing.
The second part begins with two letters Franklin received in the early 1780s while in Paris, encouraging him to continue the Autobiography, of which both correspondents have read Part One. (Although Franklin does not say so, there had been a breach with his son William after the writing of Part One, since the father had sided with the Revolutionaries and the son had remained loyal to the British Crown.)
At Passy, a suburb of Paris, Franklin begins Part Two in 1784, giving a more detailed account of his public library plan. He then discusses his "bold and arduous Project of arriving at moral Perfection," listing thirteen virtues he wishes to perfect in himself. He creates a book with columns for each day of the week, in which he marks with black spots his offenses against each virtue. Of these virtues, he notices that Order is the hardest for him to keep. He eventually realizes that perfection is not to be attained, but feels himself better and happier because of his attempt.
His list of 13 virtues is as follows:
1) Temperance—Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation
2) Silence—Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation
3) Order—let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time
4) Resolution—resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve
5) Frugality—Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing
6) Industry—Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions
7) Sincerity—Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly
8) Justice—Wrong non by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty
9) Moderation—Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve
10) Cleanliness—Tolerate no uncleanlisness in body, cloths, or habitation
11) Tranquility—Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable
12) Chastity—Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation
13) Humility—Imitate Jesus and Socrates
Beginning in August 1788 when Franklin had returned to Philadelphia, the author says he will not be able to utilize his papers as much as he had expected, since many were lost in the recent Revolutionary War. He has, however, found and quotes a couple of his writings from the 1730s that survived. One is the "Substance of an intended Creed" consisting of what he then considered as the "Essentials" of all religions. He had intended this as a basis for a projected sect but, Franklin says, did not pursue the project.
In 1732, Franklin first publishes his Poor Richard's Almanac, which becomes very successful. He also continues his profitable newspaper. In 1734, a preacher named Rev. Samuel Hemphill arrives from County Tyrone Ireland; Franklin supports and writes pamphlets on behalf of him. However, someone finds that Hemphill has been plagiarizing portions of his sermons from others, although Franklin rationalizes this by saying he would rather hear good sermons taken from others than poor sermons of the man's own composition.
Franklin studies languages, reconciles with his brother James, and loses a four-year-old son to smallpox. Franklin's club, the Junto, grows and breaks off into subordinate clubs. Franklin becomes Clerk of the General Assembly in 1736, and the following year becomes Comptroller to the Postmaster General, which makes it easier to get reports and fulfill subscriptions for his newspaper. He proposes improvements in the city watch and fire prevention.
The famed preacher George Whitefield arrives in 1739, and despite significant differences in their religious beliefs, Franklin assists Whitefield by printing his sermons and journals and by lodging him in his house. As Franklin continues to succeed, he provides the capital for several of his workers to start printing houses of their own in other colonies. He makes further proposals for the public good, including some for the defense of Pennsylvania, in which he has to contend with the pacifist position of the Quakers.
In 1740 he invents the Franklin stove, refusing a patent on the device because it was for "the good of the people." He proposes an academy, which after raising money by subscription opens and expands enough that a new building for it has to be constructed. Franklin obtains other governmental positions (city councilman, alderman, burgess, justice of the peace) and helps negotiate a treaty with the Indians. After helping Dr. Thomas Bond establish a hospital, he helps pave the streets of Philadelphia and draws up a proposal for Dr. John Fothergill about doing so in London. In 1753 Franklin becomes Deputy Postmaster General.
The next year, as war with the French is expected, representatives of the several colonies, including Franklin, meet with the Indians to discuss defense; Franklin at this time draws up a proposal for the union of the colonies, but it is not adopted. General Braddock arrives with two regiments, and Franklin helps him secure wagons and horses, but the general refuses to take Ben's warning about danger from hostile Indians during Braddock's planned march to Frontenac (now Kingston, Ontario). When they are subsequently attacked, the general is mortally wounded, and his forces abandon their supplies and flee.
As a militia is formed due to passage of a Benjamin Franklin drafted, the governor asks him to take command of the northwestern frontier. With his son as aide de camp, Franklin heads for Gnadenhut, raising men for the militia and building forts. Returning to Philadelphia, he is chosen colonel of the regiment; his officers honor him by personally escorting him out of town. This gives great offense to the proprietor of the colony (Thomas Penn, son of William Penn) when someone writes an account of this in a letter to him, and the proprietor complains to the government in England about Franklin.
