May 2013 Archives

Franklin and William

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Loyalist vs. Patriot


Unlike his step-mother and sister, William was not replaced by a replica of him in London. William had the privilege to travel with his father and to matriculate in a law school in England.  Franklin and William shared many similarities such as, clubs and charities. There was a point in time when Franklin was proud of his son's ability and William proud of his father's political skills. So what happen?

            The common thread that seemed to interfere in all of Franklin's relationships is work and William was no different from being affected by it. Shelia Skemp states that "the formidable rival for his father's affection was Benjamin's voracious appetite for public affairs."[i] But was he really abandoned? Franklin took his son underneath his wings and travel with him everywhere. When Franklin travel to London in 1757 to perform his diplomatic duties, William was right by his side. When Franklin was making the preparations for his famous kite experiment, William was his confidant.  William was a man of charm, and polish, expensively dressed, and well-traveled[ii] thanks to his father. Like Sally, Franklin has a person in mind for William to marry--Polly Stevenson. However, like Sally that plan fell through and William married another young woman. When Franklin returns back to London, it was William who stepped up and filled in for his father and took care of the family. Franklin introduced William to the world of politics. It is believed that because Franklin loved England and loved the empire and he taught his son to do the same.  "He had always been proud of his English heritage." [iii] So does this mean Franklin raised his son to be a loyalist?  What this also implies is that Franklin deviated from the beliefs he instilled in his son?

            Another theory to this whole feud is that it is a result of "the trauma he [William] suffered as a result of his illegitimate birth. "[iv] In other words, William choice to be a loyalist was his way of lashing out about the circumstance of his birth and society's constant reminder of is illegitimacy.  Another theory is given by Skemp essay, William Franklin: His Father's Son,

There may well have been a competitive edge to William's relationship with his father, constantly driving him to find some means of achieving respect and standing in the community that would enable him to equal, or perhaps even rival, that already held by his father. Thus William's life was characterized by one long search for autonomy. His marriage represented an attempt to "wean himself from his father." His assumption of the governorship of New Jersey "in spired him to feel that he had come into his manhood and achieved independence at last." William's ultimate declaration of independence came, of course, when he refused to join his father in rebelling against the English crown. Ironically, Loyalism was William Franklin's method of achieving personal autonomy.[v]

Was William just simply acting out? As the years passed and Franklin and William became more and more fervent about the positions they decided to take, their relationship became more damaging.  By the time Franklin died, he left William nothing, giving his son, Temple, the majority of the wealth.  "William received the worthless claims to the Nova Scotia lands, whatever books and papers and of his father he already held in his possession, and the cancellation of his still outstanding debts to Franklin's estate."[vi] Sounds like a case of love and war.

            So are we to fully blame Franklin for the complete obliteration of his relationship with his son? It seems to me that they both let business engulf pleasure. They both allowed their political views and careers take precedence over their relationship. Out of every one in the family, (Sally and Deborah) William had the most access to Franklin. He learned and spent the most time with him. William had more of a control over the fate of their relationship than anyone else. So in the case of William and Franklin they are both guilty.

 

Was Franklin a Bad Man?


In light of all the facts and the in-depth look at each relationship Franklin had with each individual in his family, it would be negligent to say that Franklin is solely responsible for all the screw ups in his relationships. In each case, we are able to see technicalities and everyone's stake in the situation.  With all this information it is hard to say that Franklin is a saint or fiend. Of course he made bad decisions, everyone does and will. Some of these decision that he made, Franklin recognized that he was wrong and tried to correct them in the he was able to. So the most important thing that I can say about Franklin and his family is DON'T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE! In the case of Benjamin Franklin of being accused as being an appalling family man, I find him...

 

It's your call!

 

Image: Portrait of William Franklin
http://fi.edu

[i] Skemp, Sheila L, 13.

[ii] Lopez, Claude-Anne, and Eugenia W. Herbert, 93.

[iii] Skemp, Shelia L. "William Franklin: His Father's Son." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 109.02 (1985): 145-78. JSTOR. Web., 147

[iv] Skemp, Shelia L. "William Franklin: His Father's Son." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 109.02 (1985): 145-78. JSTOR. Web, 150.

[v] ibid

[vi] Lopez, Claude-Anne, and Eugenia W. Herbert, 305.

            Franklin's tangible creations such the fire company, library, paved roads and his conceptual contributions created in order to improve the livelihood of each citizen are both applicable to each citizen's life today. Franklin's vision of the world was so beyond his time that people still study his brilliance in order to put it into practice. He is a true role model to be admired from his many attributions during his lifetime that remained to enforce his legacy but his civic contributions are down right outstanding. When questioning if a concept or institution is going to last they often say, will it last the test of it and for Franklin's civic contributions the answer is simply, yes.

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Photo: http://www.pbs.org/benfranklin/l3_citizen_firefighter.html            

As seen in any town, city, or state, the invention of streetlights, watchmen, fire companies, libraries, the right to a public education, The Philadelphia Contributorship, even Franklin's original invention of the stove paved the way for society to be able to create a better and safer tomorrow. His passion to protect the citizens of his area and create sustainable institution for his country by bringing people together for a good cause is something people still dream about accomplishing today. Franklin's dedication to his country is one of the many reasons he is one of the most revered Founding Fathers of all time. Furthermore, his values, and stance on how to leave a most rewarding life are something to be admired. However, are these values within our society today?

            Consider the fact that Franklin's proverbs from Poor Richard's Almanack are still passed on today such as,   

 

A penny saved is a penny earned

 

Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise

 

An apple a day keeps the doctor away

 

Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead

 

I was raised on such values as the first three throughout my childhood because it is wise advice. However, do I feel that my family or the people around me keep to such values today? No. Franklin's proverbs and lessons are certainly relevant yet few seem to listen to wise advice from a well-accredited role model. 

Franklin passed moralistic lessons about the dangers of drink in articles such as "Death of a Drunk" and "On Drunkenness."  Writing on Franklin's temperance pieces as a whole, Arner writes: "Like Franklin's writings on other subjects, they demonstrate a deep and abiding belief in the power of the press to educate the public on important topical issues, often employing humor but sometimes also resorting to sensationalism in order to make their messages more explicit and dramatic." Consider the university we attend and the reputation we have created. Franklin would be appalled by the actions of a large amount of students who claim to be here for the purpose of education, but turn to a night of wild parties instead. As Franklin said in his autobiography he thinks that drinking in moderation is acceptable but he does not see the need to go as far as students do. I shutter to think of his reaction if he were here to see that State College hospitals, an innovation from his promotion in his paper in Philadelphia, to help heal sick people, is now mostly cater to over inebriated students going to hard to even make their class in the morning. Franklin's value of the need for education and self-improvement daily seem to go right out the window in this scenario.


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Photo: http://bfms.frco.k12.va.us/character-counts/index.html            

As for his other writings of wisdom such as On Simplicity, Silence Dogood, and An Economical Project, Franklin attempts to help people see the importance in maintain a simple life that is easy and enjoyable to sustain, yet few seem to follow through on this practice. It seems ironic that many people wonder why they are so often stressed when they are the ones responsible. Consider even finals as Franklin states "if you have something to do tomorrow, do it today" I am sure that students wait until the last possible 2 hours to study or work on their project in order to procrastinate hard work. Yet throughout Franklin's writings he seems to believe that hard work is necessity to succeed at anything in any lifetime.

            Society should also consider Franklin's forward thinking of the issues pertaining to the issue of wasting energy and the economy. It was as though he could almost see into the future complication and was trying to warn us that without awareness we slip down a slippery slope; which is what happen to many people after the recession. If all practiced the proverbs and advice that Benjamin Franklin made available through experience of going from nothing to a man known 300 years later, it may have saved a lot of people the loss of property and jobs.

            Benjamin Franklin's civic creations changed the way society lived back then and who knows what we would have had to combat the issues he foresaw back then now if he did not take the initiative he did. Since most of his creations and innovations are still in place it certainly shows that he is a man wise beyond his time, smart enough to utilize every opportunity given to him even when he was in a place of power. As for his civic virtue, he gave society someone to continue to look up to even centuries later for his awareness of how to live a fulfilling life without over doing the indulgences. Franklin's ideas about good citizens being ones who led a simple and virtuous life, of on going self improvement, aiming always to be honest and live within ones means and moderation is advice that we could all use, especially as former college students with the real world rapidly approaching. 

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Photo: http://bunow.com/27111-college-students-struggling-with-making-ends-meet/ben-franklin-wearing-graduation-cap-on-one-hundred-dollar-bill

https://blogs.psu.edu/mt4/mt.cgi

Rob Stutzman

 

Virtue Mathematics

 

Here will I hold: If there is a Pow'r above us, (And that there is, all Nature cries aloud Thro' all her Works) he must delight in Virtue, And that which he delights in must be happy." -Joseph Addison's Cato

           

As we all know, Benjamin Franklin was a man invested in numerous projects over his long industrious life. Franklin was a man perpetually curious regarding what "made things tick," and how to make them more efficient. So it comes as no surprise that when it came to project of attaining virtue {or rather, negating vice), Franklin tackled it with two of his strongest skill sets- Science and Reason. Naturally what followed was a list of "Names of Virtues with their Precepts" (Franklin 84) which came to be known as Franklin's 13 Virtues; and of course, the almost mathematical chart documenting his pursuit of these virtues, which some-including myself- have come to see as his "virtue calculus."

 

            Franklin uses his reason and his own version of cross-cancellation to tackle the arduous project of eliminating any and all vices from his life.

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 "My intention being to acquire the Habitude of all these Virtues, I jusdg'd it would be well not to distract my Attentions by attempting the whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time, ... And as the previous Acquisition of some might facilitate the Acquisition of certain others, I arrang'd them with that View as they stand above" (Franklin 86).

           

As a result, Franklin saw the attaining of virtues as a simple calculation; an algebraic expression in which he could systematically tackle a seemingly impossible feat. Although this strategy seems rather simple, it is a perfect example of just how practical Franklin's reasoning was. Although some simply saw this attempt as "simply a complacent bookkeeper who tabulates his good and bad deeds the way a businessman keeps records of liabilities and assets (Anderson 26), I believe that Franklin's interest in virtue was considerably greater than that. For a man who directed his life so much on (what I consider) a rather strong moral compass, I find it hard to believe it be so cold nor simply for show. But that if anything, Franklin's pleasure was more in the chase than the attainment; "Vitrtue, as Benjamin Franklin understands it, is a means, not an end. Happiness is an end, the most desirable of life's good things." (Anderson 24).

 

            Franklin is in fact rather clear on this motivation behind his project. Obviously moral perfection is a task nothing short of daunting, and believing one is capable of this feat would be rather foolish- not to mention prideful. Much like his view on religion, Franklin seemed very adamant that the best way to find happiness with one's self, and with their God, is through the pursuit of leading a virtuous life. And further, that there is no blame in falling short of difficult tasks.

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"As those who aim at perfect Writing by imitating the engraved Copies, tho' they never reach the wish'd Excellence of those Copies, their Hand is mended by the Endeavour, and is tolerable while it continues fair & legible." (Franklin 92).

 

            I believe this sentence perfectly sums up Franklin's view on Virtue. One does not need to be Jesus or Socrates to be virtuous, on simply needs to imitate him. That does not mean turning water into wine, it simply means patterning your actions in the right direction. As Aristotle states in his Nichomachean Ethics, virtue is simply temperance in regards to pursuing virtue. Or in other words, a balance must be attained in order to be truly virtuous, because once that balance is attained, one will be clear of mind to know what virtue is appropriate for different situations.

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"both excessive and defective exercise destroys the strength and similarly drink or food which is above or below a certain amount destroys the health, while that which is proportionate both produces and increases and preserves it. So too is it then in the case of temperance and courage and the other virtues." (Aristotle 4).

 

Although this is most likely meant as an analogy (temper your temperance?), there remains a lot of truth in the matter. One cannot constantly strive to be as frugal, industrious, and temperate as possible. However it is wise to have these traits in mind as you go about your day. By patterning your actions this way, you then create a likelihood that this habit (or ethos) will stick. And whether you are the most orderly or moderate person will not matter as long as you simply make the effort. It was through this search you become at peace with one's self and maker. This process in itself is what leads to this Happiness end game that Franklin idealized.  "Happiness then is something final and self-sufficient, and is the end of action." (Aristotle 2).

 

 

Franklin's 13 Virtues and the Outside World

 

Benjamin Franklin had a serious affect on a large amount of people. As a result these people have tried to affect his legacy. However, his legacy is fairly intact. I have never once come across one person. One man, who was so universally read and renowned that the could have such a broad impact on the world at hand.

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Honestly the most surprising view came form within our own backyard. My man, George Bragues. Comin'out loud and proud sayin' Franklin was a selfish mercenary. "Franklin is not opposed to people internalizing moral principles, but he does not think that the inherent worth of virtuous conduct is more likely to be appreciated if the ultimate payoff is unmistakably emphasized." (Bragues 384). Well that's cool and all. New point of view for sure. But last I checked Franklin was constantly doin' things for the disenfranchised. Like every, single, day. Why do I see this? 1) Bragues is a joke if he sees Franklin in this light. Honestly, the man gave up a Steve Jobs-esque patent to benefit the common good. Go ahead and try to get him on that. Finally in respect to Bragues actually calling out Franklin on public works, please if there is one thing the man had in spades, it was social works programs (libraries, hospitals, schools, need I say more?).

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(I don't know how to fix this.)

Another interesting insight to how Franklin's virtues were viewed- this time outside of the state- lies in 19th century Poland. Yes, apparently a bold man named Mendel Lefin was fed up with this particularly trending sect of Judaism known as Hasidism. Or more specifically, this offshoot of the religion that has more to do with mysticism and whatnot as opposed to actual, orthodox Judaism. His solution? Just straight up robbing Franklin's Virtues for the good of the Polish Jewry. He called it, Moral Accounting. "The creator of this "wonderful invention" was none other than Benjamin Franklin, whose "Rules of Conduct first appeared in 1791 in the second part of his English Autobiography" (Sinkoff 134). Well all I have to say is that if your "virtue calculus" is being used half-way around the world- you must be doing something right.

 

            Our next fun insight to Franklin's widespread influence on the world lies just around the corner in Romania apparently. Thanks to Penn State's own Adrian Marino, we can see how Franklin somehow idealized a revolution in Romania 50 years after his death. Franklin's Way to Wealth evidently gave him much rapport with the aspiring middle-class of 19th century Romania. "Franklin's image was that of a "popular teacher," educator and philosopher of practical morals. The Way To Wealth was translated and assimilated as "the way to happiness." (Marino 132). Apparently this got Franklin through the threshold- even though his works were published in comparably tiny portions. But it was his methods of virtue that really captivated the crowd. "All its elements belong to a typical Enlightenment portrait, to the militant, civic, humanitarian and virtuous "model" characteristic of this doctrine. A strongly "idealized" image, to be sure, but in full agreement with the aspirations of the age." (Marino 134).

