One of the people who cannot be easily forgotten as far as the history of America is concerned is Benjamin Franklin. Franklin is regarded as one of the main founders of the United States because of his active participation in the development of different fields. This paper presents the biography of Benjamin Franklin. The paper focuses on the role of Franklin in the development of political theory, especially his elaborate use of satire in advancing political activism.
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A revisit of the history of Benjamin Franklin reveals that he was a multitalented person who contributed greatly in the development of the American society (Panesar 44). Having been born in 1706, Franklin grew into an all round person with a high level of intelligence that enabled him to shape the scientific, political, and the literary spheres of the American society then. Franklin was unable to get the best education having been born in an economically disadvantaged family.
His schooling ended when he was ten years old, but he managed to advance his education through voracious reading. He made major discoveries in physics; for instance, the concept of electricity where he made several inventions. Franklin was actively engaged in the field of politics and the organization of the society, besides his participation in the development of the field of science. Franklin earned the title of, “The First American” as a result of his intelligent contributions to the field of politics. His life portrays a picture of an extremely complex, but very influential man (“The First American (Book Review)” 98). He authored several pieces of literary works, besides direct participation in politics (Anderson 535).
Panesar (44) observed that Benjamin Franklin can be looked at from the various personalities that featured in his life. It is quite daunting to ascertain the discipline in which Franklin belonged to because of the multiplicity of talents and interests that he portrayed. However, it is apparent that Franklin excelled in every discipline he participated. Most researchers who are interested in the American literature argue that Franklin is one of the key figures in the development of literature.
They cite the satirical personality of Franklin as not only a major feature in the development of literature, but also as a key element that helped in the advancement of literary criticism in the political sphere. Therefore, the presentation of the works of Franklin in different biographies varies with the specific interests of the scholar on the contributions of Franklin in the American Society (Panesar 44).
Thompson (449) observes that the life and writings of Franklin highly depict him as a satirical person. Franklin embraced an intensive deployment of satire to present the big picture of the events in his writings and the delivery of information. He used fictional characters to represent colonialists. The intense use of fictional characters in his presentations denoted the critique of the political figures then together with their actions. This way, he encouraged the public to advance their own criticisms of the events within the political spheres of the society then (Houston 2).
Therefore, a review of most of the writing by Franklin presents satirical features in writing as a form of literary criticism of the political events that were taking place in the United States and such events in other parts of the world by extension (Thompson 449). Panesar (45) observes that the depth of the writings by Benjamin Franklin largely portray the 18th century as a literary period.
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According to Katz (44), a review of the history of political cartoons in the United States directs most people to the works of Benjamin Franklin. The first political cartoon in the history of the United States was created by Franklin. In the cartoon, Franklin urged the colonies of Britain to join or die in their attempts to defend Britain against France and its allies in India. This cartoon was critical and a centerpiece as far as the use of literature to criticize the political discourse is concerned.
The ratification of the United States Constitution further granted the freedom of expressing political views. This broadened the use of cartoons in displaying the political discourse. From the first use of cartoons by Franklin, the use of Cartoons as a form of political satire is still widely embraced in the modern times. The only difference in the manner in which political satire is presented in the modern times is in the diverse use of technology to present graphics (Katz 46).
From the discussion above, it is worthwhile to observe that Benjamin Franklin was a critical contributor to the growth of literary work, especially the art of literary criticism within the political discourse. This statement is based on the arguments presented by several researchers who point to Franklin’s contributions in the American literature by citing his works.
“The First American (Book Review).” Publishers Weekly 247.36 (2000): 98-98. Print.
Anderson, Douglas. “Benjamin Franklin And His Readers.” Early American Literature 41.3 (2006): 535-553. Print.
Glazener, Nancy. “Benjamin Franklin and the Limits of Secular Civil Society.” American Literature 80.2 (2008): 203–231. Print.
Houston, Alan. Benjamin Franklin and the Politics of Improvement. New Haven: Yale UP, 2008, Print.
Katz, Harry. “An Historic Look At Political Cartoons.” Nieman Reports 58.4 (2004): 44-46. Print.
Morgan, David T. “Benjamin Franklin: Champion Of Generic Religion.” Historian 62.4 (2000): 723-729. Print.
Panesar, Gurdip. “Benjamin Franklin: The Critical Reception.” Benjamin Franklin (2009): 44-56. Print.
Thompson, Todd N. “Representative Nobodies: The Politics Of Benjamin Franklin’s Satiric Personae, 1722–1757.” Early American Literature 46.3 (2011): 449-480. Print.