Benjamin Franklin’s Life and Study

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Benjamin Franklin’s Life and Study

The following discussion is based on an article, “Franklin, Modernity, and Themes of Dissent in the Early Modern Era” by “Carla Mulford” from “Modern Language Studies, Vol. 28, No. 2. (Spring 1998), pp. 13-27. This has been taken from “JSTOR” Archives. JSTOR Archive is a trusted digital repository for academic journals and scholarly literature around the world. It is supported by Libraries and Scholar Societies. The article discusses about Franklin’s views on Religion, Metaphysics and Deism. One can see how dissent was meant in Franklin’s days and how it’s perceived now.

Creation of American Dream, learning about socio metaphysical ways of leading a life and several facets of Franklin’s views on religion can be seen here. Franklin was a precursor among “natural scientists” and his work on natural philosophy is also discussed here. Also his association with his friend’s daughter as a tutor and assisting her to pursue her study on natural philosophy and his views on historical production can be examined. He was more a deist than an atheist but people see him more as an atheist in his days and some of his family members too were of the same view.

His similarities with George Whitman and other personalities are discussed. His spoofs on religion, advice to people to indulge in philosophy and to be useful to fellow beings, his facts about Bible and Christianity during her grand fathers’ days can be examined here. Franklin was a pioneer in more than one field and he was also a successful businessman and a diplomat. In author’s view, history production involves some assumptions about the past and some relevance to national myth making and silencing the past.

Since the stories of the past are forever expandable, the accumulation of multiple stories blocks a nation’s ability to accommodate stories of other sort which might disrupt the conventional and accepted wisdom about their founding fathers. She quotes Trouillot suggestion that if the producers of the stories in the past lived inequalities then the stories yield unequal historical power (Carla Mulford, P 13). In the same context she says, US citizens who knows much about Benjamin Franklin doesn’t know about his son and who bore him and the records which exist are silent on this issue.

Also when people speak about confederation and constitution, they tend to speak about Anglo-American debates and the Civil war instead of the native people representing the six nations. Also she quoted Benedict Anderson’s words; US community alienates themselves from conventional ideas of “dynastic empires, absolutisms, serfdoms, ghettoes” and is more inclined to “republican institutions, nation-states” (Carla Mulford, P 15). Benjamin Franklin was a Scholar, Deist, Philanthropist, Writer, Diplomat, Journalist, Civil Leader and a Scientist. There is more to his astounding brilliance in every respective field.

Franklin and Religion: His was a puritan family and it had much influence on him. His religious views were simple and straightforward. According to him, religion should make people do more good and help our fellow beings. Deists don’t believe in orthodoxy and age old superstitious customs. Although he was a deist, he was more outspoken and sometimes confesses that this doctrine though true is less useful in making people virtuous. He always believes that service to mankind is service to God. He had Unitarian views and sometimes visits Unitarian Churches along with his friends.

However he cannot be included among the Unitarians as he never openly stated about his inclination towards Unitarianism. He used to go to Unitarian Churches with his friends. According to Wikipedia, “Deism is a religious philosophy and movement that derives the existence and nature of god from reason and personal experience in contrast to theism”. He rejects orthodox Christian views. In a way he dissents the principles of Church. In his days, dissents were those who speak against church. Religion used to be associated with almost everything and hence to speak against something orthodox was treated as dissentious.

Explaining about the dissenting nature of his family he says how his Great Great Grandfather conceals the English Bible from the officers of the spiritual court. He admires the Evangelist Preacher, George Whitefield. He says religion should be the best way in explaining morals to the people. In Geoffrey Sill’s lines of similarity between Franklin and Whitman “Their strong interest in science and technology and America was a radical experiment in democracy” and their similar views on “religious dissent”. Thus Franklin’s view of religion as a moral freedom brings closer outlook on the religion disciplines which people follow.