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Finally, my man Toshio Watanabe gives us a peek into how the Japanese culture views Franklin's pursuit of virtue. "For better or worse, rightly or wrongly, Bejamin Franklin has been identified with the American national character. 

The perfect interlude for the rockin' roller coaster which is to ensue. "Nothing has ever given me a sense of dejection so strong as his Autobiography... I find myself disgusted with seeing one them (so-called great men) so proudly and exasperatingly holding up to us his paradigm of virtues...(after listing his 13 virtues) "all these are nothing but obscene words to us;... I must confess, in the first place that I detest Franklin and his autobiography... Franklin's brazen-faced self-assertion, his lack of concern for his reader's feelings, his obsessive fanaticism, in short what I cannot help detecting as ugliness lying behind his merits..." (Watanabe 37).

 

This is the warm sentiments of one students informative essay which I have so neatly paraphrased. I tried to break it down the best I can, but essentially- the whole thing runs like that song from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. 

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No seriously. The whole time I was reading this thing I just kept hearing "you nauseate me Mr. Franklin" over and over in my head. The best apart about this is that apparently, he most neatly sums up the opinions of his generation. "Undoubtedly, Franklin's basic character and his way of life as revealed in his Autobiography run counter to the life-view or sense of values of the younger generation of Japan." (Watanabe 38). Never would have guessed that one. However, I think what confuses me even more is how Watanabe tried to make Franklin seem like a better guy to his students. Which he apparently attempted to do by telling him about his "intrigues with low women" and how "he has at least one illegitimate child". I will obviously never understand the Japanese.

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(Apparently this is the picture that sums up their disdain for the Frankman)


In summation, of this blog, I have learned much of Franklin's influence across the world. He fueled a nationalistic revolution in Romania, and put out a religious one in Poland. He has been seen as a great virtuous man, and a mercenary (and probably something much worse that did not make it into Watanabe's piece).  All and all I guess it's a sort of love-hate worldwide relationship with Franklin. The one thing they all have in common is their respect for the man, which is predominately for the same reason (I really don't understand the Japanese).

 

 

 

WWBFD

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            And now its time for what you have all been waiting for- WWBFD. And no, that does not stand for What Would Benjamin Forrest Do. It stands for What Would Benjamin Franklin Do; namely if he were literally here now, as opposed to the imposters ramblin' around Philly like The King in Vegas. After much thought on how Franklin would view and/or adjust to this entirely different culture-or more precisely- the college-aged-generation.

 

            My conclusion... I was looking at the situation the wrong way. Obviously, Franklin's virtues are timeless. Why? Because virtue isn't something that can be classified- it is what is. I tried to stick Franklin in a different time to gain insight into the man's virtuous thought process. When I should be doing what he did. Taking these virtues and interjecting them into my life; seeing how Franklin's 13 virtues can benefit our society today; as opposed to putting the focus on someone else.

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            Franklin's 13 Virtues: temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility. This is a solid base. However, I believe it to be almost watered down. Perhaps this is what some of the "nay-sayers" of Franklin are talking about. This sort of "doing-to-say-I-do, much like the argument regarding Franklin and his twilight slavery crusade; "...Franklin as having brought {antislavery} into the marketplace of ideas only to leave it there." (Werner 296). Perhaps this is why Franklin doubles up on certain morals as he does. moderation vs. temperance; resolution vs. industry; and whatever the hell sincerity and tranquility are getting at- that just sounds like a haiku.

 

After sitting here pondering for so long about how Benjamin Franklin would find our generation lazy, I wonder, why? According to his daily schedule he awakes at five. Possibly one hour earlier than us. Works an 8 to 5 as opposed to a 9 to 5. But as anyone will tell you, work never ends when you clock out. So if anything Franklin was a pro at leaving his work at the office. So here we are looking at a traffic jam straight up ahead, are "Franklin's words slyly [anticipating] the pained and prickly "Countenances" of friends who might be prone to take offense at conspicuous displays of benevolence."(Anderson 28). I have found this as a stark possibility. In literally any debate I could have found myself in, I would have argued on behalf of Franklin; and yet here I am, debating the sincerity in his writings. This is simply because I feel like Franklin would have easily recognized the similarity between those examples I laid out earlier; any deviance from that not only would be a waste of time, but would go in violation of silence and sincerity.

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So this is how I find our situation. We have been pondering morality, and its validity in our lives. But apart from me criticizing a great American Hero's version (which I never thought would happen) someone needs to lay down the law. So here we are... WWRSD. And no, that doesn't stand for What Would Rob Stutzman Do. Oh wait, yes it does. I got 4. 4 virtues to live your life on. We don't need to pad the stats; just four simple virtues to act as a GPS through life. You know. Not everyone trust's it; but if its there I'm going to look at it. Moderation, Honesty, Resolution, oh wait that's it. Simple as that, Benny Frank's 13 Virtues cut into a fourth- and just as lethal.

 

Honestly? Honesty should be the most straightforward of the bunch. Why aren't we honest anymore? I feel like this is an area we can improve on. The interesting part is this solely addresses the justice virtue. Well I guess you could throw chastity in there, but I feel that is a topic that can be discussed elsewhere. So that should show you how efficient I am in my own "Virtuous Calculus". Next we move on to Resolution. This Virtue encompasses order and industry. By being resolved to one's actions, it is necessary to ORDER the feat in front of you, to be INDUSTRIOUS in accomplishing this feat through your own skill set, and finally having the RESOLUTION to do this every, single, day. Naturally now we move on to moderation.

 

Although I believe resolution to be the virtue most sorely missed in our generation, moderation is the most important. Without it we cannot truly achieve this state of virtuousness I have so cleanly laid out.  Moderation is, in effect, the key behind all 13 virtues. And for good reason. As I have said above, it is solely in the pursuit of virtue that leads one in the right path. Franklin without doubt subscribed to this belief in the many random Ancient Greek quotations I have supplied. All and all, our generation needs more moderation. Myself included. Without this attribute we are unable to properly get our stuff together.  Moderation it's a son-of-a-bitch; yet necessary. Without it, we cannot properly adjust our lives to get things done. Case and point, measures need to be set to prevent us from violating my four simple virtues.

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The only road towards virtuousness today is through practicing these virtues. Without them we are left without motivation or drive to improve ourselves. It is necessary and proper for us to formulate our characters around a strong base. Without this base we are left hopeless. Which is why we need something to guide us through life. Without a north star we cannot acclimate ourselves to any time or any climate, we are left helpless- up shit's creek. Perhaps this is what sets so many people back today, we lack that simple judgment; seeing the world for what it is- and capitalizing on it. Without that drive, that motive, people would not be able to succeed, Benjamin Franklin could not exceed- we cannot exceed. Why? Because values are timeless.

 

            

Franklin and Sarah

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Sarah Franklin












Sarah Franklin, also known as Sally, was known as the fatherless daughter, but also the only child of Deborah and Franklin (since the death of Francis). Like her mother, Deborah, Sally's relationship was interrupted by the presence of another women. This woman was Polly Stevenson. Name sound familiar? Yes indeed! Polly Stevenson is the daughter of Franklin's landlady Margaret. Before we get into the London account let's look back at Sally and Franklin's relationship Pre-London.

 

Rock-a-bye, Sally...


Eleven years after the death of Francis Franklin (died of smallpox at age four), on September 11, 1743, Sally Franklin was born.  Less than two months after her birth, Franklin and Deborah made sure Sarah was inoculated.[i] Sally was Franklin's little princess and he was very impressed with her at such a young age. In a letter to his mother, Franklin wrote "your granddaughter is the greatest lover of her book and school of any child I ever knew."  Like a proud father he continually wrote letters about his little Sally. "Sally grows a fine girl, and is extremely industrious with her needle and delights in her books. She is of most affectionate temper, and perfectly dutiful and obliging, to her parents and to all. Perhaps I flatter myself too, much but I have hopes that she will prove an ingenious sensible, notable and worthy woman." Franklin made sure that his daughter gained the proper skills he expected her to have. When Sally was a little girl, learning how to sew a "good button hole", she was having so much trouble with it that Franklin decided to send her to learn from his tailor every day to learn how to sew button holes.[ii] When she was at a young age, Franklin began to look for a good future spouse for her.  When Sally grew much older, Franklin enjoyed playing duets together, she on the harpsichord and he on his instrument.[iii] Franklin cared for Sally greatly and wanted what was best for her. So why do many believe that this was a problem? It is commonly perceived that instead of developing Sally's intellect, he raised a dutifully woman. "In The private Franklin: The Man and His Family, it is expressed that "He did not intend to open up to her the full Pandora's Box of knowledge, but mainly the useful, the functional skills: reading and writing."[iv]

 

When the Bough Breaks, the Cradle Will Fall?


The situation gets even more controversial in London--of course.  During Franklin's stay in Margaret Stevenson's lodging, he was intrigued by her 18-year-old daughter, Polly Stevenson. Many have viewed Polly as the London counterpart of his daughter, much like her mother played the same to Deborah. Polly was said to be smart and eager to learn. Franklin took a likening to her and out of that grew an exceptional relationship. Some scholars believe that Franklin and Polly's relationship was also romantic; however there is not enough evidence to support that notion. Franklin wrote poems for her and sent her little notes of "tenderness." He said that she was "the most logical head of any woman he ever knew," and "a mind thirsty after knowledge and capable of receiving it."[v] He shared his ideas and new inventions with Polly, "It was a measure of their intellectual bonding that Polly would indulge this linguistic [new phonetic alphabet] as faithfully as she did."[vi] Meanwhile his contact with his own daughter became less and less. It was not like Sally was imprudent; while her father was away she wrote to him letters containing political news and descriptions of social and family life.[vii] To Franklin's defense he did not forget his daughter; he sent her many elegant gifts from London. Moreover, Franklin did ask for Sally, but Deborah chose not send her to him.  Finally, when Sally became of age" he took her on his tour--served as her coming-out party."[viii] So was Franklin simply admiring in Polly a young person full of potential?

            Whether it was tensional or unintentional, Sally received the short end of the stick in this situation. Her father left her to lead a fatherless lifestyle, while he enveloped another young girl and played her father.  The enigma of this situation is that everything that Franklin loved and appreciated about Polly is the very opposite of what he instilled in his daughter, Sally. He loved that Polly was smart and intellectually stimulating, but he cultivated Sally to be this literate-domestic figure.  Were these values even important to Franklin? Some argue that when Franklin wrote "I promise myself much comfort in her [Sally] when I grow old" that he was foreseeing her as a woman who would take care of him.[ix] This statement articulates that Franklin was prepping Sally to eventually cater and take care of him in his old age. Is this true? This statement is quite an argument, but if we were to consider it, we must also consider the milieu of the time.  In the time of Franklin there was no woman suffrage or any wave of feminism. It was the norm and culturally encouraged for women to take on the domestic role (there are still remnants of this ideology today--the 21st century) Franklin could have been prepping his daughter to be an upright and valuable woman and most importantly (for the time) to be someone's wife.  Franklin tried relentlessly to arrange the marriage of Sarah and Billy Stranhan (son of William Stranhan), but that was an unsuccessful mission.  His passion for Polly could have been because she was different. Franklin certainly did stand by his "domestication of women belief." We are able to see this when Polly seemed to be taking her studies too seriously; he lectured her about the "duty of a woman to raise a family." [x] For that reason, we can reason that Franklin did not hold different opinions on the manner when it came to Polly.

            However, the situation gets even stickier. When word gets to Franklin that his daughter had fallen in love and wanted to get married, he asked William to look into this guy's character and financial security. Shortly after, Franklin found some disturbing news about Richard Bache (her fiancé).  Franklin had found out that Bache faced some financial difficulties and because of this Franklin expressed his disapproval of the pending marriage. He suggests that Sally comes to England instead, where she could meet other men. But Sally loved Bache.  In Shelia Skemp book, Benjamin Franklin and William Franklin: Father and son, patriot and loyalist, she actually credits Williams "special attentions" of the interest of Sally and Deborah.[xi] This supports the idea that Franklin was very detached from his family by "distance" and "emotionally". In regards to the wedding, Franklin sent Deborah a letter about saving money and not having an "expensive feasting wedding." In Isaacson's  Benjamin Franklin biography, he conveys this idea that instead of Franklin going home to deal with the crisis of his daughters pending marriage, he decides to go on vacation in France. Franklin ultimately misses his only daughter's wedding. There are no signs that Franklin ever expressed regret for missing the wedding, but he later replied to a letter from his sister about the new union of his daughter saying, "she has pleased herself and her mother, and I hope she will do well; but I think they should have seen some better prospect than they have, before they married, how the family was to be maintained." However, when it was time for Polly to get married to William Hewson, he gave his blessing and walk Polly down the aisle. Fascinatingly enough, Polly got married in the midsummer, which is said to be a time when Franklin "usually traveled abroad."[xii]

On That Note...

Although Franklin relationship seemed strenuous, Franklin is famous for seeking redemption for his past errata's. Despite his reservations of Bache, Franklin became more accepting and started to refer to him in his letters as "loving son" and sending him best wishes. Moreover, once Franklin finally returned to permanently live in Philadelphia, he decided to add additional rooms in the house to accommodate his daughters growing family.  After Franklin died he left Sally and Bache, "The Houses built on Market Street, the printing office, a goodly number of lots and buildings here and there in Philadelphia, all the silver plate, pictures, and household goods."[xiii] Also, for Sally only, he left "one-half of whatever funds were deposited with Franklin's bankers in Paris and London, in income of some shares in the Bank of North America, ....the miniature of Louis XIV, and the a lesion in frugality."[xiv] On the portrait, he stipulated that the 408 diamonds that surrounded it were not to be made into ornaments either for herself or her daughters, in order not to introduce the 'expensive, vain, and useless fashion of wearing jewels in this country."[xv]Although, Sally experienced the absence of her father growing up, Franklin made sure that they lived underneath the same roof when he retired in Philadelphia and entrusted all of the things he earn while being incognito in her life to her.  Whether it made up for his absence or not, in the end Franklin did not forget about his beloved Sally.

 

Image: Sarah Franklin
http://explorepahistory.com

[i] Lemay, 314.

[ii] Lemay, 314.

[iii] Lopez, Claude-Anne, and Eugenia W. Herbert, 97.

[iv] Lopez, Claude-Anne, and Eugenia W. Herbert, 71.

