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Benjamin Franklin. Impact on American History. California State Standards. 3.4 Students understand the role of rules and laws in our daily lives and the basic structure of the U.S. government.

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Benjamin Franklin

Impact on American History


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California State Standards

3.4 Students understand the role of rules and laws in our daily lives and the basic structure of the U.S. government.

1. Describe the lives of American heroes who took risks to secure our freedoms (e.g., Anne Hutchinson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr.).

5.4 Students understand the political, religious, social, and economic institutions that evolved in the colonial era.

5.5 Students explain the causes of the American Revolution.

  • Describe the views, lives, and impact of key individuals during this period (e.g., King George III, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams).


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Founding Father

  • Writer

  • Printer

  • Politician

  • Scientist

  • Inventor

  • Statesman

  • Diplomat


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The Paradox of Franklin

Owned slaves

Railed against Germans in PA

Not a feminist

Supported the military

Rejected Christianity

Socialistic views

Fathered an illegitimate child

Held Americans in low regard


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The Man of Many Faces

  • The Oldest of the Founders

    • Washington, 26 years younger

    • John Adams, 29 years younger

    • Jefferson, 37 years younger

    • Madison and Hamilton, nearly 50 years younger


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The Man of Many Faces

Prior to the Revolution, Franklin was already world famous:

Member of the prestigious Royal Society

Honorary degrees from St. Andrews and Oxford

A world leader in science and philosophy


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The Man of Many Voices

  • Pseudonyms:

  • Silence Dogood, Alice Addertongue, Cecilia Shortface, Polly Baker, Busy Body, Obadiah Plainman, Anthony Afterwit, Richard Saunders, Poor Richard, An American, A New-England Man, A Briton, A London Manufacturer

  • While in London, used 42 different signatures


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Apprenticeship and Printer

Hierarchical New England

Two years of formal education

Candle and soap maker

Apprenticed to his brother James, printer

1721, New England Courant, James’

newspaper

In 1722, at 16, Franklin secretly submitted satires, signed by Silence Dogood


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Leaving Boston

  • James’ paper was shut down

  • Franklin found apprenticeship intolerable

  • Franklin had become

    • “a little obnoxious to the governing Party”

      He was viewed as an “Infidel or Atheist”

      In 1723, left Boston for Philadelphia


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Young Franklin and Social Mobility

  • Patronage was the accepted way of achieving upward social mobility

  • Not uncommon for men of humble birth to rise to prominence

  • Franklin’s talents were soon recognized by the governors of PA and NY

  • Even Cotton Mather expressed an interest


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The Great Social Divide

  • Gentlemen and Commoners

  • Gentlemen were born wealthy

  • Gentlemen did not work

  • Puritan hard work ethic were meant for commoners


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A Gentleman

  • By 18th century standards, Gentlemen did not labor or toil with their hands

  • They inherited wealth

  • Income was generated through rents, or interest on money

  • They were free to pursue interests or leisure

  • This is what Franklin aspired to…


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Changing Times

  • By the middle of the 18th century a new economic class was emerging

  • This group was neither born into wealth nor commoners

  • They were the known as “middling” men

  • Included: commercial farmers, artisans, merchants, traders, shopkeepers, etc

  • They were becoming wealthy and saw themselves as better then commoners


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Middling Men

  • Franklin epitomized this new man

  • Wealthy and Industrious

  • Interested in learning

  • Interested in giving back to society

  • Franklin organized local artisans who met to discuss common issues


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Freemasonry

  • Secret fraternity in England

  • Emphasized:

    Generosity, Goodwill,

    and Sociability

    Also, allowed artisans to mix easily

    with Gentlemen

    Perfect organization for Franklin


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Franklin’s Dilemma

By the 1730s Franklin was:

Successful

Wealthy

Civic Minded

But not a Gentleman

Feared being ridiculed as a

…Molatto Gentleman…


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Franklin the Entrepreneur

  • Monopolized printing in Philadelphia

  • Franchised print shops from New England to Antigua

  • Was postmaster general

  • Rented houses

  • Owned paper mills

  • Creditor


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Retirement at 42

  • By 1748 Franklin had acquired enough wealth to retire

  • Timing significant

  • Purchased several slaves

  • Moved to a quieter part of town

  • Franklin attributed his success to

    • Industry and Frugality


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Franklin the Gentleman

Painted by Robert Feke


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Franklin’s Experiments

  • Time to read, write, and experiment…

    …with electricity

    Proved that lightning was electricity

    Published Experiments and Observations on Electricity in 1752

    Made him an international figure


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Fame and Recognition

  • Degrees from Yale, Harvard, and William and Mary

  • Praised internationally for the invention of the lightning rod


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Franklin and the Kite


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Public Service

  • More important to Franklin than his scientific achievements

  • Member of Philadelphia City Council

  • Justice of the Peace

  • Member of the Pennsylvania Assembly


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A Citizen of the Empire

  • Albany Plan for Union

  • Return to England, 1757

  • London, lived the next 15 of 17 years

  • Met with Britain’s preeminent figures in science, literature, the arts, etc.