He had friends among Unitarians, Deists and other religions. He treats all religions the same. When he supported his friend to setup a Unitarian Church he stated that whoever leader comes irrespective of religion should be allowed to preach. On his funeral, people who thronged to see him were a mix of all religions. There were views in those times that people who believe in science doubt religion. Franklin doesn’t agree to this. Instead he sometimes confesses the virtues of religion. Franklin, a Scientist: Franklin was arguably the first American Scientist. He crossed the Gulf Stream and he used to take weather forecasts on his horse ridings.

He studied storms and discovered Electricity. He was also the founding father of Civic Science in America. One can see Franklin flying a kite in their school text books. Being a Civic Scientist, he did public service and organized sermons. He formed the JUNTO, a discussion group for his friends, leaders and business people. He promoted Libraries, Civic Societies and Education, Hospitals and Schools. He developed Mail Delivery System and Dead Letter Office. With one of his French friends, he once queried, “What signifies Philosophy that doesn’t apply to some use?

” He regards insects worthy of an enquiry and research because, as per him, even appropriate use of insects can benefit humans. He says one should never neglect one’s essential duties in keeping line with the study. He wrote in “Poor Richard” for October, 1750, “Hide not your Talents, they for use were made, / what’s a Sun-Dial in a Shade! ” He invented Franklin stove and bi focal lens. He also studied sea water luminescence and ocean temperatures. He explained about the dangers of Lead Poisoning and hypothesized about Wave Theory of Light. Franklin, a Diplomat:

He encourages Education. He wasn’t sent to school due to his father’s poverty. He was mostly self educated. He worked in a printer shop initially and then later shifted to work in a press. He was one of the founding fathers of America. His role in American Revolution is still remembered. Franklin was courageous and bold and had very good rapport with French and resolved most of the issues during the war. Franklin with all his diplomacy skills worked in forming a peace treaty during the war with French. He helped in the establishment of Pennsylvania’s first State University.

A town was named after him due to his services. He was also famous for his anecdotes. Conclusion: This article covers almost all aspects of Benjamin Franklin, his personality and his achievements. I can clearly examine his views on religion and how he was a dissent among his people. Till date whenever I hear of Franklin, I can only imagine a bald guy flying a kite and running as this should be the case with most of the people. Our schools teach Franklin’s discovering Electricity in thunder storms. It’s only after reading the essay that I found the innumerable qualities and facets of his life.

I came to know now that he was not only a scientist but a diplomat. You would see him in almost every walk of life. There is no surprise to find his name under every subject. Apart from Electricity I usually hear his name linked with American Revolution, his diplomacy in having a peace treaty with France. Now I can imagine how great a personality like him would be. His life spanned over eighty years ranging from a writer to a scientist and to a Legislative member. He was the founding father of the concept of Great American Dream. I’ve also found out from this essay about his works on Natural Philosophy.

I’ve also learned about his role as an educationist and in promoting Women Education. Also I came to know about his friends among several religious groups and about his mutual interest in both deism and Unitarianism. He is famous for his wit and humor. There was a story that during Constitution Writing which Franklin resolved a hard stop by asking the Ministers in the Council to pray for a few minutes. Most of them didn’t agree and he resolved the issue without a prayer. America would remember Franklin as long as they remember Martin Luther King.

Work Cites

World Wide Web: 1) “Ben Franklin Scientist and Philanthropist”. http://www. nps. gov/archive/inde/Franklin_Court/Pages/franklinscientist. html 2) “Franklin’s Contributions to the American Revolution as a Diplomat in France”. http://www. ushistory. org/valleyforge/history/franklin. html 3) Lane, Neal. “Benjamin Franklin, Civic Scientist”. October 2003, page 41. http://www. physicstoday. org/vol-56/iss-10/p41. html 4) Rev. Clear, Bruce. “THE RELIGION OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN”. Sunday. May 1. 2005. All Souls Unitarian Church. Indianapolis. http://allsoulsuuindy. org/ser20050501. htm.


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 1 December 2016

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