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What Kind of Person Was Benjamin Franklin?

According to his autobiography

Benjamin Franklin is one of the prominent figures in American history, whose autobiography remains popular up to date. Initially, he began writing it as a way to recollect his memories, relieve his life on paper, and amuse his son (Franklin 22). However, in the second part of the biography, he switched to lecturing the audience about morals. This change leads to an inference that the book’s intended audience was the author, those who held him, dear, those interested in the lives of famous achievers, and the general American public.

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Besides being self-indulgent, entertaining, and morally guiding, the autobiography portraits a version of the American dream to inspire the audience. For Franklin, all one needs to prosper is hard work. He stresses his excellent work ethic in the text, attributing his success to it (Franklin 98). Despite that, the book cannot serve as an action plan. Like any other human being, Benjamin Franklin cannot be objective in recollecting the events of his past. First of all, he inevitably has a hindsight bias, meaning that his understanding of the results of various incidents impacts his remembering of them. Secondly, all persons experience events differently through their lenses, and since autobiography is limited to one perspective, it may be highly subjective. Thus, even though Benjamin Franklin believes his moral code will lead to a successful and happy life, he is, at the same time, limited by his philosophy in evaluating his life events and achievements.

Certain things about his personality, however, are evident from the book. First of all, he is a skilled, engaging, and at times ironic writer. Benjamin Franklin writes in a concise, easy to understand manner. That is unsurprising since he is an experienced journalist (“Benjamin Franklin,” “Who was Ben Franklin?”). Moreover, based on numerous achievements and pursuits described in the book, it is clear that Benjamin Franklin was a prolific citizen. It is clear that he appreciated hard work and viewed it as a primary driver for success along with cooperation.

Colonial America, as presented by Benjamin Franklin, was full of opportunities for a working man to grow. He was a living example of a self-made man. Franklin also describes the Revolution in his autobiography, as well as political relations between America and France, America and Britain in colonial times. The text provides a valuable insight into the lives of middle-class families, entrepreneurs, politicians, the founding fathers, and the wealthy Americans of the colonial era.

Generally, the biography is insufficient to serve as a sole source of knowledge about Benjamin Franklin’s life or colonial America. Nonetheless, it is a significant historic text documenting core events in American history. Apart from that, it is an entertaining read and a chance to understand Franklin’s philosophy. From the perspective of the modern reader, the book can provide useful insights. Still, it might be practically applicable due to the changes in the society which happened over time and the narrow perspective of the book accounting only for one factor of attaining success.

According to the Benjamin Franklin History website

The website serves as a guide for students, people interested in history in general, and Benjamin Franklin’s life in particular. The website is a part of the University of Massachusetts History Club and belongs to the Benjamin Franklin Historical Society (“About Us”). Its purpose is “to give honor to Benjamin Franklin as one of our founding fathers and to recognize his importance in the development of civic responsibility, science and entrepreneurship in colonial America” (“About Us”).

According to the website, the founding father was an “architect of his own future,” virtuous and ambitious, a practical inventor, a journalist, a businessman, and a politician, “genius” of networking (“Who was Ben Franklin?”). All of these characteristics, the authors of the website list in Franklin’s brief biography. They expand upon Franklin’s personality and achievements in other articles. Notably, in one of such pieces, they highlight that Benjamin Franklin remained actively involved in politics until old age. He was 81 one when he participated in the Constitutional Convention (“Constitutional Convention”).

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The website derives information for its pages from multiple reputable resources. Despite that, the tone of the articles is overly enthusiastic. It may seem that the authors of the Benjamin Franklin History are one-sided in favor of Franklin and disregard external factors which assisted him in success. As for colonial America painted by the website, it seems rich with opportunities. Based on Benjamin Franklin’s success story, the audience might conclude that every hard-working man could accommodate wealth during the colonial period. Especially since the website does not highlight Benjamin Franklin’s flaws or failures, both the portrait of the figure and the era appear biased.

According to History.com

The History website is an internet platform for the History channel belonging to A&E Television Networks. Undeniably, the users of the website are the channel’s viewers and other people interested in general history. The website has several articles about Benjamin Franklin, including a detailed biography. Apart from that, it hosts articles about the other founding fathers, the American Revolution, and other historical figures and events.

Benjamin Franklin’s biography page lists his achievements and important events during all stages of his life. It pronounces Franklin to be “one of the leading figures of early American history,” “statesman, author, publisher, scientist, inventor and diplomat,” and “one of the most celebrated figures in U.S. history” (“Benjamin Franklin”). In contrast to the Benjamin Franklin History website, history’s article maintains a neutral tone. It also derives from reputable sources, and a team of professional editors regularly updates it. History paints a good picture of Franklin by skipping his flaws and mistakes, covers his life from childhood to death, as well as his legacy, and highlights the nation’s love for the figure.

