Thursday, October 27, 2011

Franklin's Virtues

In his time, and in even still in ours, Franklin was thought of with huge respect and affection. He accomplished an amazing variety of things in his life. One of the reasons for that is his work ethic, and the reason that he is so well loved by Americans is probably the same. He attributed his morals to the system he devised to make himself a better person, and whether or not they really did is the matter soon to be examined.
One reason that faith can be put into Benjamin Franklin's system is that in his autobiography he writes about how well it worked for him personally. He writes, "I was surprised to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined; but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish" (Franklin 156-157). His personal affirmation of his system's success gives it a lot of credit. Rather ironically, his word is worth so much because of his impeccable character, and his character was considered so impeccable because of the system of virtues he practiced. The irony is that he was using his impeccable character to give weight to the system of virtues that produced said character.
It may be easy to lie to a single person, or even just a few, but lies become more difficult the more people you try to trick. That makes it a little bit difficult to believe that Benjamin Franklin had the entire world fooled into think that he was an amazing person if he really was not. Even sixty-six years after his death, authors were still practically gushing about the wonders of Benjamin Franklin. Henry T. Tuckerman writes,
"Never dawned a self-reliant character more opportunely on the world; at home, illustrating to a new country what perseverance, honesty, observation, and wisdom can effect with the most limited resources; abroad, proving to an ancient regime how independent a genuine man may be of courts, academics, and luxury;" both the most requisite lessons for which humanity thirsted, and both enforced with an attractive candor, a gracious consistency, a modest resolution, which no argument could attain and no rhetoric enhance."
Benjamin Fanklin is one of the most loved characters in American history, and it would not be at all possible for that to be true if he was not such a warm and friendly person. As it is, when today's Americans think of the founding fathers, Ben Franklin is one of the first people thought of, along with other such giants of American history. That is really what we see Franklin as, an intellectual giant that shaped the government and attitude of the entire country.
Based on the above stated evidence, it is pretty clear that Ben Franklin's virtues were very effective. He recognized a change in himself because of them, and also gained the love of his countrymen and people around the world. Is anymore evidence really needed? Franklin made himself a better person because of his virtues, and because Franklin was such a good person our country is a better place.

Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. New Haven: Yale UP, 1964.

Bloom, Harold, ed. "The Character of Franklin." Benjamin Franklin, Classic Critical Views. New York: Chelsea House Publishing, 2008. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. October 27, 2011.


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