[v] Lopez, Claude-Anne, and Eugenia W. Herbert, 83.

[vi] Isaacson,220.

[vii] Baetjer, Katherine. "Benjamin Franklin's Daughter." Metropolitan Museum Journal 38 (2003).JSTOR. Web, 169.

[viii] Isaacson, 208.

[ix] Lopez, Claude-Anne, and Eugenia W. Herbert, 71.

[x] Isaacson, 178

[xi] Skemp, Sheila L. Benjamin and William Franklin: Father and Son, Patriot and Loyalist. Boston: Bedford of St. Martin's, 1994. Print. 66.

[xii] Isaacson, 241.

[xiii] Lopez, Claude-Anne, and Eugenia W. Herbert, 306.

[xiv] ibid

[xv] Baetjer, Katherine. "Benjamin Franklin's Daughter." Metropolitan Museum Journal 38 (2003).JSTOR. Web,171.

Benjamin Franklin's Civic Stance

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Benjamin Franklin as visionary in civic improvement also had a vision of a good citizen. As he took the dirty streets of Philadelphia and aimed to improve the quality, he also aimed to improve the quality of each citizen. Franklin as a person tried to maintain a filled with virtue. As stated by PBS "A role model still today, Ben Franklin helped define "good citizenship."" 

            Franklin hoped to share his knowledge and beliefs on virtue, especially civic virtue through many of his works. For example, the publishing of the Poor Richard's Almanack was certainly created to enlighten the public. This book served as a contribution to society to show the importance of moderation. The concepts are definitely geared toward the practical mind. It also included the Gregorian calendar, weather forecast apart from many stories, jokes and proverbs for amusement. The proverbs depicted his sentiments in living a balanced life. Here are a few examples:

PoorRichard1733.jpg

Photo: http://pabook.libraries.psu.edu/palitmap/PoorRichardsAlmanack.html

Have you something to do tomorrow? Do it today.

 

You may think, perhaps, that a little tea, or a little punch now and then, diet a little more costly, clothes a little finer, and a little more entertainment now and then can be no great matter but remember what Poor Richard says "Many a little makes a mickle; beware of little expense for a small leak will sink a great ship."

 

A friend in need is a friend indeed!

 

Love your Enemies, for they tell you your Faults

 

If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you're dead and rotten, either do things worth the writing, or write things worth the reading.

 

Poor-Richards-Almanack.jpg

Photo: http://www.seedboxpress.com/poor-richards-almanack/

The proverbs that he wrote to enlighten others were indeed the proverbs he followed himself. As seen in Franklin's autobiography he was never interested making money off of his brilliance just becoming a success from helping others. Even with all the improvements he made to Philadelphia and the experiments he conducted he was never one to need the credit or patent his idea. He wanted to learn whichever topic he was focused on, so he could share that knowledge with the people.

Benjamin Franklin also valued the civic virtue he believed every citizen needed to keep within them and depicted that in his chart for betterment within his autobiography. Furthermore, his writings beside the almanac such Silence Dogood and his piece On Simplicity demonstrate his focus on living a life in order to maintain yourself yet focus also on giving back to others. As stated by Benjamin Franklin in On Simplicity "...I could wish my reader would be ashamed to live in the world by such a wretched method, yet I would warn him to be well aware of those that do; and to be sure to arm against them, not with the same weapons, but those which are of much better Proof, the integrity of a wise Man, and the Wisdom of an honest one."  Franklin's goal in all his pieces is to arm society with the ability to attain a better life through virtue rather than greed or any other motivators that are not honest. He truly believes and demonstrates that by living a life of virtue, one creates a life for himself from the ground up. As said by Simon Newman,

            "Franklin sought not to hide his poor origins but rather to celebrate them as a             virtue. As an extremely successful printer, Franklin had risen from working-class             obscurity to the highest ranks of Philadelphia society, yet unlike other self-made             men of the era Franklin embraced and celebrated his artisanal roots, and he made             deliberate use of his working-class identity during the Seven Years War and the             subsequent imperial crisis, thereby consolidating his own reputation and firming             up the support of urban workers who considered him one of their own."

                                                                                                            (Newman 161)

 

Franklin was proud of his poor roots because it kept him honest. He became a self made man, from the son of a candle maker to Founding Father and as such he wants to share with his "children" the lessons he has learn so that they can create their own path of virtue as well.

Franklin's idea of a good citizen is one that values truth, simplicity and the self-search for improvement in day-to-day life. Benjamin Franklin embarked on that inner search through reflection; writing and publishing pieces on the importance of maintain self worth in all actions and by being a leader in the community.

Benjamin Franklin was an exceptional leader of his community through his efforts to create a better living situation for Philadelphia. Franklin utilized every avenue he created for himself in order to innovate the city surrounding him as seen in the example of the library from the previous entry. He also harnessed his ability to communicate to a mass number of citizens through his printing press by raising funds for a hospital through promotion in his paper.  Additionally, Franklin had a passion for citizen safety and created through taxes a service of watchmen and the first volunteer fire company. To push the stay of the people even further he created the Fire Insurance policy. As stated by Billy Smith "From this initial plan eventually resulted the nation's first successful property insurance company, the Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from the Loss by Fire, today America's oldest fire assurance company, founded in 1752." To think that a plan created from his company members began so solid that it is still in practice today is remarkable.

Franklin also pushed for streetlights and clean streets, and initiated pavement for the streets, in order to get rid of the sludge he saw when he first came to Philadelphia.  He also saw the need for a postal system and he even marked each mile on the way by milestone. Plus, he was determined to save energy by creating day light savings time aware that even when electricity was first coming about it could create a problem by taking away too many resources, an issue still pertaining to society today. 

Franklin and Deborah

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Thumbnail image for deborah-franklin.jpg
















Franklin has received a great deal of criticism about his relationship to his wife Deborah. Many have brought into question if he even really loved her. Isaacson states that Franklin set out to find a wife because "bachelorhood was frowned on in the colonial America and Franklin had a sexual desire that required appetite." [i] So what was she exactly to him? In his biography of Benjamin Franklin, he paints Franklin and Deborah's relationship as Franklin's solution to a problematic situation.  He calls Franklin "a man of the head rather than the heart".[ii]  The notion that Franklin did not love his wife or that she was simply a "good and faithful helpmate" is ludicrous. Especially since Franklin states "my engagement with Miss Read, to whom I never wrote more than one letter, and that was to let her know I was not likely soon return. This was another of the great Errata of my life." Franklin wrote this in regard to his first engagement to Deborah before he left for London. This situation led Deborah to move on and marry another man (who letter disappeared and died).  I bring this up to show that one would not say his greatest Errata was causing a "frivolous" relationship to end and then seeks to correct this by finally marrying the woman. In 1780's Franklin wrote a song for a song to celebrate Deborah as his wife. J.A. Leo Lemay refers to the song as "The wedding Song."[iii] So now that we put this idea of Franklin not ever loving Deborah, let's look at what really happen in their relationship.

Hello London!

In the summer of 1757, Franklin went to London on diplomatic mission. His stay in London was supposed to be for five months , but ended up staying for five years, and then ,after he went home briefly , and then return to stay another ten years. While in London, Franklin stayed at a lodging.  Of course we cannot talk about London without talking about his landlady Margaret Stevenson. Stevenson is significant in this story because she was the widowed landlady that was accused by many to play Franklin's replica wife while in London. She is often described as being everything Deborah was and more. Deborah was seen to have "plain tastes, willingness to work, and a desire to please her spouse"[iv]; whereas Stevenson is seen to be elegant and intellectual in comparison to Deborah. This woman was accredited for Franklin's development for a taste for fine crystal, china, and silver.[v] Deborah was aware of her presence in Franklin's life, it was not a secret. Stevenson even went as far to "undertake the long-distance redecorating of Franklin household, but she also shopped for Debbie [Deborah] herself."[vi] Franklin's Friend Strahan sent Deborah a letter warning her about this new "friendship" and encouraged her to go to London and accompany her husband but Deborah refused. Whether Franklin and Stevenson were more than friends is possible, but there is not evidence to support that notion. However, the problem that was starting to take root with Franklins new found life in London was that his contact with Deborah became fewer and fewer.  When Franklin did write to Deborah, he wrote little of his mission and the political climate. "Neither did he say one word about the plays he saw, the concerts he attended, nor the interesting people he was meeting."[vii] Their communication began to deteriorate slowly. When he sent letters to his friends, he wrote about scientific topic, to William (his son) he sent lengthy letters of political musing, but to his wife it was kept simple. He sent mechanical messages like "all's well..." or "no time to write more..."But was it his entire fault? While he was in London a lot of people believe that he packed his bags and never looked back, but that's not completely true. Franklin did ask Deborah and Sarah (his daughter) to come and join him in London, but she refused because she was afraid to sail at sea. When Strahan sent her letters warning about Franklins alleged relationship with Stevenson she refused, giving the same reason. Also when Franklin fell ill just shortly arriving to London, he asked her once again, she refused, which left Stevenson to take the role as the wife--once again.  In a letter to her he wrote: "There is a great difference in the sickness between being nursed with that tender attention which proceeds from sincere love". [viii] If we look at this in retrospect, Franklin had to work overseas in London and Deborah did not really have to stay in Philadelphia. So who is at fault?  Is Franklin guilty for making a potentially lonely situation into a bearable situation? Was Deborah being stubborn about leaving her comfort zone? In light of the facts, the beginning of the fall of their relationship is mutual. They both have fault in the manner.

From Bad to Worst

Unfortunately the plot thickens! While Deborah is home having such "Christian Spirits,"[ix]the strain on her marriage continued. The gravity of the state of their marriage becomes apparent when Deborah's mother dies in a kitchen fire in 1760. Shortly after Deborah emotional state shifted and began writing Franklin letters about her loneliness, he did not see fit return to the states to console his wife. In The Private Franklin: Man and His Family, the question is poses whether "he was simply incapable of feeling strongly for people from whom he was separated?"[x]  It is even believed that Franklin could of sailed home early as 1760, but he tarried in England for two years more.  In the spring of 1769, Deborah experienced a stroke and her doctors wrote to Franklin that her symptoms were bad and dangerous; Deborah said that it was due to "dissatisfied distress" brought on by his absence.  It was said that she could not eat, sleep, and lost "resolution".[xi]  Meanwhile, Franklin continued to make promises of his return, but did not.  As her health exacerbate she wrote less. It's unsure if she purposely chooses not to write back to Franklin or she was not lucid enough to responded.  By the 1774, she began to lose her memory and was no longer able to walk--Franklin still did not come back.  In May of 1774 he wrote her a letter saying: "It's is now a very long time indeed since I have had the pleasure of a line from you. I hope that you are as well as I am, thanks to God"[xii]  Finally, Deborah died and Franklin never got to see her. Franklin received word about his wife's death a month later, February 1775. Was Franklin selfish in his marriage? In all fairness, we must keep in mind that a trip to London from Pennsylvania in the 1770's would have taken months of traveling. But could have Franklin taken the time off to see his wife? I could argue that when she was alive he should have gone to see her? Or I could argue that it would be useless to go to Pennsylvania after learning about her death a month later? But would the situation change if we assume by judging from the whole situation that Franklin fell out of love with Deborah? In this case, I don't think absence makes the heart grow founder, but detached.

Image: Portrait of Deborah Franklin
http://www.meetdeborahfranklin.com/deborah.html

[i] Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003. Print. 72.

[ii] Isaacson, 75.

[iii] Lemay, J. A. Leo. The Life of Benjamin Franklin, Volume 2: Printer and Publisher, 1730-1747. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2005. Print. 272.

[iv] Isaacson, 81.

[v] Lopez, Claude-Anne, and Eugenia W. Herbert. The Private Franklin: The Man and His Family. New York: Norton, 1975. Print. 84.

[vi] Lopez, Claude-Anne, and Eugenia W. Herbert, 86.

[vii] Lopez, Claude-Anne, and Eugenia W. Herbert, 87.

[viii] Isaacson, 180.

[ix] Lopez, Claude-Anne, and Eugenia W. Herbert, 91.

[x] Lopez, Claude-Anne, and Eugenia W. Herbert, 91.

[xi] Lopez, Claude-Anne, and Eugenia W. Herbert, 169.

[xii] Lopez, Claude-Anne, and Eugenia W. Herbert, 171.


Benjamin Franklin: Family vs. Politics?

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Benjamin Franklin is known and celebrated for many different things. He is known as the man on the hundred dollar bill, a founding father, scientist, diplomat, and a lover of virtues.  However, when we talk about Franklin and his family values, the conversations start to polarize. Some people believe that when it came to the treatment of his family, he was neglectful. Some believe,  he was all he could be given the job he had. And there are others who believe that he was a great politician and family man. But is it that simple? Can you make a fair judgment without looking at all of the facts? Should we not take into considerations the technicalities of the situation?  In a series of t blog posts, I will dissect and explore the Franklin's family situation by looking at each relationship Franklin had with each individual in his immediate family. In my post, I will introduce and challenge the many notions that have accumulated surrounding Franklin and his family.  

Part Three: Comparisons and Contrasts

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ben_franklin.jpg

 Fig. 1.

As I foreshadowed in the last post, one of the most important aspects of documentary film making is the aesthetic quality. Michael Isenberg writes, "Historians have long valued the aesthetic approach to the study of culture. If it be true that the most precious values of a culture are displayed in the arts, then the study of these arts becomes proper for the historian" (Isenberg 553). His claim that part of being a historian in film is to study the arts is quite a forward-thinking one, and it surprised me at first to read it. I consider this a very high bar to set for a historian, but possibly not for a filmmaker. Keeping this in mind, I shall compare and contrast briefly Benjamin Franklin with two other shorter documentaries on Franklin.

 

The first one we will look at is aptly called, Ben Franklin: Man of Firsts. The first minute of the film is enough to make the biggest Franklin buff turn it off. Backgrounded by ethereal, electronic music, a Power-Point-like slideshow runs while a stereotypical male announcer's voice plays over top of the atrocity. The images are grainy and often to not correspond to what the announcer is saying. He calls Franklin an inventor, and an image of a political document shows in screen. Unfortunately, I cannot show clips of this film due to copyright reasons, but I hope my description of this ten-minute disaster will provide a good understanding of the kind of films that are being made.

 

There is very little actual film footage compared to the still photographs shown. The segment does have interviews with a few scholars who are subjected to very poor lighting which makes them look blotchy and orange, and a shaky cameraman. I realize that this film was most likely written on a budget, but surely they could have afforded a tripod.

 

DOIP.jpg

Fig. 2. 

