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:



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.




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. 

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