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Benjamin Franklin America

Mansour 1
Name Surname
Professor
Intro to America Studies
April 9th, 2018
The Historical context of Benjamin Franklin and America
Americans have had a rich history of the founding fathers and presidents (George
Washington, John Adams, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin) who
created a profound impact in the history of the United States. While he did not make into the list
of the American Presidents, Benjamin Franklin is probably one of the most remarkable founding
fathers in the U.S history. Benjamin Franklin was born in the wake of the American Revolution,
on January 6, 1706, in Boston (Franklin 3). Like other children in this era, Franklin had a formal
education for just two years which was largely self-taught.
As a teenager, he served in his father’s business as a candle maker and later went to work
as a printer in his brother’s shop. He was a prominent writer and published inspirational articles
like The New England Courant”. His literary work rose after he published the “Poor Richard’s
Almanac” (1732) which formed an important basis in literary venture named “Father Abraham’s
Sermon” regarded by many as the most influential literary essay ever documented in the
American colonial era (Franklin 3). Franklin was a revolutionary leader who played an important
role during the American Revolution and the subsequent Declaration of American Independence.
He died in 1790 and buried in Arch streets, Philadelphia (Franklin 161).
Mansour 2
Important questions and debates surrounding American identity in that era
American Revolution and declaration of the American independence
Franklin was the pioneer of the American Revolution. The American Revolution was an
extraordinary process, in the American history. The period was characterized by the idea that
Americans had the freedom for self-rule, inherent right, and that the government had a sole
responsibility to serve the entire society, not just the few. In another context, the revolution
marked the culmination of the Great British rule in America and the onset of the incarnation of
the Enlightenment spirit. Franklin was central to this quest and called for the British government
to grant independence to the American colonies. In particular, Franklin played a role in
representing Pennsylvania in the Albany Congress in 1754 were helped to champion for the unity
of the colonies (Franklin 160).
Between 1757 and 1762, Franklin served as the Pennsylvania agent in England, where he
opposed the colonial governments move to control the Pennsylvania colony (Franklin 4). He
worked hard in this quest in presenting the grievances of the colonies to the England based
colonial government in an era where serious challenges were being experienced in the colonies.
In May 1776, Franklin was appointed to the Congressional Committee that was meant to draft
the Independence Declaration (Franklin 161). After the impendence, he served as a
commissioner to France, where championed for key negotiations and commerce treaties with the
France government. His close role enabled America to initiate peace with the European
governments that helped to end the independence war.
Mansour 3
How the topic helps to understand the evolution of thought on race, class, gender, or
sexuality in America
In all these endeavors, Franklin believed in the realization of the American dream. He
wanted a society where all Americans lived happy lives coupled with all aspects of civilization
and westernization. Ideally, he demonstrated this dream in his own life; self-taught education,
wealthy revolutionist, writer, inventor, and a founding father (Kulikoff 23). He lived a luxurious
life where he dined and emulated the European way of life. This is the very same dream he had
for the American society, one that he worked tirelessly to realize.
As a drafter of the American constitution, he envisioned a society where all Americans
have equal ideals of equality, liberty, inalienable rights to the pursuit of happiness, the laws
created for the betterment of the entire society, as well as equal freedom for all (Beach 160). On
this note, Franklin attached utmost importance to the slavery question and was against slavery
and oppression of the African Americans. In his arguments, slavery contradicted the ideals of
equality that the founding fathers worked tirelessly to realize when drafting the constitution. To
him, American dream would not be realized through the captivity oppression of the other
societies, but working together and strengthening each individual and race.
While social stratification (inequality of social classes) had not taken root during this
period, Franklin was against the oppression of the poor and low-class societies by the rich. In
particular, he believed in the power of the middle-class groups and attached respect to this social
class. According to him, the middle-class society was the true country men who defended the
colony and enabled America to rise due to their hard work (Kulikoff 8). He even n distinguished
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himself as a middle-class revolutionist one who had a deep influence on the working class and a
relentless desire to achieve equality of social classes.