This poor film quality and blatant disregard for the aesthetic value is exactly what Hovde and Meyer did not want to do when they produced Benjamin Franklin. By visually and auditorily pleasing their audience, these filmmakers created a professional and respectful image of Franklin. If a film such as Ben Franklin: Man of Firsts were to be shown in a high school history class, not a single student would pay attention. Even though it is only ten minutes long, the slow pace and monotonous tone of the narrator seem to drag on for hours. Because of the quick changes and use of three main elements in Benjamin Franklin which we have already talked about, that wonderful film, although many times as long, moves along much more quickly and could easily hold the interest of anyone as young as a middle-schooler.

 

The second film I would like to compare Benjamin Franklin to is, Ben Franklin's Pirate Fleet. This forty-four minute film focuses on a team of divers investigating a sunken ship which they believe to have been one of Franklin's privateering ships during the war. Between the rock music, shaky nerve-jostling filmography, and constant repetitions of what just happened before the commercial break, this film does its best job at making this theory sound like a historical scandal. Of course, it was not that at all. Franklin, in efforts to aid the war for Independence, hired a few privateers to help defend his country against the British naval fleet.

 

 

Ship.jpg
                                                                    Fig. 3. 

It is almost humorous to watch the dramatized story unfold from the off-screen narrator's deep, exciting voice only to be combatted by interviews with scholars who very calmly and collectedly discuss Franklin's business. I cannot attempt to understand why the directors of this film would have wanted to make Franklin seem like a dirty trickster with his secret fleet. The only possible reason seems to be that they thought Franklin's life was boring, and needed more "kick" to it. If this is the case, then these filmmakers certainly did not do their research. Between the women, the inventions, the diplomatic disputes, and family rumors, Franklin's life has enough adventure and drama to make an action movie.

 

Despite these weird and in nearly inaccurate depictions of Franklin's life, the two films each have their perks. Ben Franklin: Man of Firsts provides a short and sweet fact list about Franklin's life. Ben Franklin's Pirate Fleet, while odd, certainly keeps its audience interested, and the interviews with the historians and scholars provide sound, factual information. Perhaps Isenberg was onto something when he wrote of the importance of the aesthetic in historical films. Not only is the subject more well-represented, but the audience has less difficulty keeping up with the information, and enjoying the film. The directors of PBS's documentary do a phenomenal job at this, and I am glad to have studied Franklin using this different, but effective medium.

Works Cited:
Isenberg, Michael. "A Relationship of Constrained Anxiety: Historians and Film." The History Teacher, 6:4, August 1973. 553-568.

Fig. 1: Google Images (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Creator/BenjaminFranklin?from=Main.BenjaminFranklin)

Part Two: The Documentary Contract

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Seek Truth.jpg

Fig. 1.

Keith Beattie in his book, Documentary Screens: Non-Fiction Film and Television, describes a very important relationship that documentary producers have with their audiences. He calls it "the documentary contract;" it is, in its simplest form, an unspoken, unwritten agreement that documentary producers will represent the world accurately and truthfully so that the audience might not be misled or misinformed (Beattie 11). Beattie is quick to clarify that this does not mean a viewer should accept everything in a documentary as a truth claim, in fact he says, "The generalized truth claim of documentary representation may encompass a number of individual truth claims" (Beattie 10). The generalized truth claim that the film portrays should be one that is founded in facts of the real world.

 

When a documentary is on a historical figure, however, it becomes hard to distinguish sometimes what is truth and what is opinion. Disagreements about the truth of this documentary necessarily arise. We can see this very clearly by simply comparing how another historian deals with a bit of heated content.

 

John Adams.gifWalter Isaacson.jpg
Fig. 2. John Adams                                                                       Fig. 3. Walter Isaacson

The third portion of the film spends a great deal of time devoted to Franklin's political work in France. In a section about John Adams coming over to France in order to help Franklin with the diplomacy, the agenda of the film really begins to ring out. The film portrays Adams as a bumbling idiot, unaware of the French manner of accomplishing business, and certainly a fool in comparison to Franklin. The historians portrayed in this section of the film actually laugh at the idea of Congress thinking that Adams could possibly be equipped with the social skills for this tricky task. Walter Isaacson has been occasionally been shown in the film up until this point, but in this section he is completely cut out. It only takes one look at Isaacson's chapter on this relationship to understand why the film did not include him. Isaacson says:

Some have found the relationship baffling: Did Adams resent or respect Franklin? Did Franklin find Adams maddening or solid? Did they like or dislike each other? The answer, which is not all that baffling because it is often true of the relationship between two great and strong people, is that they felt all of these conflicting emotions about each other, and more. (Isaacson 350-351)

Isaacson is not only lenient on the relationship between Adams and Franklin at this time, but he borders on saying that the two got along quite well. Quite the opposite from the documentary, this disjunction between Isaacson's point of view and that of the film is punctuated when both mediums utilize the same quote. Isaacson writes:

After a few years, Franklin would tire of Adams and declare that he was "sometimes, and in some thing, absolutely out of his senses." But for the time being, he found Adams tolerable, at times even admirable. And he was happy to make him part of his social set, despite Adams's minimal enthusiasm for such frivolities. (Isaacson 353)

Observe this section of the film below. Note the tone in the Franklin actor's voice. His facial expressions and way in which he delivers this quote carry an entirely different feeling than the kind words of Isaacson.

Adam's Senses Quote.m4v (Benjamin Franklin)

In this portrayal of Franklin, he is clearly not just "tired" of Adams, as Isaacson suggests, rather he is outraged at Adams's stupidity, and clearly frustrated that Adams is ruining Franklin's years of diplomacy in France.

 

It might be too strong of a point to say that this film violates the documentary contract, or to also put that judgment on Isaacson in his book. However, it is important to keep the different mediums in mind. The film has the opportunity to introduce tone and facial expression into the delivery of the quotes. Often, seeing an actor recite a quote can incite stronger feelings than the written word can. Hovde and Meyer, the directors of the film, also have the freedom to interpret Franklin's tone as they wish. The actor too even has some poetic license in his delivery of the quotes.

Talking People.jpg

Beattie's claim does not mean to say that audiences will accept and believe everything they watch, though. He is careful to qualify this contract and allow for viewer discretion. He says, "Studies of reception point to the fact that viewers interpret or decode the documentary text in complex and sophisticated ways and frequently balance and validate the information and interpretations provided in a documentary against their own experiences and sources of information" (Beattie 12). The balancing of information of which he speaks is exactly what I am attempting to do in this blog. Through understanding how documentaries are produced and what they can potentially claim about a historical figure, audiences can more accurately validate and process the information they are given.

Works Cited:

Beattie, Keith. Documentary Screens: Non-Fiction Film and Television. New York: Palgrave        MacMillan, 2004. Print.

Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York: Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, 2003. Print.

Fig. 4: Microsoft Word Clip Art

Part One: Of Documentaries

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In the following three blog posts, I would like to explore Benjamin Franklin and his representation in documentary films. Specifically, the PBS three part documentary simply entitled, Benjamin Franklin. This Middlemarch film was produced and directed by Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer in 2002, written by Ronald Blumer. This team of filmmakers has worked together on other very successful projects such as Liberty! and Alexander Hamilton (Bernard and Rabin 126). Both were received as excellent contributions to historic filmography.

 

Benjamin Franklin is no exception from this legacy, so my first post will delve into some of the details about the structure of the film and specific information about historical documentary filmmaking. My second post shall explore the idea of "the documentary contract" between filmmakers and audiences. The third post will serve as a bookend, wrapping up the ideas I have put forth, and briefly comparing this documentary to a few other, shorter films.

 

Iris Barry, in her article, "The Documentary Film: Prospect and Retrospect" writes about the beginning of the first documentary films. They started in the early 40s as war propaganda, mixing non-fiction footage with compelling messages about the war. This was groundbreaking history, as far as the public was concerned. Barry writes, "A Nazi general declared, early in the conflict, that the side with the best cameras, rather than the side with the best armaments, would win" (Barry 2).

 

Dueling Cameras.jpg

                                                                  Fig. 1

This prediction could not have been more true. As we will see later on, the truth of what a documentary portrays often goes undisputed, and is held sometimes above the truth even of the written word. Benjamin Franklin is a documentary steeped in truth and authentic fact. The film uses three main elements to convey its message. Sheila Bernard says these elements are, "the primary source material, scholars whom they interview, and the narration, written by Blumer as a last step during the editing" (Bernard and Rabin 128). The primary source material in this case comes from Franklin's Autobiography and letters of correspondence between the persons involved. Often, the letters and other materials are quoted directly by actors who hold direct eye contact with the camera. It is the actors' job to convey the written material as if they themselves were holding a conversation.

 

Ben Franky Actor.jpg

 Fig. 2.

Blumer says, "When I'm watching other historical films, I'm very uncomfortable hearing people mouth stuff that's obviously written...it just doesn't seem real, and the important thing is that the audience has to believe that the people are experiencing and feeling what you're hearing. If it sounds as if they're reading something, it just doesn't work" (Bernard and Rabin 129). Blumer takes the original material and sometimes replaces out-of-date vocabulary with words that a modern audience would understand. He uses Samuel Johnson's 18th century dictionary to find the best translations and says that he can always cite his word replacements with a source (Bernard and Rabin 129).

 

Interestingly, a large motivator in the direction of the film tends to be the scholars that the filmmakers interview. Blumer says the team will often change the direction of a film to fit in with what the scholars are saying (Bernard and Rabin 128). When he writes a script, he is not simply trying to assert his own opinion, or give a dry summation of the facts. He wants to create something engaging and tangible to modern audiences while holding true to what the experts are saying. Blumer is an expert at piecing together several different scholars' opinions into a cohesive whole. He complements their work with the on-screen actors and a small amount of off-screen narration, usually voiced in over period photographs or reenactments. The footage below provides a good example of how he pieces these opinions together in a quick-paced, but informative manner.

Scholars Example.m4v  (Benjamin Franklin)

A website dedicated to Ronald Blumer offers many well-written reviews about his work. A critic, John Levesque raves about the tasteful style seen in this film. Historical documentaries have a long-standing negative opinion attached to them that they are hokey and tacky, filled with bad reenactments, a cheesy narrator, and funny-looking historians. Levesque writes eloquently about Benjamin Franklin when he says:

Some of the re-creations offer the standard docu-scenes: carriages pulling up in front of buildings, people walking along cobblestone streets, Redcoats marching shoulder to shoulder. But they're rendered nearly superfluous by actors in period costume functioning like the scholars and other experts who popular most historical documentaries. In the style of today's modern Chautauqua's, in which performers mimic the garb  and gad of figured from the past, Franklin comes to life in his own documentary. (Levesque)

Levesque is just scratching the surface of what I think is the aesthetic value of a film of this caliber. Film is an art form, and must be treated as such. If a film is produced merely for its information value and the artistic elements of the film are ignored, it will fall apart. We will explore this in the last post when I compare a few other films to this one.

 

Film Reel.jpg

Fig. 3.

Benjamin Franklin is set up as many biographical films are: chronologically. Part one of the film, "Let the Experiment Be Made" deals with the years 1706-1753, Franklin's youth. This section covers the largest number of years, but is also the shortest section of the film. Part two, "The Marking of a Revolutionary" details Franklin's time in England, and his conversion from trying to patch up relations with England, to becoming an advocate of the United States' independence in the years 1755-1776. Part three, "The Chess Master" is the longest part of the documentary, almost twice as long as the prior sections and tackles the years 1776-1790.

 

In another one of her books, Bernard talks about manipulating time in films. She says that moving a story through often involves "the interweaving of chronological and nonchronological elements outside of apart from the chronology" (Bernard 63). Benjamin Franklin also accomplishes this task mostly by way of the off-screen narrator. His job is to allude to the future, comment on how Franklin's actions in the past might have affected the currently discussed moment, and compare experiences to others at different points in his life. While the film mostly follows chronology, the narrative voice helps guide the viewer through so that they feel like they are watching an interesting story with plot twists and foreshadowing rather than staring at a timeline.

 

In the next post, we will look at the importance of the believability of a historic film and see just how easily what we consider "fact" can be called into question.

 

Works Cited:

Barry, Iris. "The Documentary Film: Prospect and Retrospect." The Bulletin of the Museum of Modern Art. 13:2, Dec 1945. 2-27. Print.

Benjamin Franklin. Dir. Ellen Hovde, Muffie Meyer. PBS DVD, Twin Cities Public Television in association with Middlemarch Films, 2002. DVD.

Bernard, Sheila. Documentary Storytelling for Video and Filmmakers. Burlington, MA: Focal Press, 2004. Print.

Bernard, Sheila and Rabin, Kenn. Archival Storytelling: A Filmmaker's Guide to Finding, Using, and Licensing Third-Party Visuals and Music. Burlington, MA: Focal Press, 2009. Print.

Levesque, John. "PBS's Benjamin Franklin is a Lesson in Great Television." Ronald Blumer: Reviews of Benjamin Franklin. November 15, 2002. Web.

 Fig. 1: Google Images. (http://thediscerningphotographer.com/2010/01/31/shooting-with-two-cameras/)



Benjamin Franklin is one of the most accomplished and imaginative citizens within America's history and even present day. His ingenuity within all his tasks created a path for America to become the country it is today. He contributed to society through his vast inventions with little cost, and had no interest in patenting or claiming many of his own ideas. His main objective was to have the invention to better society rather than create for the praise.  He aided through his focus on science, which lead to the creation of electricity.  As stated by PBS,

            "Ben Franklin believed that people volunteering together in a spirit of  cooperation could accomplish great things. Driven by a strong sense of civic duty, he involved himself in his community and his nation. Always mindful of  the "greater good," Franklin helped establish or improve institutions such as  circulating libraries, public hospitals, mutual insurance companies, volunteer  fire departments, agricultural colleges, and intellectual societies." (PBS)


He promoted the need for a public education and helped by originating educational clubs, libraries, and societies. Furthermore, Franklin through being such an inventive and aware citizen created establishments needed in a public sector than most citizens today.

Early Life:

Franklin was born in Boston in 1706, to a poor couple, the father a candle maker. Franklin had little formal education, no more than 2 years of schooling. Instead his childhood often consisted of Benjamin Franklin working in the shop helping his father make candles. However, even at a young age Franklin was intrigued by education and continued to teach him through various readings and experiments, a practice he continued throughout his lifetime.  

He then moved on to also work for as a printer in a print shop. Education and writings seemed so prevalent to him even then that he kept up his education by studying books and information available well into the night. He was determined to write well, thus he focused on learning grammar and read the entire classic authors, in order to improve his own writings. His ambition showcases that even at a young Franklin was determined to better himself through self inflicted education.

