Writers of the American Revolution: Benjamin Franklin Essay
Writers of the American Revolution: Benjamin Franklin
The American Revolution influenced so much more than just people’s taxes and freedom. It influenced writing and speeches of people at the time. The American Identity during the American Revolution was reflected in Benjamin Franklins writing such as the “Poor Richard’s Almanac” and The Declaration of Independence (he helped draft the document). Political, social, and economic factors shaped Franklin’s writing The political circumstances Benjamin Franklin was in greatly influenced his writing of the Declaration of Independence, America was in turmoil with Britain and they wanted to separate from them. The Declaration of Independence is well known as the document that declared the need of separation of the colonies from the King of England. He reflects the political times in Poor Richard’s Almanac as well. In the almanac there is direct examples of important dates at the time and population figures around the world. The need for a almanac of this sorts was important to the people it gave them information about the world around them such as political ideologies.
At the time also Franklin was very into politics when he wrote the almanac. (Morgan) The American Identity influenced political papers including the Declaration of Independence and Poor Richards Almanac by reflecting peoples and the writers feelings at the time. Social issues were arising around the time of the American Revolution. America was just beginning and the colonies which were a mix of culture and beliefs were uniting to fight against Britain. The Declaration of Independence reflected all of the people. (Background History) It had to not conflict with the thirteen colonies staying within their social norms while still bringing a convincing argument to the King. The Poor Richards Almanac was a description of social culture, it brought together witty statements, popular articles, and even horoscopes.(Morgan) It was widely read and influenced directly by the events happening at the time.
The importance of social queues were greatly reflected in the content of Franklins writing. The Declaration of Independence and Poor Richards Almanac were both written at a time when the economy had everything to do with the troubles of early Americans. Taxation by England had caused revolts in the colonies and the Declaration of Independence was an answer to the the Revolutionary war and the impugning taxes that were put on them. The Poor Richards Almanac also was a direct reflection of economic factors at the time. The almanac included predictions that were important to farmers at the time which were a major part of the economy. People from all classes poor and rich could benefit from the almanac. Economic factors at the time of Revolution were expressed throughout Franklins writings. Benjamin Franklin was able to reflect and summarize so many peoples thoughts during the American Revolution. He takes great care in being relatable yet firm. The shaping of his writings led to the shaping of the world around him.
“Background, History, And The Beginning Of The Revolution.” Was the American Revolution a Revolution? N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.
“IIP Digital | U.S. Department of State.” Democratic Origins and Revolutionary Writer 1776-1820. N.p., 10 Oct. 2013. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.
Morgan, Lisa. “The Pennsylvania Center for the Book – Poor Richard’s Almanack.” The Pennsylvania Center for the Book – Poor Richard’s Almanack. N.p., June 2008. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.
Shmoop Editorial Team. “Benjamin Franklin in The American Revolution.” Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.
Part II: Rhetorical Analysis
Excerpt from Benjamin Franklins Autobiography
It was about this time I conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wished to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into. As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the other. But I soon found I had undertaken a task of more difficulty than I had imagined. While my care was employed in guarding against one fault, I was often surprised by another; habit took the advantage of inattention; inclination was sometimes too strong for reason. I concluded, at length, that the mere speculative conviction that it was our interest to be completely virtuous was not sufficient to prevent our slipping, and that the contrary habits must be broken, and good ones acquired and established, before we can have any dependence on a steady, uniform rectitude of conduct. For this purpose I therefore contrived the following method.
In the various enumerations of the moral virtues I met in my reading, I found the catalogue more or less numerous, as different writers included more or fewer ideas under the same name. Temperance, for example, was by some confined to eating and drinking, while by others it was extended to mean the moderating every other pleasure, appetite, inclination, or passion, bodily or mental, even to our avarice and ambition. I proposed to myself, for the sake of clearness, to use rather more names, with fewer ideas annexed to each, than a few names with more ideas; and I included under thirteen names of virtues all that at that time occurred to me as necessary or desirable, and annexed to each a short precept, which fully expressed the extent I gave to its meaning.
These names of virtues, with their precepts were:
Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself, i.e., waste nothing.
Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
My intention being to acquire the habitude of all these virtues, I judged it would be well not to distract my attention by attempting the whole at once, but to fix it on one 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; and, as the previous acquisition of some might facilitate the acquisition of certain others, I arranged them with that view, as they stand above. Temperance first, as it tends to procure that coolness and clearness of head which is so necessary where constant vigilance was to be kept up, and guard maintained against the unremitting attraction of ancient habits and the force of perpetual temptations.
This being acquired and established, Silence would be more easy; and my desire being to gain knowledge at the same time that I improved in virtue, and considering that in conversation it was obtained rather by the use of the ears than of the tongue, and therefore wishing to break a habit I was getting into prattling, punning, and joking, which only made me acceptable to trifling company, I gave Silence the second place. This and the next, Order, I expected would allow me more time for attending to my project and my studies. Resolution, once because habitual, would keep me firm in my endeavors to obtain all the subsequent virtues; Frugality and Industry, freeing me from my remaining debt, and producing affluence and independence, would make more easy the practice of Sincerity and Justice, etc., Conceiving, then, that, agreeably to the advice of Pythagoras in his Garden Verses, daily examination would be necessary, I contrived the following method for conducting that examination. Taken off of website:
Benjamin’s Use of Rhetoric to Express His Values
Advice has to be given in certain ways to certain people and the methods of how some choose to give advice are often varying. Benjamin Franklin takes his chance to write a self help book with his advice in the form of his autobiography, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. In an excerpt from his book he effectively uses pithy statements, ethos, and pathos to reveal his values relating to life. The first advice he utilizes ethos. “I wished to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into.” He utilizes ethos in order to give himself not just credibility but to give the reader an understanding of were he is coming from and a judgement of his character. He uses words like ‘ natural’ and ‘conquer’ which are strong and convincing to prove his worthiness of being a trusted writer.
He takes the entire first two paragraphs to give himself credibility he uses reveals plenty to do with what he believes. He explains himself with lines like, “I concluded, at length, that the mere speculative conviction that it was our interest to be completely virtuous”, this gives the reader a reason to trust what he has to say because he is self aware. Using ethos gives proofs to Benjamin Franklin’s values. The next 13 lines of the excerpt are wholly pithy statements one after the other. The revelation of his values are widely expressed through all of the statements such as “Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.” and “Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.” Which is also juxtaposition in itself. The thirteen lines also utilize parallelism by listing one word along which each statement as a title, which makes the entire excerpt easier to follow.
Also in the last paragraph he takes the order he has used in the list and orders his paragraph in the same way. The use of parallelism and pithy statements revealed Franklins values uniformly and easy to follow. His use of pathos and relating to the audience is vital to Franklins writing. He takes the things he says and melds them into passionate and understanding statements such as, “My intention being to acquire the habitude of all these virtues, I judged it would be well not to distract my attention by attempting the whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time”. He is honest with his audience telling them what he wants them to pay attention to. The use of also within his pathos an allusion to “Pythagoras in his Garden Verses” this shows were he derives his ideals and how he chooses to outline them in order to serve his own purpose of a profitable life. The use of pathos along with allusions gives Benjamin a strong sense of his own values. Benjamin Franklin has a solid sense of values throughout this excerpt. He uses rhetoric to his advantage and reveals his values perceptively.