  • Became a great supporter of the Empire

  • A Royalist


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Changing Fortunes

  • Franklin in London

  • Supported the Stamp Act

  • His enemies blamed Franklin for the Stamp Act

  • Franklin’s response to the Stamp Act:

  • “… a firm loyalty to the Crown… will always be the wisest Course for you and I to take…”


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Return to Philadelphia

  • In 1763 Franklin returned to Philadelphia

    • was instantly looked at as a colonial leader

    • inspected the colonies postal service

      -- helped quell the rioters from western PA

  • Returned to London in 1765, as an agent for

    pro loyalists forces who wanted PA to

    become a royal colony.

    Planning a short visit, he stayed another 10 years


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Parliament

  • House of Commons, Feb. 1766

  • Argued against the Stamp Tax

  • Parliament repealed the Stamp Act

  • Parliament enacted the Declaratory Act


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The Crown vs. Parliament

  • Franklin viewed the king as a benign power for good

  • He saw Parliament as the problem for the empire/colonies

  • He believed only the King could rule the colonies and not Parliament


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Finally taking up the Cause

  • After repeated attempts to reconcile, Franklin changed his mind.

  • Franklin had come to realize the pejorative view many in England had.

  • Franklin humiliated by the King’s Privy Council.

  • March, 1775 sailed for America.


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Super Patriot

  • Upon returning, Franklin had to become a super patriot.

  • Member of Second Continental Congress.

  • Immediately embraced independence.

  • Some suspected Franklin’s motives.

  • …Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee

  • Son William, an embarrassment


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Franklin the “democrat”

  • Proposed radical Constitution for

    Pennsylvania

    Simple democracy and popular radicalism


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Franklin the Diplomat

July 1776, Lord Howe wrote Franklin

Franklin’s response was swift and strong

After the defeat at Long Island, Howe, again sent out peace offerings.

Franklin and John Adams met with Howe and rebuffed his call to return to conditions that existed in 1763


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France the Ally

Foreign aid and involvement was essential

Franklin lobbied to go to France

In February 1778 France and the United States signed two treaties: commercial and military


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Diplomatic Success

Against tremendous odds,

Franklin solely responsible for the Franco-American alliance

Franklin also participated in the peace negotiations with Great Britain


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A Stranger in his Nation

By 1784 Franklin had spent 23 of the last 27 years abroad

While he had countless admirers, he had made enemies as well

When he was recalled by Congress, in 1785, Franklin thought he might be a …stranger in his own country…


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Returning Home

On September 14, 1785 Franklin returned to Philadelphia

Philadelphia had become the leading city in the new nation

Soon Franklin was elected to the ruling executive council in Pennsylvania


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Franklin in 1785

Portrait by Charles Wilson Peale


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The Constitutional Convention

Represented Pennsylvania

Did not know most of the delegates

Did not make any great speeches

Seemed detached for most of the proceedings… and did not agree with much of the final draft…but signed it anyway


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Franklin and Slavery

Franklin’s thoughts on African Americans evolved over time

By the early 1780s Franklin had become a leading abolitionist

In February 1790 Franklin petitioned the Congress to abolish slavery


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Franklin vs. Congress

Franklin’s petition generated outrage in the Congress and nation

Franklin was accused of upsetting the social order

The petition was rejected as Congress decided it had no authority to interfere in the affairs of the states


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Franklin’s Death

Religious views kept private

Child of the Enlightenment

Believed in one God, Creator of the Universe

Doubted Christ’s divinity

But recognized Christ’s

significance

Died April 17, 1790


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Reaction to Franklin’s Passing

France reacted more then America

Eulogized many times over

In America things were different

While the House adopted a tribute, the Senate did not

John Adams, VP, and others were jealous of Franklin

Others linked Franklin to the French Revolution


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Franklin’s: Legacy

In the 1790s many of Franklin’s writings/ autobiography were published

While reviled by the Federalists, many Republicans embraced Franklin

The new rising “middling” class of artisans saw Franklin as their hero

This group now saw themselves as worthy to aspire to higher stations


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Franklin’s “Way to Wealth”

Published in 1758 Franklin published his influential work as an essay.

Franklin used adages and advice that he had dispensed in Poor Richard’s Almanac.

Franklin Way to Wealth was and continues to be very influential


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Franklin’s Way to Wealth, quotes

  • "There are no gains, without pains"

  • "One today is worth two tomorrows"

  • "Time is money"

  • "A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things"

  • "Get what you can, and what you get hold"

  • "Sloth, like rust, consumes faster than labor wears, while the used key is always bright"

  • "Have you somewhat to do tomorrow, do it today"

  • "The eye of a master will do more work than both his hands"

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


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Celebration of Labor

Work and virtue became synonymous

Parson Weems praised Washington as a man of industry and later wrote about Franklin

Hard work was now viewed as admirable

Men of low birth were encouraged to work their way to success…..just like Franklin


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Franklin as an Inspiration

James Harper, publisher,

mayor of New York City

Thomas Mellon, founder of Mellon Bank


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Pat Lyon at the ForgeJohn Neagle, 1829


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Changing times, changing attitudes


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Lasting Legacy

Important concepts that have defined Americans:

  • Self made man

  • Enterprise and opportunity

  • Innovation

  • Industry

  • Work for a living


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And in the End

Franklin was the second most important figure in the Revolution

In the early years of the Republic, Franklin personified the American Dream


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References

The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin,

Gordon S. Wood

Benjamin Franklin, Edmund S. Morgan

Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin,

Benjamin Franklin

Way to Wealth, Benjamin Franklin


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