 

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His work paid off, as he became one of the best-known writers and negotiators of American history. His education also enabled him to learn mathematics, navigation, peak his interest with science, and give him the ability to articulate the needs of citizens and foresee what a society needed before the society knew they were lacking.

 

As An Adult:

 

At 17, Franklin decided it was time to leave Boston after many years of training, and went to Philadelphia with nothing, but his learned skills to rely on. Franklin did get a job fairly quickly with a man named Samuel Keimer at his print shop, Keimer recognizing Franklin's abilities. A few years later, Franklin again decided to part ways however, this time he chose to create a publication of his own. Franklin started publishing the Pennsylvania Eagle Gazette in 1728, a weekly paper in his area delivering news, ads, and on occasion, enjoyable opinion pieces. Through Franklin's experience in the printing shop, Franklin had the capability to turn his printing business into success. He became the distinguished printer for Pennsylvania among other states; however printing isn't the only innovation Franklin constructed for Philadelphia, his attributions to this city are a long and incredulous list.

 

Civic Contribution Purpose:

 

Franklin's vision always seemed to align with creating something for the betterment. Be it the better of oneself, the betterment of knowledge, or the betterment of a town, Franklin worked hard to innovate as much he could for the better. From being the stepping stone that created libraries, fire departments, paved roads, to being an inspiration for the people through his writing featured in his paper, other papers, and even the pieces in his autobiography, Franklin's mission was simple, to improve everything around for the better of society.

 

Franklin supported project that he believed would improve the each citizen's life and the society's life as a whole. He was a visionary that often saw what society lacked before most noticed a lack themselves. As stated by Billy G. Smith in Benjamin Franklin, Civic Improver, "The initial energy that drover many early civic improvements emanated from the Leather Apron Club, subsequently called the Junto, founded by Franklin in 1727," (Smith 99). This showcases that Franklin made civic virtue his mission right at the beginning because he could see, as he travelled the streets of Philadelphia, it was necessary.  Franklin as stated by Bill Smith "credited Cotton Mather's Essays to Do Good as an inspiration for the club..."(Smith 100) Thus, Franklin's mission was simple, to do good for the good of the people. For example, the creation of the Debate Club in 1727 this club or the idea of debating an opinion other than in a political forum was not frequently thought about until Franklin saw that the younger generation would enjoy in discussing his own views. This later resulted in the finding of the American Philosophical Society in 1743. Also through the creation of the debate club he gave the idea that the debate club brings their books together in order to form a library. He then concocted the idea of opening a library for the public by asking the debate club to put together funds for the institution. In 1732 the Library Company of Philadelphia was created.

 

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                                  http://www.libraryhistorybuff.com/librarycompany.htm

 

Franklin created an opportunity for many to indulge in the classics as he did as a child in order to educate himself properly. As stated by Smith "Franklin wrote a motto for the Library Company that found godly approval for public service: "To pour forth benefits for the common good is divine,"" (Smith 103). This depicts that Franklin wanted to put forth the good that he believed everyone deserved as a citizen, in this example, a right to a fruitful self-education. Franklin's desire for education of a society and his sentiment of each individual's responsibility of an education for himself was made possible by his own innovation. Franklin was pleased, but he certainly didn't stop there.

 



Franklin's Impact on American Education

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Franklin & Education

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"Benjamin Franklin is one of the best known but least understood of America's revolutionary generation" (Cambridge Companion 1).

It is a well known fact that Franklin made an impact on America's educational system, but what do we really know about it? Franklin made one of his many missions in life to promote education and make it accessible to others. Franklin's passion for education is inspiring, and many institutions, schools, branches, programs, and more, have been inspired by him and dedicated to him over the years.


Mason Locke Weems is a zealous biographer who often fictionalized anecdotes (he is the reason we all learned that George Washington chopped down a cherry tree; fun fact: Weems made this up). Despite his dramatic retellings of the lives of American heros, Weems did have some factual information about Franklin. "So, to shut himself up in a dirty printing-office, with no dinner but a bit of bread, no supper but an apple, must appear [...] 'a mere d--l of a life;' but it was joy to Ben, whose whole soul was on his books, as the sacred lamps that were to guide him to usefulness and glory" (Weems 99). Franklin did indeed love his books, and he believed that others also had a right to pursue their own education.

What Does it Mean to Have an Education?


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What constitutes an education? Traditionally, education refers to formal instruction at a school or university, but the term includes a multitude of things. Education embodies the concept of acquiring knowledge; one can be educated in many different ways. You can, of course, be educated in a school setting, but you can also be educated through training in a particular field. Or, you can be like Franklin and educate yourself! From 1714-1716, Franklin attended Boston Grammar School and George Brownell's English School (for one year each) but he was withdrawn due to the expense of formal schooling (Cambridge Companion). Franklin didn't let this bring him down. Nothing could ruin his eternal drive and passion! Franklin read books and taught himself foreign languages. He studied French, Italian, and some Spanish. He cared about other cultures, and believed that it was important to learn about them. Franklin was so passionate about the importance of education, he even educated others himself! He educated others through conversation, writings, and publications. "I considered my Newspaper also as another Means of communicating Instruction" (Autobiography 98).

Franklin makes the rest of us look bad, but he is an inspiration to us all. Since Franklin did not have the monetary means to be formally educated, he was a self-made man who searched for truth and knowledge on his own. Franklin believed in the power of knowledge, and he did his best to spread that knowledge and help others obtain it themselves, as he did.

According to Susan E. Klepp, "Franklin learned to be a printer through the apprenticeship system" (6). However, he did not complete his apprenticeship; he gained his independence at age 17 when he ran away from his master, leaving his family and hometown. "His life reflects both the benefits and the potentials for conflict in this most common 18th-century form of vocational education" (Klepp 6).

"In the first decade of the nineteenth century the possibilities of obtaining a technical education were restricted to youths who were willing to undergo an apprenticeship to a trade. Knowledge was acquired by casual contact with journeymen, in conversation with fellow-workers and by technical operation. If the student wished to progress in his career he had to supplement this empirical knowledge by private and individual study. It was not realized that the scientific theory underlying practice must be taught and studied with understanding before it can be applied to the welfare of mankind" (Coulson 287). "Steps were taken to organize an institute which would provide qualified instructors who sought instruction, rich or poor, young or old, by night as well as by day, and at a price within ever one's reach" (Coulson 287-8).



Does education dictate an individual's self worth? No! Scholars, however, tend to speak condescendingly about Franklin's wife, Deborah Read Franklin due to her lack of education; "especially her inability to spell or articulate her points to her erudite, self-taught husband" (114). As Dr. Carla Mulford explains, Deborah Franklin was "committed to public culture, as demonstrated by Franklin's work in her husband's print shop and her interest in seeing the printing networks and the shop succeed" (114).

It is unfair to judge a person based on their educational background. Formal education is not always an option, as we still see today. People can also be smart, driven, and successful without formal education. Education is defined as the acquirement of knowledge; it is not mandatory or even unacceptable to obtain that knowledge from a source outside of a classroom. As Mulford points out: "Deborah ran the shop and oversaw the press laborers in the earliest years, at times when her husband was away, and she kept accounts and saw to it that Benjamin Franklin's debts were paid off early in his Philadelphia career. Deborah Franklin's labor, then, indicates vernacular learning, learning acquired by doing rather than by reading and writing, learning directly associated with her labor rather than with leisure time" (114). Deborah may not have had a formal education, nor was she as educated as her husband (his intelligence would probably be intimidating to anyone, honestly) but she proved to be much more than a simple housewife. Deborah is just one example of a person who upheld her own responsibilities and learned from her duties. Her job at the shop was an education in and of itself, because she learned and grew from the experience. She obtained knowledge through experience, and surely gained a lot from it. Unfortunately, people often judge others harshly based on their educational background, but a lack of formal education does not make someone unintelligent.

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As Mulford suggests: "Writing comes of leisure time, but many women of the earliest era had little to none of this resource. That we have so little writing from many women does not necessarily mean that women lacked native intellect or practical, vernacular knowledge. Nor does it mean they were not reading and writing and keeping accounts, nor that they lacked cultural interests or even sophistication" (114-5). Franklin's era was a time of gender inequality, but Mulford's points still sound familiar in today's society. Women certainly have more rights than they did in the 18th century, but people are often ostracized and judged if they drop out of high school, for example, or work instead of going to a university. Nobody should feel ashamed or inadequate about their education or lack thereof. I know that personally, I would not have had the opportunity to go to Penn State if I didn't get financial aid from the government, state of Pennsylvania, grants, scholarships, and financial help from my lovely family. If I did not have this kind of financial help, I would still be able to take out loans, work a lot, (people have certainly done it before, so we know it's not impossible) but it would be very difficult, as I'm sure anybody from previous generations can attest to this. Unfortunately, at this point in America, education is still a privilege, not a right.



Franklin's Impact on Education

As a political leader, Franklin did his best to improve the quality of life in the United States, and for Franklin, education was an important factor. Franklin was always "acting to advance human well-being, and fostering lives of virtue and service to make this advance possible" (Cambridge Companion 105).

In 1731, Franklin formed the first subscription library in the United States, called the Library Company in Philadelphia.

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Knowledge of books, Franklin realized, offered an entry to society. (Cambridge Companion). Always a model citizen, Franklin did his best to help others. Franklin donated books from his own collection, thus giving others the chance to see which books influenced him and helped shape his personal outlook. In this way, other people can pursue their own education, just like Franklin did!

Franklin also promoted the education of African Americans. He gave assistance to the work established by Thomas Bray, a man who dedicated much of his life to charity and acts of benevolence. (Journal of Negro History 41). For several years, Franklin worked as one of "Dr. Bray's Associates" (41).

In Ben Franklin, an American Life, Walter Isaacson claims that Franklin was on "theside of social mobility rather than an established elite," (476). Franklin used his position of power to help make improvements in society rather than personal gain.


Franklin's "political efforts were always related to his understanding of our social existence and often to the establishment of the institutional machinery necessary to make our common lives more successful" (Cambridge Companion 105).

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This was the model used by the sculptor, James Earle Fraser, in the preparation of the great statue of Benjamin Franklin at the Franklin Institute. Fun fact: the new half-cent postage of the United States was based on the design for this statue. The more you know!


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Countless buildings, schools, institutions, memorials, and more, have been dedicated to Franklin. For example, The Franklin Institute of Pennsylvania for the Promotion of the Mechanics Arts, as shown below. "An institution which proudly displays over its main entrance the legend: "In honor of Benjamin Franklin" must display a versatility and achieve a measure of success which will stamp it not only as truly American, but also as worthy of the great American whose name it bears" (Coulson 287).


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"In Honor of Benjamin Franklin" Photograph by Gladys Mulle

Building designed by John T. Windrim, architect.



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The Franklin Institute on Seventh Street, 1825

This building still stands on Seventh Street, between Market and Chestnut.



Current Educational System

What can we say about education today? Well, obviously a lot has changed since Franklin's day.

"Today's students of early American materials are privileged to have an expanded canon to read, investigate, critique, and theorize about" Even students of older generations had "a heavier burden of the encumbrances of the past," according to Mulford. "We read a canon of British and British American materials written primarily by an elite group of men" (107).

"As a result of the expansion of the early American literary canon, much has been done to assist our coming to a better understanding of early American women's writing, yet writing was only a part of their cultural lives. Much has yet to be done toward the work of writing women into history. (Mulford 116).


How would Franklin feel about the state of education today? Franklin said, "I begin to be almost sorry I was born so soon, since I cannot have the happiness of knowing what will be known 100 years hence" (Cambridge Companion). Would Franklin be happy in modern day America?

As a connoisseur of written language and handwriting, I bet he would be shocked and appalled at the idea of cursive handwriting potentially becoming obsolete. According to the Indiana Senate Republicans website, on February 5th, 2013, the full Senate approved State Sen. Jean Leising's (R-Oldenburg) legislation to "require cursive writing and reading in Indiana elementary school curriculum. Senate Bill 120 passed by a 36-13 vote." Personally, I can't believe they had to pass a bill for this.


"With the move to align state education standards with Common Core Standards, cursive writing became an optional part of school curriculum in 2011. However, some child psychologists, doctors and researchers point out that neuro-imaging scans show finger movement associated with handwriting activates regions in the brain linked to cognitive, language and even motor processes. "Senate Bill 120 is about more than teaching our students to read and write cursive in the future," Leising said. "Cursive writing is proven to encourage and strengthen other types of learning, all of which are important to child development. As a member of the Education and Career Development committee, I'm working to ensure Indiana students are receiving a well-rounded education." At least five other states -- Alabama, California, Georgia, Kansas and Massachusetts -- have already passed cursive writing curriculum requirements. Leising said her legislation would also require reading as a part of Indiana elementary school curriculum because State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz informed her that "language arts" is the subject required by Indiana code and "reading" is not specified.

To date, 13 other senators have signed their support to Leising's cursive writing legislation as coauthors. SB 120 now moves to the Indiana House of Representatives for consideration" (Indiana Senate Republicans).


I'm personally thankful that people are fighting for this. I don't think people should rely so heavily on technology! Hypothetically, how would you feel if your children or grandchildren were educated without learning how to write with their hands? What if their "gizmos," (as Dr. Mulford so eloquently terms them!) break, and they don't know how to use a pencil?! OK, so maybe I'm exaggerating--just some food for thought, and my humble opinion. I enjoy technology as much as the next American, but I personally still enjoy the tangibility of books, letters, and the written word. I love my iPhone, but you'll never see me with an e-reader. I still love books! I'm sure Ben Franklin would be horrified if he witnessed anything like this.


Education for All: Hope for a Better Future


How would Franklin react to the competitive and financial issues revolving around education today? Organizations like Teach For America aim to improve the educational system by providing poverty-stricken children with passionate teachers.


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According to Teach For America, change is possible. "We can provide an excellent education for kids in low-income communities. Although 16 million American children face the extra challenges of poverty, an increasing body of evidence shows they can achieve at the highest levels."


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Please visit the TFA website for more information.




Ultimately, Franklin was a huge advocate for education in America, and he did everything he could to promote education and make knowledge accessible to the public. Franklin did his best to "advance the public good and to emphasize cooperative procedures like dialogue and education to foster greater democracy" (Cambridge Companion 105). He opened the first subscription library in the United States, and schools, buildings, museums, institutions, and memorials are still named after Franklin for all of the hard work he has done for our country's education and well-being. Franklin shows us that an education is not only found at a university--if you want an education, you can get one all by yourself! A public library has all of the knowledge you could ever hope to possess, and more. Knowledge is power!


What do you think? How would Franklin react to America's educational system today? What role does education play in your life?