Now the Autobiography discusses "the Rise and Progress of [Franklin's] Philosophical Reputation." He starts experiments with electricity and writes letters about them that are published in England as a book. Franklin's description of his experiments is translated into French, and the Abbé Nollet, who is offended because this calls into question his own theory of electricity, publishes his own book of letters attacking Franklin. Declining to respond on the grounds that anyone could duplicate and thus verify his experiments, Franklin sees another French author refute Nollet, and as Franklin's book is translated into other languages, its views are gradually accepted and Nollet's are discarded. Franklin is also voted an honorary member of the Royal Society.
A new governor arrives, but disputes between the assembly and the governor continue. (Since the colonial governors are bound to fulfill the instructions given by the colony's proprietor, there is a continuing struggle for power between the sides of the legislature and of the governor and the proprietor.) The assembly is on the verge of sending Franklin to England to petition the King against the governor and proprietor, but Lord Loudoun arrives on the English government's behalf to mediate the differences. Franklin still goes to England accompanied by his son, after stopping at New York and making an unsuccessful attempt to be recompensed by Loudoun for his outlay of funds during his militia service. They arrive on July 27, 1757.
Written sometime between November 1789 and Franklin's death on April 17, 1790, this section is very brief. After Franklin and his son arrive in London, the former is counselled by Dr. Fothergill on the best way to advocate his cause on behalf of the colonies. Franklin visits Lord Granville, president of the King's Privy Council, who asserts that the king is the legislator of the colonies. Franklin then meets the proprietaries (the switch to the plural is Franklin's, so apparently others besides Thomas Penn are involved). But the respective sides are far from any kind of agreement. The proprietaries ask Franklin to write a summary of the colonists' complaints; when he does so, their solicitor for reasons of personal enmity delays a response. Over a year later, the proprietaries finally respond to the assembly regarding the summary with a "flimsy Justification of their Conduct." The assembly during this delay has prevailed on the governor to pass a taxation act, and Franklin defends the act in English court so that it can receive royal assent. While the assembly thanks Franklin, the proprietaries, enraged at the governor, turn him out and threaten legal action against him; in the last sentence, Franklin tells us the governor "despis'd the Threats, and they were never put in Execution."
- journalistic style.
- He began with a letter for his son William in which he explained that he was about to write about his own life, experiences. Part One is very cheerful and playful. On the other hand, as Benjamin Franklin became an important public figure, his style has changed. He was supposed to influence public in general, not only his son as in Part One= Part Two is more serious.
Benjamin Franklin's autobiography is a real story set in eighteenth century America. Franklin's childhood was spent in Boston; but from the time he was seventeen to the end of his life, he lived in Pennsylvania. The text, as he wrote it, shares his life experiences centered and located in Pennsylvania. It was a time when people from European countries came and settled as colonists in America. Self- improvement, self-education.
Determination, perseverance, hard work, and reliance on a sound code of ethics are the ingredients of success. Through these traits, Franklin rises from obscurity-temnota to eminence-vysoké postavenie and wealth.
My own interpretation:
- a model for autobiographies.
- Although the book is an autobiography and does not have a plot in the traditional sense, Benjamin Franklin did experience conflict in the book. It is, therefore, outlined as follows:
- Protagonist: Franklin is the main character and protagonist of the book.
- Antagonist: The antagonist is finding himself and a successful way of life.
- Climax: The climax occurs when Franklin leaves his father's home, discontented with the way his life is going. He had disagreed with his brother James about running the printing business. As a result, he sails to New York to make a new life for himself.
- Outcome: The story ends in comedy for Franklin. His life takes a dramatic turn when he is courageous enough to leave Boston, which held his family and his security. His later fame in the world is an outcome of the growth he experiences in this period in his life.
- he uses Socrates method in conversation with other people- it means he asks them questions and basically leads them to find out the truth on their own/ they’ll fell pride/ , instead of telling them straight away. He gradually left it, as he didn’t want to shame the others when they entangled-zaplietli sa into the difficulties.
Men must be taught as if you taught them not,
And things unknown propos’d as things forgot.
These are the main principles of Socrates method.