Benjamin Franklin as a "Self-Made Man"
In the United States, unlike in Europe, people who were born in lowclass families had the potential to rise through social and politicalstatus. Born in 1706 amongst other sixteen siblings, Franklin provedthis assertion by becoming one of the most famous people in thehistory of the United States. It is essential to note that Franklinstopped schooling at the age of ten years and this would have meantthat he remained in a low class status which he was born. Primarily,uneducated people in the 17th century hardly made itbeyond the life of servitude. Despite these aspects and stereotypes,Franklin managed to use his brilliance and political genius to riseto the top most office in the United States. In the U.S., a person’sbrilliance and innovations are likely to be recognized andappreciated than in any other country in the world (Newman 170). Thereason why Franklin is called a self made man is because of theefforts he made on his own and rose to a high social, political andeconomic status. In other words, he never relied on any god father toguide him and support him in his ambitions.
Thesis: Despite having been born and brought up in poverty,Benjamin Franklin, without any formal education, beat the odds tobecome one of the most celebrated Americans due to his innovationsthat solved daily problems that were facing people.
In his autobiography, Franklin has pointed out some of the essentialstrategies that he used in order to achieve success despite beingborn of a poor family and having no education. Primarily, the aspectof hard work and the desire to acquire education are importantingredients of success. While he as twelve years old, Franklin hadalready demonstrated aspects of hard work by becoming a printer andselling papers along the streets of Boston. This was a way of makingmoney and he became a famous young entrepreneur in Boston. However,at the age of 17 years, Franklin describes how he moved for over 300miles to New York after falling out with his brother. The desire anddetermination that he had are clearly demonstrated. Franklin 61writes in his biography, “…in three days I found myself in NewYork, near 300 miles from home….” He ended up working as aprinter, civil servant and writer in Philadelphia. The desire tobecome a self-made man is evident in these attempts and dreams thatFranklin had. Besides hard work, education is another element ofacquiring success amidst inherited poverty and low class (Newman168). While in Philadelphia, he would spare at least two hours dailyas he says in his autobiography, to go to a library and read.Franklin believed that reading would improve his life and enable himrun his businesses effectively.
Another aspect that made Franklin a self-made man was hisinnovations. The lighting rod, Franklin stove and the bifocal glasseswere all innovations that brought Franklin to the world map. Theymade him to become recognized and his efforts started being noticed.These innovations are attributed to the desire he had to improve hismind and body through education and hard work. Despite having failednumerous times in his innovations, he demonstrated the spirit ofdetermination and perseverance. Newman 162 asserts that “……Franklinwas a self-made man in far more than a literal sense: how heconstructed and presented himself, and the ways in which suchperformances succeeded and failed……” This was in relation tothe numerous attempts that he made in his innovations. In order tobecome the self-made man that Franklin is, he needed to have theinterest of the society at heart. Notably, his innovations were notmeant to showcase his brilliance, but to solve problems that werefacing the society. Furthermore, these innovations were driven by hiscuriosity. According to Perkin, “…….Franklin`s curiosity rangedfrom the causes of earthquakes and the benefits of the Gulf Stream tonavigation, to the possible association of lightning andelectricity…..” These curiosity ensured that Franklin solved manyof the problems that people were facing such as source of power andlighting.
Leadership qualities and the aspect of statesmanship helped Franklinto rise to the top class. Franklin demonstrated the aspect ofleadership where he learnt from his own failures, as well as fromothers. In some of his innovations, Franklin improved on otherpeople’s innovations through his brilliance. These are aspects thatare emulated by political leaders across the world today. Hisstatesmanship was demonstrated through the numerous innovations thathe made. He was the first person to start a fire insurance company,first fire department in Philadelphia and also made a number ofdiscoveries related to electricity. Historians have opined that thesewere innovations that demonstrated a statesman who sought to solvepeople’s problems (Perkins 980). Furthermore, he sought to putAmerica on the world map as a country that is full of innovations andthat is able to provide solutions to its own problems. Innovationssuch as the light bulbs would later be emulated by numerous countriesacross the world. According to Perkins, “….Franklin`s leadershipin civic enterprises and business might in itself have involvedFranklin in the struggle for independence from England, but longbefore 176 he had demonstrated qualities of statesmanship…..”This is one of the scholars who viewed Franklin as a statesman whosought to improve the lives of the people.
While concluding, it is essential to note that the variousinnovations that Franklin made were pivotal in his self-improvement.Even though he was not educated, he sought to acquire formaleducation after relocating to Philadelphia. His daily visits to thelibrary shown is desire to improve his mind. His autobiography hasoffered much of the insights to the state of being a self-made man.He insisted on the elements of being industrious and hard working inorder to improve on the mind, soul and the body. Franklin believed inthe aspect of self-reliance and relying on one’s creativity andknowledge to achieve success. These were demonstrated when he startedworking at the age of 12 and became a brilliant writer by the age of15 years. His innovations in the fields of electricity helped himachieve tremendous success. His innovations helped to solve thevarious problems that were affecting the people. Therefore, thishelped him to connect well with the people. Moreover, the UnitedStates was put on the world map and other countries followed theseinventions to solve their lighting problems. The development thatFranklin shown from the son of poor soap maker to one of the mostprominent people in the world affirms the American dream where hardwork is the yard stick for success and achievement. It separates theUnited States from other countries or continents such as Europe wherepeople were born of poor families inherited the poverty and weredestined for the life of servitude.
Newman, Simon. Benjamin Franklin and the Leather-Apron Men,Philadelphia. Journal of American Studies, Vol. 43, No. 2.2009. Print.
Perkins, George B. The American Tradition in Literature(concise). Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2009. Print.