For many of us, our undergraduate career is about to end. Will you pursue an education after Penn State? Whether your education consists of graduate school, traveling, reading, writing, learning a new language, or learning a new skill or trade, I wish you all the best with your academic and educational endeavors!


--Honor 



Sources:


Autobiography and Other Writings

Benjamin Franklin; ed. Ormond Seavey


Benjamin Franklin, an American Life

Walter Isaacson


The Cambridge Companion to Benjamin Franklin

Carla Mulford, ed.


The Life of Ben Franklin

Mason Locke Weems



"Writing Women in Early American Studies: On Canons, Feminist Critique, and the Work ofWriting Women into History"

Author(s): Carla Mulford

Source: Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, Vol. 26, No. 1, The Silver Jubilee Issue: What WeHave Done & Where We Are Going (Spring, 2007), pp. 107-118

Published by: University of Tulsa


"Figuring Benjamin Franklin in American Cultural Memory"

Author(s): Carla Mulford

Reviewed work(s):

Source: The New England Quarterly, Vol. 72, No. 3 (Sep., 1999), pp. 415-443

Published by: The New England Quarterly, Inc.


"In Honor of Benjamin Franklin"

Author(s): Thomas Coulson

Source: The Scientific Monthly, Vol. 47, No. 4 (Oct., 1938), pp. 287-301

Published by: American Association for the Advancement of Science


"Benjamin Franklin and Apprenticeship in the 18th Century"

Pennsylvania Legacies , Vol. 6, No. 1 (May 2006), pp. 6-10

Susan E. Klepp

Published by: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania



"The Public Career of Benjamin Franklin: A Life of Service"

Author(s): Herman V. Ames

Source: The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 55, No. 3 (1931), pp. 193-207

Published by: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania



"Benjamin Franklin and Eighteenth-Century American Libraries"

Margaret Barton Korty

Transactions of the American Philosophical Society , New Series, Vol. 55, No. 9 (1965), pp. 1-83

Published by: American Philosophical Society



"Education, Corruption, and the Distribution of Income"

Theo Eicher, Cecilia García-Peñalosa and Tanguy van Ypersele

Journal of Economic Growth , Vol. 14, No. 3 (Sep., 2009), pp. 205-231

Published by: Springer


Teach For America

www.teachforamerica.org

 

Benjamin Franklin: The Man Too Fond of Women - Conclusion

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Benjamin Franklin:

The Man Too Fond of Women

by Benjamin Forrest

Conclusion

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            Was Franklin too fond of women? Yes, he was. However, it was this "Franklinian Romance" and not anything more in most cases. To see this, realize what his marriage was like. Deborah was a worthy compliment of him. She may not have been perfect, but she was suitable for him and was a good wife and he adored her for her role in his life. She was very different from the platonic relationships he had with women such as Polly Stevenson, Georgiana Shipley and Catherine Ray. These were women that adored him to the point of a strong admiration. In Shipley's case, he was a celebrity that she had a crush on that she knew would never come to be anything more than a celebrity-fan relationship. Franklin was adored by these women and simply gave them the attention they wanted. This "Franklinian Romance" is furthered supported by his relationships he had with the women he courted after Deborah's death. Brillon and Helvetius were both tempting for their various characteristics. However, Brillon was a flirtation that turned into a temptation he could now explore. Being that he was almost twice the age of Brillon and Brillon was married, his courtship failed, but this paved way for the relationship that wasn't a "Franklnian Romance." Like the one he had with his wife, Franklin shared a true romance with Madame Helvetius. His relationships with Madame Helvetius and his wife Deborah show how different those platonic relationships were. They were flirtatious and temptations of the mind and nothing more. They were "Franklinian Romances." Franklin, the man too fond of women, may have been so; however, he was found of women for ones he could teach morals and ethics and the ones that could serve as ideal compliments to him.

Overall Resources:

Ben Franklin the Ladies' Man. Perf. Edward Herrmann. History Channel, 2004. DVD.

Cohn, Ellen R. "The Printer at Passy." Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World. Italy: Yale University, 2005. 234-271. Print.

Forrest, Benjamin. Survey of 111 Undergraduates, Friends or Co-workers Concerning Benjamin Franklin's Reputation. University Park, Pennsylvania, 15 April 2013. Unpublished Survey.

Franklin, Benjamin. "To Catharine Ray." Benjamin Franklin Papers. The American             Philosophical Society and Yale University, n.d. Web.

Franklin, Benjamin. "To Catherine Ray." Letter to Catherine Ray. 4 Mar. 1755. MS. N.p.

Franklin, Benjamin. "To Catherine Ray." Letter to Catherine Ray. Mar. 1754. MS. N.p.

Franklin, Benjamin. "To Catherine Ray." Letter to Catherine Ray. Jun. 1751. MS. N.p.

Franklin, Benjamin. "To Deborah Franklin." Benjamin Franklin Papers. The American             Philosophical Society and Yale University, n.d. Web.

Franklin, Benjamin. "To Deborah Franklin." Letter to Deborah Franklin. 25 Jan. 1756. MS. N.p.

Franklin, Benjamin. "To Deborah Franklin." Letter to Deborah Franklin. 10 Sept. 1774. MS. N.p.

Franklin, Benjamin. "To Margaret Stevenson." Letter to Polly Stevenson. 1 May 1760. MS. N.p.

Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2003. Print.

Isaacson, Walter. A Benjamin Franklin. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2003. Print.

Lewis, Jan. "Sex and the Married Man: Benjamin Franklin's Families." Benjamin Franklin and Women. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State UP, 2000. 67-82. Print.

Lopez, Clause-Anne. "Three Women, Three Styles: Catherine Ray, Polly Hewson, and Georgina Shipley." Benjamin Franklin and Women. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State UP, 2000. 51-64. Print.

Shields, David S. "Franklin in the republic of letters." The Cambridge Companion to Benjamin Franklin. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Print.

Stable, Susan. "Salons and Power in the Era of Revolution: From Literary Coteries to Epistolary Enlightenment." Benjamin Franklin and Women. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State UP, 2000. 120-148. Print.

Tise, Larry E. Benjamin Franklin and Women. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State UP, 2000. Print.


Benjamin Franklin:

The Man Too Fond of Women

by Benjamin Forrest

Part III: Tale of Two Romances

            Deborah Read Franklin died December 19th, 1774. Ben, who I have argued was a faithful and loving husband, didn't take any time to find love in new places. From 1777 to 1785, Franklin lived in Paris where he met Madame Helvetius and Madame Brillon, the two women that Franklin would try to court while he was there. These relationships were very unique because it wasn't necessary a sexual attraction as to why Franklin started to court them. It was the fact that Franklin saw these two as equals in some shape or form.

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            Let's start with Madame Brillon. One thing that Franklin loved about Madame Brillon was her musical talent. "The women and men who formed his coterie of intimates were witty, talented, engaging and devoted. They doted on him, and he adored them. Franklin loved music, and they indulged his passion--performing for him, playing instruments with him, and composing songs and melodies in his honor. Madame Brillon, a gifted harpsichordist and composer, played and sang for him, often accompanied by her two daughters; Franklin called them his 'opera.'" (Cohn 263) Franklin was attracted to Brillon not only for her looks, but also for her musical talent and intellectual superiority. She was similar to Polly Stevenson and Catherine Ray. There was only one difference. Madame Brillon was not interested in a relationship. "It was, in fact, Franklin's close friend Mme Brillon who hoped to settle their relationship on platonic terms...it seems rather rather evident that Franklin hoped and indeed pressed for a full-fledged, sexual affair." (Lewis 68) Franklin was persistent and even told her that he would look elsewhere for this type of relationship. Brillon responded, "You are a man, I am a woman, and while we might think along the same lines, we must speak and act differently. Perhaps there is no great harm in a man having desires and yielding to them; a woman may have desired, but she must not yield." (Lewis 75) His attempts to court Madame Brillon failed as she was a married woman and he was too old. She enjoyed his company as a friend, but anything further was something she could not do.

(For a clip from the HBO TV series, John Adams, showing the portrayal of Madame Anne-Catherine Helvetius, go to the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JouE7mOVdI4)

            Franklin didn't let this stop him from finding someone new to court. He moved on to Madame Helvetius someone he developed an intellectual and intimate relationship with. "Madame Helvetius performed another benefit to Franklin besides serving as his muse." (Shields 42) She introduced him to a myriad of individuals from poets to scientists to philosophers and politicians while providing him with entertainment. Franklin was her pupil and teacher. (Stabile 139) Franklin would later propose to her in 1779. He would propose to her a number of times, but they stayed very close and shared a sad goodbye when he left Paris in 1785. Did Franklin love her and actually want to marry her? Yes. Franklin saw Helvetius as an intellectual and intimate equal: something that appeared to be lacking in his relationship with Deborah. There was something about Helvetius that attracted him to her and it wasn't physical. It was far from that. It wasn't flirting. It was an actual infatuation with her. He legitimately enjoyed her and found her as someone that complimented him. He wasn't chasing temptation. He found a better and equal half. "Franklin did more than flirt with Madame Helvetius; by September 1779, he was ardently proposing marriage in a way that was more than half-serious but retained enough ironic detachment to preserve their dignities." (Isaacson 365)

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     Did Franklin want to marry Madame Helvetius? Yes. It felt right to him as she could help him and he could help her. Franklin's marriage with Deborah was lacking this intellectual compatibility. Helvetius was almost like an opposite of Deborah. She didn't want to assist Franklin. She wanted to learn and teach with him.

Resources:

Cohn, Ellen R. "The Printer at Passy." Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World. Italy: Yale University, 2005. 234-271. Print.

Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2003. Print.

Lewis, Jan. "Sex and the Married Man: Benjamin Franklin's Families." Benjamin Franklin and Women. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State UP, 2000. 67-82. Print.

Shields, David S. "Franklin in the republic of letters." The Cambridge Companion to Benjamin Franklin. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Print.

Stable, Susan. "Salons and Power in the Era of Revolution: From Literary Coteries to Epistolary Enlightenment." Benjamin Franklin and Women. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State UP, 2000. 120-148. Print.

Benjamin Franklin:

The Man Too Fond of Women

by Benjamin Forrest

Part II: The Wife

            Before I get into the details of the relationship Franklin had with his wife Deborah, I would like to tie in the platonic relationships I discussed last time and what Deborah's role was in these relationships. After all, Franklin was still married to Deborah while he engaged in relations with these young women.

            "How did his loyal and patient wife, Deborah, fit into this type of long-distance flirtation? Oddly enough, he seemed to use her as a shield, both with Caty and the other young women he later toyed with, to keep his relationships just on the safe side of propriety. He invariably invoked Deborah's name and praised her virtues in almost every letter he wrote to Caty. It was as if he wanted Caty to keep her ardor in perspective and to realize that, though his affection was real, his flirtations were merely playful." (Isaacson 163)

            As Isaacson shows us, Franklin didn't try to hide his relationship with his wife to these women. If anything, he openly spoke about Deborah to ground the relationship from being anything further. His relationship Deborah was a real romance. It can be disputed as to why Franklin married Deborah Read. As Isaacson says, "Throughout his life he's governed by sexual passions he says and he tries to tame them. He tries to tame them by getting married." (History Channel) This statement definitely makes more sense when you think of his relationship with Mrs. T that we discussed in class since it occurred right before he married Deborah.

benjamin-franklin-wife.jpg

            Deborah was far from a bad wife. She was a surrogate father when Franklin would be away. She helped him with business at the printing press as a bookkeeper and accountant. However, her biggest favor to Franklin, at least in my opinion, was she accepted that Franklin had a bastard son, William Franklin, and treated him as her own. (Tise 44) For someone to say, that she wasn't a good wife to Ben would be far from the truth. If anything, "Mother Deborah Franklin was doing everything on earth to support and please her innovative husband." (Tise 44) Franklin would write to her "My dear Child" and as "Your loving Husband." (Franklin Papers) His writings to her were from romantic at times as they discussed business matters on plenty of occasions, but he did sometimes write to her as a man in love. "As I hope in a little time to be with you and my family, and chat things over, I now only add, that I am, Dear Debby, Your affectionate husband." (Franklin Papers)

            What crippled the relationship was Deborah's unwillingness to travel with him abroad as he would be gone for long periods of time and his only communication with her was through letters. However, the nail on the coffin was her role in Sarah Franklin's marriage to Richard Bache. "Deborah Franklin lost Franklin forever for her role in this betrayal. She never saw him again." (Tise 48)

            However, this notion may not be entirely true. It is true that Franklin was made aware of Deborah's illness and was asked to return. He, however, was unable to do so because of his involvement in the coming revolution. He did though write to Deborah in July and September of 1774 begging to hear from her soon as he hadn't heard from her in a while. His last letter to Deborah is below.

London, Sept. 10. 1774.

 

It is now nine long Months since I received a Line from my dear Debby. I have supposed it owing to your continual Expectation of my Return; I have feared that some Indisposition had rendered you unable to write; I have imagined any thing rather than admit a Supposition that your kind Attention towards me was abated. And yet when so many other old Friends have dropt a Line to me now and then at a Venture, taking the Chance of its finding me here or not as it might happen, why might I not have expected the same Comfort from you, who used to be so diligent and faithful a Correspondent, as to omit scarce any Opportunity?

This will serve to acquaint you that I continue well, Thanks to God. It would be a great Pleasure to me to hear that you are so. My Love to our Children; and believe me ever Your affectionate Husband

B Franklin

(Franklin Papers)

His final letter to Deborah clearly shows that the affection between the two had not evaporated. He clearly still had a soft spot for her and to say, as Tise does, that her role in Sally marrying Bache ruining their relationship could be false. They may have never seen each other again, but to say this was the reason doesn't seem true. The real reason appears to be that he was more preoccupied with the revolution, not that he let a family matter "end" his relationship with his wife that he clearly loved.


Resources:

Ben Franklin the Ladies' Man. Perf. Edward Herrmann. History Channel, 2004. DVD.

Franklin, Benjamin. "To Deborah Franklin." Benjamin Franklin Papers. The American             Philosophical Society and Yale University, n.d. Web.

Franklin, Benjamin. "To Deborah Franklin." Letter to Deborah Franklin. 25 Jan. 1756. MS. N.p.

Franklin, Benjamin. "To Deborah Franklin." Letter to Deborah Franklin. 10 Sept. 1774. MS. N.p.

Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2003. Print.

Tise, Larry E. "Liberty and the Rights of Women: Sarah Franklin's Declaration of             Independence." Benjamin Franklin and Women. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State UP, 2000. 38-64. Print.