The article briefly describes the colonial era, most of the inferences about the period, however, can be indirectly drawn from Franklin’s life. Arguably, America at the time had plenty of economic and political opportunities, since Benjamin Franklin quickly grew his printing and publishing business. He also had a chance to be actively involved in politics, especially after becoming wealthy enough to retire, maintaining a range of interests. The article also indicates that even during Franklin’s youth, there was a conflict brewing between the British and the colonial interests, and Benjamin Franklin leaned towards the latter side. One should gather detailed information about the political and economic situation in colonial America from other sources.

Overall, the article paints Benjamin Franklin as a prolific businessman and politician with less focus on his other social roles or his personal life. It is mainly neutral and professional, yet moderately biased in favor of the figure. Benjamin Franklin on the History website is polished and has no flaws. Apart from that, to fully comprehend the article, it is helpful to access other sources describing life in colonial times.

According to Benjamin Franklin: An Extraordinary Life. An Electric Mind

This website belongs to The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and PBS’s three-part documentary about Benjamin Franklin. Benjamin Franklin: An Extraordinary Life. An Electric Mind likely serves predominantly as a marketing platform for the documentary. It targets potential film-viewers, history teachers, and learners, those interested in history. The website’s content can be useful for anyone wishing to see an overview of Franklin’s life since it is detailed, concise, and neutral.

Notably, the website has a long list of Benjamin Franklin’s titles. Those include “diplomat,” “experimenter,” “entrepreneur,” “humorist,” “revolutionary,” “visionary,” “young prodigy,” and others (“Ben A to Z”). Benjamin Franklin: An Extraordinary Life. An Electric Mind also provides two detailed timelines: one for Franklin’s life and the other for his work (“Timeline”). It also talks about Benjamin Franklin’s philosophy and his multiple social roles (“Citizen Ben”). The information comes from scholarly sources, primary sources, including several of Franklin’s writings and letters, and other data (“Resources”). Benjamin Franklin: An Extraordinary Life. An Electric Mind has an enthusiastic title and calls Benjamin Franklin “one of the most remarkable and multi-talented human beings” (“About the Show”). However, it remains neutral in describing his numerous achievements. Despite the marketing tools attracting reader’s attention with a catchy title and lists of Franklin’s accomplishments and characteristics, at closer inspection, the site proves to be professional and well-researched.

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Discussion

Astoundingly, Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography paints the broadest picture of who Benjamin Franklin was. Even though it is undeniably biased, it acknowledges Franklin’s flaws and mistakes. It gives a comprehensive view of all spheres of the author’s life without deliberately prioritizing some over the others. At the same time, the websites choose to ignore any imperfections. History website focuses on the political and entrepreneurial lives of Benjamin Franklin, omitting his personal life. At the same time, the Benjamin Franklin History website is openly praising the figure. Due to its marketing purposes, Benjamin Franklin: An Extraordinary Life. An Electric Mind is exaggeratedly celebrating Franklin’s achievements, going as far as to call him one of the most incredible humans in history. Arguably, the nation’s fascination prevents authors from writing critical and objective articles. Thus, the websites prefer to illuminate Franklin’s exceptional accomplishments and life events and neglect other factors.

Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography is a fascinating text for a modern reader. It is engaging, entertaining, well-written, and historically significant. Yet it would be helpful to read the accounts of the contemporaries of Benjamin Franklin, for instance, other founding fathers, those who knew him personally, and those who had a similar experience in life. Apart from that, academic sources written by the experts on Colonial America and the Revolution, as well as a neutral, unenthusiastic biography, would provide a comprehensive understanding of his persona. Understandably, people adore Franklin, but it is necessary to know his failures, his flaws, and facts about his personal life to understand what kind of person he was and minimize the hindsight bias. It might be challenging to elaborate a broad understanding of the figure since neither Benjamin Franklin himself nor the modern internet writers can be completely objective in talking about Franklin.

Works Cited

“About the Show.” Benjamin Franklin: An Extraordinary Life. An Electric Mind, 2002, Web.

“About Us.” Benjamin Franklin Historical Society. Web.

“Ben A to Z.” Benjamin Franklin: An Extraordinary Life. An Electric Mind, 2002, Web.

“Benjamin Franklin.” History.com. 2009, Web.

“Citizen Ben.” Benjamin Franklin: An Extraordinary Life. An Electric Mind, 2002, Web.

“Constitutional Convention.” Benjamin Franklin Historical Society. Web.

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Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin: with Related Documents, edited by Louis P. Masur. 3rd edition, Macmillan Higher Education, 2016.

“Resources.” Benjamin Franklin: An Extraordinary Life. An Electric Mind, 2002, Web.

“Timeline.” Benjamin Franklin: An Extraordinary Life. An Electric Mind, 2002, Web.

“Who was Ben Franklin?” Benjamin Franklin Historical Society. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, December 31). What Kind of Person Was Benjamin Franklin? Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/what-kind-of-person-was-benjamin-franklin/

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