Prompt: “Is there anyone you think is more of the archetypal American than Franklin?”
Ben Franklin was an inventor, a philosopher, a scientist, a politician, and an entrepreneur in colonial America. He moved to Philadelphia in 1723, where he opened a printing shop. He was determined to maintain a good reputation within his business, and through his initiative slowly but surely began replacing the other printers around the city. He printed a newspaper and a yearly almanac, and within these he remained stubbornly unbiased. In his autobiography he advises that this unbiased printing method is the best way to stay virtuous while also becoming successful.
Franklin was an American, but he had a fervent love of European culture. Franklin spent much of his time in Europe during the American revolution, particularly in France. Walter Isaacson, the president of the Aspen institute, argues that the Americans would not have won the revolution if not for Franklin’s diplomacy within France. Franklin was also quite the flirt, charming many of Europe’s most elite women. One theory states that this was apart of Franklin’s strategy, if he won over elite European women they may speak approvingly of him to their politically powerful husbands.
His religious views were anything but average for the time. He was a Deist, believing in an all knowing, all loving God who ruled with justice. Virtue shall be rewarded, while evil shall be punished. Though this isn’t to say that Franklin didn’t indulge in darker theologies throughout points of his life. Franklin was associates with Sir Francis Dashwood, a wealthy English politician with a fondness for debauchery. Dashwood created The Friars of St Francis of Wycombe, a ceremonial establishment meant to attract Europe’s most debaucherous intellectuals. In this club Europe’s elite engaged in many distasteful, usually sexual rituals. There’s plenty of evidence pointing towards Franklin attending these sorts of parties, where he certainly mingled with European nobility and policy makers.
Seeing as how Franklin’s religious taste was quite unusual for the time it’s no mystery as to why he was so tolerant of other peoples spirituality. He rejected Christianity, but he didn’t condemn it. He became friends with many devote Christians, such as the preacher George Whitefield. He also built buildings of worship within the colonies, and insisted these spaces be used by everyone no matter their faith. Preachers would no longer have to give sermons in fields, for because of Franklin now Christians, Puritans, and even Muslims had a place in which they were free to worship however they like.
Franklin was very fond of assisting his fellow colonials in whatever ways he could. For example many American roads were nothing more than streets of mud, and Franklin went through the effort of installing clean brick roads for all to travel on. He also invented the Franklin stove, a fireplace that required much less wood than a usual one and would burn hotter and longer. He found satisfaction in aiding his fellow Americans, and used his wealth, engineering knowledge, and personal discipline to make it happen.
Franklin represents the American archetype in many ways. He was a respected and unbiased entrepreneur, printing the facts and not letting anyone buy his point of view. He was hardworking and kind, putting much of his energy into aiding colonial Americans. He was also determined to maintain proper virtues, and created programs and schedules for himself in the pursuit of personal improvement. He was also very sociable, especially in his escapades throughout Europe. He proved to European elite how intelligent and charming American politicians could be, and ultimately had an enormous impact on the Americans winning their freedom.