Benjamin Franklin:

The Man Too Fond of Women

by Benjamin Forrest

Part I: The Platonic Relationships

            As I have stated, most of Franklin's relationships were those "in the Franklin manner." (Lopez 53) By that, there was definitely temptation, but Franklin, a married man and man older than most of these women, understood his place. This concept is best understood by understanding his platonic relationships, the ones that were intimate and affectionate but far from sexual.

            Franklin writes to Catherine Ray, one of his platonic relationships, in June 1751, "I hope you enjoy your Health... Be prudent, and beg of God to make you a Saint... Trust in God, and he will always help you... Endeavour to keep the safe middle Way, and be neither lifted up nor cast down to your hurt. Eat and drink so as to preserve your precious Health." (Franklin Papers) This is the perfect example of how Franklin enjoyed educating women on morals and ethics. It seems almost like a passion. With Georgiana Shipley, Franklin was admired and he relished her admiration. When Franklin and Shipley met, Franklin was approaching 70 and Georgiana was a teenager. Oddly enough, Franklin also had begun writing his autobiography at the time and it wasn't uncommon for Franklin to read his work to her. (Lopez 59) It could even be viewed as an obsession on Shipley's part as she once requested a picture of him and lock of his own hair, which she would occasionally kiss. (Lopez 62) The relationship seemed like that of a modern day celebrity with one of his fans. Shipley seemed to admire Franklin as a hero and an idol. "She herself was studying Socrates because he reminded her so much of Dr. Franklin. She envied William Temple Franklin for being so close to his grandfather." (Lopez 62) The relationship was simply Franklin being loved and enjoying the love. Georgiana may have felt something more for Franklin since she held him on a such a pedestal, but to Franklin it was nothing more.

            Then, there was Catherine Ray whom he met in 1754 in Boston at the age of 48, while she was 23. (Tise XXIII) Walter Isaacson describes the relationship as "the first intriguing example of his many amorous and romantic--but probably never consummated--flirtations." (Isaacson 162) The relationship was definitely a flirtatious one and this can be seen from the many letters Franklin and Ms. Ray shared. For example, in March of 1755, Franklin wrote, "Your Favours come mixd with the Snowy Fleeces which are pure as your Virgin Innocence, white as your lovely Bosom." (Franklin Papers) Reading this, and you can see the clear flirtatious language, but let us read on and decide if Franklin is flirting to woo Ms. Ray or merely to flatter her. "But let it warm towards some worthy young Man, and may Heaven bless you both with every kind of Happiness." (Franklin Papers) The relationship definitely may lead some to have their suspicions as to what was truly going on, which is interesting since Franklin acknowledges that in one of his letters to her. "I know very well that the most innocent Expressions of warm Friendship, and even those of meer Civility and Complaisance, between Persons of different Sexes, are liable to be misinterpreted by suspicious Minds." (Franklin Papers) However, it is not probable that anything more than a flirtation was happening. This was typical of Franklin to meet young women and become close with them because of his interest in women as people. He enjoyed learning from them and educating them. He simply enjoyed women as people. "I believe, in the fact that he considered each one not merely as an object of conquest but as a unique personality well worth listening to." (Lopez 52)

Shipley.jpg

            If there was one relationship that scholars believe could have possibly gone beyond platonic, it may have been the one Franklin had with Polly (Stevenson) Hewson. Franklin lived with Polly and her mother Margaret during his visits to London on Craven Street. Isaacson describes her as the English version of his own daughter, Sally, yet an English version of Catherine Ray. "His letters to her were flirtatious at times, and he flattered her with the focused attention that he lavished on women he liked." (Isaacson 190) At, like his relationship with Catherine Ray, he was flirtatious. "I have received the garters you have so kindly knit for me," he said in one letter. "Be assured that I shall think as often of you in the wearing as you did of me in the making." (Isaacson 191) There is some evidence to suggest that there could have been more between Polly and Franklin. One piece being a picture that was drawn in London in 1767 "after he stumbled on Ben and a young lady on Craven Street." The image is of Franklin kissing a woman. The identity of the woman is unknown, but it is believed to be Polly Stevenson. (History Channel)

(To see the picture, go to minute 2:35 at the video in the following link: http://www.history.com/videos/ben-franklin-the-ladies-man#ben-franklin-the-ladies-man)

Regardless, his relationship with Polly seems very similar to the one he shared with Catherine Ray. Yes, there was some flirtation, but nothing more. If anything, and again, Franklin was concerned with mentoring and educating this young woman. Interesting enough, when Polly Stevenson had suggested to Franklin she wanted to live single and forgo having a family, Franklin advised her to get married, "But why will you, by the Cultivation of your Mind, make yourself still more amiable, and a more desirable Companion for a Man of Understanding, when you are determin'd, as I hear, to live Single? If we enter, as you propose, into moral as well as natural Philosophy, I fancy, when I have fully establish'd my Authority as a Tutor, I shall take upon me to lecture you a little on that Chapter of Duty." (Franklin Papers)

polly.jpg

           

Resources:

Ben Franklin the Ladies' Man. Perf. Edward Herrmann. History Channel, 2004. DVD.

Franklin, Benjamin. "To Catharine Ray." Benjamin Franklin Papers. The American             Philosophical Society and Yale University, n.d. Web.

Franklin, Benjamin. "To Catherine Ray." Letter to Catherine Ray. 4 Mar. 1755. MS. N.p.

Franklin, Benjamin. "To Catherine Ray." Letter to Catherine Ray. Mar. 1754. MS. N.p.

Franklin, Benjamin. "To Catherine Ray." Letter to Catherine Ray. Jun. 1751. MS. N.p.

Franklin, Benjamin. "To Margaret Stevenson." Letter to Polly Stevenson. 1 May 1760. MS. N.p.

Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2003. Print.

Isaacson, Walter. A Benjamin Franklin. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2003. Print.

Lopez, Clause-Anne. "Three Women, Three Styles: Catherine Ray, Polly Hewson, and Georgina Shipley." Benjamin Franklin and Women. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State UP, 2000. 51-64. Print.

Tise, Larry E. Benjamin Franklin and Women. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State UP, 2000. Print.

 

Benjamin Franklin: The Man Too Fond of Women - Introduction

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Benjamin Franklin:

The Man Too Fond of Women

by Benjamin Forrest

Introduction

            Did Benjamin Franklin have a reputation of being too fond of women? Franklin has been associated with a number of women from his wife Deborah, whom he was married to for over 40 years (Tise XIX), to a family servant named Barbara, whom he was accused of having an affair with by his political opponents (Tise XVI). Franklin has been associated with over a dozen women with a number of the relationships being nothing more than a mystery, which may explain why some people have gathered this notion of Franklin being one "too fond of women."

            However, before I took a look into what historians thought about Franklin and his relationships with women, I wanted to ask the "common" person what they thought about Franklin's reputation to see if this nothing of being "too fond of women" was a popular thought among the general public.

            I was able to speak to 111 individuals and the question was simple: In three words or less, what comes to mind when I say Benjamin Franklin's reputation? The most common answers were founding father, $100 bill and electricity. 27 people gave me one of these three answers, which made up for 33.34%. In general, 108 of the individuals responded with something positive about Franklin whether it was an invention or characteristic of his; however, there were three individuals (2.7%) did respond with something far from positive. Those responses being French whores, promiscuous and pimp.

            Clearly, this was far from scholarly, but it was the perfect amount of evidence to show me that this notion did exist amongst the general public. Whether it was 27% or 2.7%, it existed and therefore needed to be explored. After researching Franklin and his relationships with women, it was clear that yes Franklin was associated with a number of women and yes he was "too fond of women," but not in a sexual way as some thought to be true. In reality, besides his wife and two romances following his wife's death, Franklin's "romances" were "a romance in the Franklin manner, hovering between risqué and the avuncular, taking a bold step forward and an ironic step backward, implying that he is tempted as a man but respectful as a friend." (Lopez 53)

            In this blog, I will explore the different relationships Benjamin Franklin had throughout his 84 years of life from his wife to his many platonic relationships to his two romances following Deborah's death. By viewing these, we will be able to see that Franklin was indeed "too fond of women" but fond of them "in the Franklin manner." (Lopez 53)

Resources:

Forrest, Benjamin. Survey of 111 Undergraduates, Friends or Co-workers Concerning Benjamin Franklin's Reputation. University Park, Pennsylvania, 15 April 2013. Unpublished Survey.

Lopez, Clause-Anne. "Three Women, Three Styles: Catherine Ray, Polly Hewson, and Georgina Shipley." Benjamin Franklin and Women. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State UP, 2000. 51-64. Print.

Tise, Larry E. Benjamin Franklin and Women. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State UP, 2000. Print.

Benjamin Franklin and His Many Civic Contributions

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Benjamin Franklin in Science

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EARLY LIFE 


The son of a candle maker, Franklin was born with the inclination to illuminate the world for the benefit of others. When he was young, he set himself apart as an inventor with his innovations in his daily life, such as swim paddles. Like many others, this idea (while perhaps not fully developed or realized) served as the groundwork for later advancements that would eventually pave the way for oceanic discovery via deep sea diving. 


Other examples of Franklin's explorative nature that later gave way to advancements which would spur entire movements of scientific discovery include (but are not limited to) studies of the oceanic currents, molecular science, and electricity-- which all went on to be great apexes of the scientific community and are areas of continued technological advancement. On considering Franklin's contribution to the sciences, it is easy to imagine him as an underhanded pitcher-- embarking on a project in the scientific sphere just long enough to let it pick up steam, before abandoning it to the masses and letting them advance it further. It is also important to recollect that Franklin's involvement in science spanned multiple areas. While it would be unfair to weigh his involvement in any particular field due to his significant contributions to all of them, Franklin was as much a natural scientist as a social scientist, and equally as political science-minded. He also dabbled in what would be classified at the time as the medical field, as he wrote on various techniques to stay healthy and invented the bifocal prototype. This kind of sprawling expertise was only half of what would eventually deem Franklin a "founding father" of America, however. The other half can be attributed to his genuine care and incessant attempts to better American society in the hopes that the nation would continuously evolve and improve. 


NATURAL SCIENCES 


An excellent example of Franklin's tendency to start off a breakthrough scientific discovery can be seen on the pond at Clapham, where Franklin's now famous oil drop experiment took place. Franklin was under the impression that the calmness of the sea during ship sailing was correlated to the amount of discarded kitchen grease that lubricated the hull, and thus tried to replicate that calmness through his experiment. Franklin writes in his autobiography:

"I fetched out a cruet of oil and dropped a little of it on the water. I saw it spread itself with surprising swiftness upon the surface... though not more than a teaspoonful, produced an instant calm over a space several yards square which spread amazingly and extended itself gradually till it reached the other side, making all that quarter of the pond, perhaps half an acre, as smooth as a looking glass." 

This experiment would eventually give way to the development of our understanding of monolayers, or closely packed layers of atoms. While Franklin's initial incentive for the experiment to quell the choppy ocean water for increased safety on ships was never carried out, it eventually became recognized as a crucial building block in our understanding of physics. Soon afterward, Lord Rayleigh repeated the experiment and went so far as to measure the density of both the oil and water, later leading him to his discovery of Argon, which helped him win the Nobel Prize in 1904. 


Also important to his developments in the field of the natural sciences are Franklin's writings on the Coriolis effect as well as trade winds, and the interconnections between the two. In Benjamin Franklin's Science, E. Philip Krider writes "weather and climate were important factors in colonial America because unexpected storms or outbreaks of freezing temperatures could be disastrous for people and agriculture. Franklin wrote long-term predictions of weather and climate and reproduced numerous weather proverbs in Poor Richard and in his newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette. In about 1751 he wrote Physical and Meteorological Observations, Conjectures, and Suppositions, in which he sued scientific reasoning to explain one of the most important factors in controlling large-scale wind patterns-- the rotation of the earth." Also important to remember is that the 18th century was one full of maritime travel, which gained a special relevance to Franklin as the revolution came nearer, due to the complications that arose between the colonies and England that would give way to tensions that caused events like the Boston Tea Party. 


This, however, is neither the first nor last time that Franklin's scientific discoveries would serve as a jump-off point for later breakthroughs. Perhaps his most well-known achievement, Franklin did experiments on electricity using a metal conducting agent on the tail of a kite in order to trap the electricity coming from lightning. One of the most surviving images is one of Ben Franklin gazing upwards and holding on to the tail end of his kite, hoping that a key placed along the string  would attract electricity from the sky-- and for good reason. During the infancy of Franklin's trials with electricity, his "ideas that there are two states of electricity, positive and negative, and that the charge is never created or destroyed but merely transferred from one place to another were profound, and today this principle is known in physics as the 'conservation of electric charge,'" writes Krider (190). Not only did this discovery of how to alter the path of lightning save thousands of lives in the development of the lightning rod, which protected houses from lightning strikes, but it also provided the blueprints for the actual generation of electricity, rather than just its harvest. In the fall of 1752, Franklin published his findings about the importance of lightning rods in Poor Richard's Almanac, in a piece entitled How to secure Houses, ect. from Lightning: "It has pleased God in his Goodness to Mankind, at length to discover to them the Means of securing their Habitations and other Buildings from Mischief by Thunder and Lightning. The Method is this: Provide a small Iron Rod (it may be of the Rod-Iron used by the Nailers) but of such a Length, that one End being three or four Feet in the moist Ground, the other may be six or eight Feet above the highest Part of the Building... A House thus furnished will not be damaged by lightning, it being attracted by the Points, and passing thro the Metal into the ground without hurting any thing." 




SOCIAL SCIENCE 


As an apprentice to his brother, with whom he did not get along, Franklin also understood the importance of success, and his thirst for it (both on a personal and societal standpoint) is one of the great takeaways from the revolutionary era of the country. That said, it is important to note that Franklin's involvement in science was not strictly concerned with observations and experiments-- instead, much of Franklin's work as a scientist occurred socially and politically as well. As a social scientist, Franklin was constantly concerning himself with tasks that would mobilize the public mentally in order to create an American public that could ultimately take more responsibility in their government. the push to do so was one fueled by the apprehension shared by the founding fathers, who were intent on ensuring that a governmental rift like the one between the colonies and England would never shake the nation again. In Rita Koganzon's Ben Franklin's Vision, she notes that "Franklin differed from the poor, hard-working men of the Federal Farmer's 'democratic class' in one important aspect-- he was not content to remain one of them. Social mobility is a familiar enough clarion call for the 21st century, but the idea of pullings oneself up by one's bootstraps was hardly laudable in the 18th. Even in the flatter social world of the American colonies, self-made men were objects of suspicion in a society still largely married to traditional European hierarchies rooted in blood and land... Mobility threatened to undermined the stability of traditional organizations by giving vast power to men who were not prepared to take up such responsibility" (114).