The contrasting perspectives on this topic and one which makes the most sense
A clear contrast is reflected in the life, beliefs, and practices of Benjamin Franklin. For
instance, it is noted that Franklin had a humble background, fighting and associating himself
with the middle-class society while attacking the rich (Kulikoff 12). However, he appeared to be
enticed by their luxury, dined and emulated their lifestyles. He aped the wealthy aristocrats,
bought highly expensive linens, and adored the sensual pleasures of the capitalists (Kulikoff 12).
Franklin held contrasting views on conservatism and liberalism, which influenced his
political success in later years. This was due to the idea that he held both American and European
social, economic, and political practices and had different views regarding the two societies. He
regarded America as the best country for the poor, a society that worked hard to become rich in
the future (Kulikoff 19). Also, unlike Europe that was highly populated, America had abundance
of free land. America did not have social classes that neglected the poor like Europe.
Furthermore, a great contrast exists in regards to perceptions of how Great Britain regarded the
colonies. While he pointed out that the colonies were subordinate to Great Britain and Great
Britain oppressed the natives, he also viewed that the Crown leadership held the colony together
(Dull 12). This could be probably the most contrasting view and has attracted different
perceptions form historians.
The relevance of this topic to the present
Mansour 5
As the Americans live in the 21st century, the American dream and principles of
constitution coined by Benjamin Franklin two centuries ago remain rooted deeply in their
consciousness. Franklin envisioned a society where all Americans would live happy lives
coupled with all aspects of civilization and westernization. Ideally, he demonstrated this dream in
his own life. From the very onset, Franklin demonstrated a high level of academic brilliance,
having had only two years of formal education, but rose to become a founder of the American
independence and most importantly, a pioneer of the University of Pennsylvania (Franklin 3). He
was a son of candle maker, but rose to become a wealthy revolutionist, inventor, and a founding
father.
The present generation has always asked itself, whether it is possible to begin with a
humble background, work hard, and support their children comfortably without having to worry
about financial security, which is a key characterization of the American Dream that Franklin
stood for. His reputation as a self-made man is linked to the intellectual and enlightenment age
due to the scientific versatility and experiments that characterized his life. Both his great desire
and respect for the middle-class society symbolize what the current middle class regards itself,
which is the backbone of the American economy. He denied that poverty ever existed in the
American society, especially for those who held the right desire to attain wealth (Kulikoff 8).
This strong belief serves to enlighten Americans to assume responsibility for their failures. Like
Franklin, many still believe that could only succeed or fail as a result of their own efforts.
To a considerable extent, many Americans believe that the American Dream that Franklin
tirelessly fought for has not been realized fully (Beach 160). On this note, many believe that
Mansour 6
those who rule America in the contemporary society have subverted some of the principles
initiated by Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers. That the policies of our systems of
government are just like those imposed by our colonial masters is what some Americans believe.
These policies are imposed on the American citizens, not only without their consent, but also
regardless of those opposing them.
The establishment of Fluid Theory of Electricity by Benjamin Franklin is probably one of
the most relevance of this study. Franklin is the inventor and the co-founder of electricity and
created some of the earliest theories regarding the interpretation of the electrical behavior
(Kulikoff 23). He harnessed electricity from lightning by devising a flying kite experiment that he
used to trap lightning. From his experiment, he formulated a hypothesis that a wire could be
used to attract electric force” from thunder, which can then be conducted in a metallic material.
His theory was applied in the invention of the positive and negative charges of electricity that has
become the basis of the modern understanding of electricity. This invention demonstrated that
American society was destined for a world of greatness and scientific discoveries.
Mansour 7
Works Cited
Beach, Josh. "The ideology of the American dream: Two competing philosophies in education,
1776-2006." Educational Studies 41.2 (2007): 148-164
Dull, Jonathan. Benjamin Franklin and the American Revolution. University of Nebraska Press,
2011
Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Tribeca Books, 2011
Kulikoff, Allan. Benjamin Franklin and the American Dream, 2013 http://
colonialseminar.uga.edu/Ben%20Franklin%20and%20the%20American%20Dream.pdf.
Accessed April 2018

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