This image of "pulling oneself up by one's own bootstraps" and striving despite the odds is one that stayed with the nation and came to be the stereotype of "The American Dream" that we still maintain today. Unlike in Franklin's time, there is more respect for the "self-made" citizens of society, and it is because of men like Franklin, who insisted on the importance of civic mobility, that that level of respect was born. This was the ideology behind the foundation of the Junto, on which Koganzon writes that "starting associations dedicated to what he termed 'mutual improvement' would be the backbone of Franklin's public career. He started Junto, part social club, part debate society, in 1726. It was organized to demonstrate to the industrious tradesmen of Philadelphia... The Junto provided a social capital for him to launch many of his later ventures, including the first lending library, a fire company, and a public hospital that were the first in the colonies, the first university in Pennsylvania, the colony's first militia, and Philadelphia's night-watch system. Not the least of his new associations, of course, was the United States itself, in whose foundation he played a major role" (116). 


Closely related to the Junto, but with a stronger focus on tradesmen was the Franklin-founded Leather Apron Club, which Billy G. Smith expands on the importance of in his Benjamin Franklin, Civic Improver: "Franklin pursued his own economic independence with such passion, not merely to get rich but as a means to escape the financial binds that restricted the lives and options of most artisans. He formed the Leather Apron Club, in part, to help him achieve that objective. By establishing the club, Franklin followed the long tradition of artisans ho created mutual aid societies to assist one another during times of financial distress, to acquire friends with common occupational interests, to celebrate their identity as craftspeople, and to help advance their own careers" (100). Said to be modeled after Cotton Mather's advocation of clubs to promote religion and morality, Smith goes on to say that Franklin's Leather Apron Club "combined artisan customs with a secularized version of Mather's form of organization, to which Franklin added the vital goals of intellectual self-improvement and civic enhancement" (101). 


The importance of the Leather Apron Club instills itself in its relevance to modern day. In short, the organization was what would now be referred to as a labor union, which protects the rights and interests of those involved. For a country like America, especially in her infancy, the founding of an institution based on the unification of "blue collar" workers would serve as the groundwork for the creation of the middle class, which even currently does the leg work for the country's economy. It is not enough to assert that the Leather Apron Club was one that helped unify and spur the laborers of colonial America-- but rather, it was perhaps the only way that such could have been executed so seamlessly. Even now, labor unions regulate employment and fairness of employment or thousands of tradespeople, which would arguably not have been the case had Franklin not established one so early on. 


Again drawing on the importance of public education and mobilization, Franklin is also accredited with the foundation of the first library. A former printer, he understood the lack of circulation when it came to literature, and in founding a library wherein the members paid a due to afford the books, he sought to change that. Eventually, this system would evolve into the free public library system that is so popular in America today-- paid for by taxes, of course, which Franklin would have no doubt supported. Smith writes "Immediately after his retirement, Franklin pursued the twin goals of establishing a college and a hospital... An education radical, Franklin challenged the dominant classic elite approach that emphasized instruction for the glory of god and learning for its own sake. Rather than serving the privileged (as did the four existing colonial colleges: William and Mary, Princeton, Yale, and Harvard), Franklin's academy would provide training in practical matters and prepare young men for future careers. 


Furthermore, though it had much less of an impact on the social and economic realms of the nation, it is under the category of social sciences that Franklin's invention of the glass armonica ought to go. While, like some of his other inventions, the armonica was never fully recognized as a beloved instrument and gained little notoriety throughout the years, it is nonetheless important to touch on Franklin's creation of it, in that it tells us more about the aspect of his persona that was not as straight laced as some of his writings and actions made him out to be. 


In sum, Benjamin Franklin made countless contributions to the world of science-- on many different levels and with many different mediums. Whether it be the founding of institutions such as the Leather Apron Club, the harvesting of electricity, or the beginnings of a breakthrough in the realm of physics, Franklin played a heavy hand in almost every aspect-- making him truly deserving of his title as a founding father of the United States. 




WORKS CITED 



Koganzon, R. (2009). Ben franklin's vision. Policy Review, (154), 114-120. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/216434676?accountid=13158


Krider, E. Philip. "Benjamin Franklin's Science." Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World. New Haven: Yale UP, 2005. 163-95. Print.


Smith, Billy G. "Benjamin Franklin, Civic Improver." Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World. New Haven: Yale UP, 2005. 91-123. Print.

Benjamin Franklin in Science

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EARLY LIFE 


The son of a candle maker, Franklin was born with the inclination to illuminate the world for the benefit of others. When he was young, he set himself apart as an inventor with his innovations in his daily life, such as swim paddles. Like many others, this idea (while perhaps not fully developed or realized) served as the groundwork for later advancements that would eventually pave the way for oceanic discovery via deep sea diving. 


Other examples of Franklin's explorative nature that later gave way to advancements which would spur entire movements of scientific discovery include (but are not limited to) studies of the oceanic currents, molecular science, and electricity-- which all went on to be great apexes of the scientific community and are areas of continued technological advancement. On considering Franklin's contribution to the sciences, it is easy to imagine him as an underhanded pitcher-- embarking on a project in the scientific sphere just long enough to let it pick up steam, before abandoning it to the masses and letting them advance it further. It is also important to recollect that Franklin's involvement in science spanned multiple areas. While it would be unfair to weigh his involvement in any particular field due to his significant contributions to all of them, Franklin was as much a natural scientist as a social scientist, and equally as political science-minded. He also dabbled in what would be classified at the time as the medical field, as he wrote on various techniques to stay healthy and invented the bifocal prototype. This kind of sprawling expertise was only half of what would eventually deem Franklin a "founding father" of America, however. The other half can be attributed to his genuine care and incessant attempts to better American society in the hopes that the nation would continuously evolve and improve. 


NATURAL SCIENCES 


An excellent example of Franklin's tendency to start off a breakthrough scientific discovery can be seen on the pond at Clapham, where Franklin's now famous oil drop experiment took place. Franklin was under the impression that the calmness of the sea during ship sailing was correlated to the amount of discarded kitchen grease that lubricated the hull, and thus tried to replicate that calmness through his experiment. Franklin writes in his autobiography:

"I fetched out a cruet of oil and dropped a little of it on the water. I saw it spread itself with surprising swiftness upon the surface... though not more than a teaspoonful, produced an instant calm over a space several yards square which spread amazingly and extended itself gradually till it reached the other side, making all that quarter of the pond, perhaps half an acre, as smooth as a looking glass." 

This experiment would eventually give way to the development of our understanding of monolayers, or closely packed layers of atoms. While Franklin's initial incentive for the experiment to quell the choppy ocean water for increased safety on ships was never carried out, it eventually became recognized as a crucial building block in our understanding of physics. Soon afterward, Lord Rayleigh repeated the experiment and went so far as to measure the density of both the oil and water, later leading him to his discovery of Argon, which helped him win the Nobel Prize in 1904. 


Also important to his developments in the field of the natural sciences are Franklin's writings on the Coriolis effect as well as trade winds, and the interconnections between the two. In Benjamin Franklin's Science, E. Philip Krider writes "weather and climate were important factors in colonial America because unexpected storms or outbreaks of freezing temperatures could be disastrous for people and agriculture. Franklin wrote long-term predictions of weather and climate and reproduced numerous weather proverbs in Poor Richard and in his newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette. In about 1751 he wrote Physical and Meteorological Observations, Conjectures, and Suppositions, in which he sued scientific reasoning to explain one of the most important factors in controlling large-scale wind patterns-- the rotation of the earth." Also important to remember is that the 18th century was one full of maritime travel, which gained a special relevance to Franklin as the revolution came nearer, due to the complications that arose between the colonies and England that would give way to tensions that caused events like the Boston Tea Party. 


This, however, is neither the first nor last time that Franklin's scientific discoveries would serve as a jump-off point for later breakthroughs. Perhaps his most well-known achievement, Franklin did experiments on electricity using a metal conducting agent on the tail of a kite in order to trap the electricity coming from lightning. One of the most surviving images is one of Ben Franklin gazing upwards and holding on to the tail end of his kite, hoping that a key placed along the string  would attract electricity from the sky-- and for good reason. During the infancy of Franklin's trials with electricity, his "ideas that there are two states of electricity, positive and negative, and that the charge is never created or destroyed but merely transferred from one place to another were profound, and today this principle is known in physics as the 'conservation of electric charge,'" writes Krider (190). Not only did this discovery of how to alter the path of lightning save thousands of lives in the development of the lightning rod, which protected houses from lightning strikes, but it also provided the blueprints for the actual generation of electricity, rather than just its harvest. In the fall of 1752, Franklin published his findings about the importance of lightning rods in Poor Richard's Almanac, in a piece entitled How to secure Houses, ect. from Lightning: "It has pleased God in his Goodness to Mankind, at length to discover to them the Means of securing their Habitations and other Buildings from Mischief by Thunder and Lightning. The Method is this: Provide a small Iron Rod (it may be of the Rod-Iron used by the Nailers) but of such a Length, that one End being three or four Feet in the moist Ground, the other may be six or eight Feet above the highest Part of the Building... A House thus furnished will not be damaged by lightning, it being attracted by the Points, and passing thro the Metal into the ground without hurting any thing." 




SOCIAL SCIENCE 


As an apprentice to his brother, with whom he did not get along, Franklin also understood the importance of success, and his thirst for it (both on a personal and societal standpoint) is one of the great takeaways from the revolutionary era of the country. That said, it is important to note that Franklin's involvement in science was not strictly concerned with observations and experiments-- instead, much of Franklin's work as a scientist occurred socially and politically as well. As a social scientist, Franklin was constantly concerning himself with tasks that would mobilize the public mentally in order to create an American public that could ultimately take more responsibility in their government. the push to do so was one fueled by the apprehension shared by the founding fathers, who were intent on ensuring that a governmental rift like the one between the colonies and England would never shake the nation again. In Rita Koganzon's Ben Franklin's Vision, she notes that "Franklin differed from the poor, hard-working men of the Federal Farmer's 'democratic class' in one important aspect-- he was not content to remain one of them. Social mobility is a familiar enough clarion call for the 21st century, but the idea of pullings oneself up by one's bootstraps was hardly laudable in the 18th. Even in the flatter social world of the American colonies, self-made men were objects of suspicion in a society still largely married to traditional European hierarchies rooted in blood and land... Mobility threatened to undermined the stability of traditional organizations by giving vast power to men who were not prepared to take up such responsibility" (114).


This image of "pulling oneself up by one's own bootstraps" and striving despite the odds is one that stayed with the nation and came to be the stereotype of "The American Dream" that we still maintain today. Unlike in Franklin's time, there is more respect for the "self-made" citizens of society, and it is because of men like Franklin, who insisted on the importance of civic mobility, that that level of respect was born. This was the ideology behind the foundation of the Junto, on which Koganzon writes that "starting associations dedicated to what he termed 'mutual improvement' would be the backbone of Franklin's public career. He started Junto, part social club, part debate society, in 1726. It was organized to demonstrate to the industrious tradesmen of Philadelphia... The Junto provided a social capital for him to launch many of his later ventures, including the first lending library, a fire company, and a public hospital that were the first in the colonies, the first university in Pennsylvania, the colony's first militia, and Philadelphia's night-watch system. Not the least of his new associations, of course, was the United States itself, in whose foundation he played a major role" (116). 


Closely related to the Junto, but with a stronger focus on tradesmen was the Franklin-founded Leather Apron Club, which Billy G. Smith expands on the importance of in his Benjamin Franklin, Civic Improver: "Franklin pursued his own economic independence with such passion, not merely to get rich but as a means to escape the financial binds that restricted the lives and options of most artisans. He formed the Leather Apron Club, in part, to help him achieve that objective. By establishing the club, Franklin followed the long tradition of artisans ho created mutual aid societies to assist one another during times of financial distress, to acquire friends with common occupational interests, to celebrate their identity as craftspeople, and to help advance their own careers" (100). Said to be modeled after Cotton Mather's advocation of clubs to promote religion and morality, Smith goes on to say that Franklin's Leather Apron Club "combined artisan customs with a secularized version of Mather's form of organization, to which Franklin added the vital goals of intellectual self-improvement and civic enhancement" (101). 


The importance of the Leather Apron Club instills itself in its relevance to modern day. In short, the organization was what would now be referred to as a labor union, which protects the rights and interests of those involved. For a country like America, especially in her infancy, the founding of an institution based on the unification of "blue collar" workers would serve as the groundwork for the creation of the middle class, which even currently does the leg work for the country's economy. It is not enough to assert that the Leather Apron Club was one that helped unify and spur the laborers of colonial America-- but rather, it was perhaps the only way that such could have been executed so seamlessly. Even now, labor unions regulate employment and fairness of employment or thousands of tradespeople, which would arguably not have been the case had Franklin not established one so early on. 


Again drawing on the importance of public education and mobilization, Franklin is also accredited with the foundation of the first library. A former printer, he understood the lack of circulation when it came to literature, and in founding a library wherein the members paid a due to afford the books, he sought to change that. Eventually, this system would evolve into the free public library system that is so popular in America today-- paid for by taxes, of course, which Franklin would have no doubt supported. Smith writes "Immediately after his retirement, Franklin pursued the twin goals of establishing a college and a hospital... An education radical, Franklin challenged the dominant classic elite approach that emphasized instruction for the glory of god and learning for its own sake. Rather than serving the privileged (as did the four existing colonial colleges: William and Mary, Princeton, Yale, and Harvard), Franklin's academy would provide training in practical matters and prepare young men for future careers. 


Furthermore, though it had much less of an impact on the social and economic realms of the nation, it is under the category of social sciences that Franklin's invention of the glass armonica ought to go. While, like some of his other inventions, the armonica was never fully recognized as a beloved instrument and gained little notoriety throughout the years, it is nonetheless important to touch on Franklin's creation of it, in that it tells us more about the aspect of his persona that was not as straight laced as some of his writings and actions made him out to be. 


In sum, Benjamin Franklin made countless contributions to the world of science-- on many different levels and with many different mediums. Whether it be the founding of institutions such as the Leather Apron Club, the harvesting of electricity, or the beginnings of a breakthrough in the realm of physics, Franklin played a heavy hand in almost every aspect-- making him truly deserving of his title as a founding father of the United States. 




WORKS CITED 



Koganzon, R. (2009). Ben franklin's vision. Policy Review, (154), 114-120. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/216434676?accountid=13158


Krider, E. Philip. "Benjamin Franklin's Science." Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World. New Haven: Yale UP, 2005. 163-95. Print.


Smith, Billy G. "Benjamin Franklin, Civic Improver." Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World. New Haven: Yale UP, 2005. 91-123. Print.

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