The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin Annotated Edition | Benjamin Franklin

Summary of: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin Annotated Edition
By: Benjamin Franklin

Introduction

Embark on an unforgettable journey through the life of one of America’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin. In The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Annotated Edition, Franklin shares his insightful thoughts, groundbreaking endeavors, and compelling life story. This summary offers a concise and engaging look at his background, personal life, ventures, and contributions to society. His thirst for knowledge, pursuit of moral perfection, and unwavering dedication to bettering the lives of others remain an inspiration to this day. Dive in and discover why Franklin’s beliefs, principles, and legacy have endured the test of time.

Benjamin Franklin: A Self-Taught Writer and Thinker

Benjamin Franklin’s journey towards becoming a prolific author and a prominent figure in American history began when he was just a young boy helping his father make and sell candles. Despite his initial dislike for this work, he remained an avid reader throughout his life. He was indentured as an apprentice to his older brother James, who published a newspaper that did not allow Franklin to submit his own writings. To circumvent this, Franklin began submitting his stories anonymously. At 17, he fled his brother’s print shop and began working for other printers in New York City and Philadelphia.

Franklin was a self-taught writer and thinker who started questioning his Presbyterian upbringing in his teens. He turned towards Deism, a philosophy that advocated for reason-based religious beliefs instead of revelation-based ones. While he maintained a strong belief in God, he discounted the decrees that God supposedly made directly to mankind as “unintelligible”.

In 1727, Franklin and his friends formed the Junto, an organization dedicated to intellectual pursuits. They met on Friday nights to discuss and debate topics related to politics, morals, and science. Franklin’s continuous pursuit of knowledge allowed him to flourish in many fields, including publishing, science, and politics. His story serves as an inspiration to anyone who seeks to learn and grow throughout their life.

Striving for Moral Perfection

Franklin’s quest for ethical behavior included rigorous self-evaluation.

When Benjamin Franklin entered his twenties, he knew he wanted to live a virtuous life. He believed it was possible to structure his life in such a way that he would never commit any moral wrongs. To achieve this, he created a list of thirteen primary virtues that he would try to follow every day.

The virtues included temperance, silence, order, frugality, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, humility, resolution, and industry. Each day, Franklin reviewed the list to ensure he had not strayed from the path of ethical behavior.

Franklin wanted to ensure that he attained these virtues into his daily life. To facilitate his efforts, he created a small book in which he assigned each virtue to be the focus of his attention for one week. Each day, he’d mark the matrix with a black spot if he strayed from his path. Four cycles of thirteen weeks added up to his objective of one year’s worth of weekly self-improvement in these seven virtues.

While Franklin’s method may seem strict, it showed his commitment to achieving ethical behavior through continuous self-evaluation. He understood the importance of constantly striving for improvement and making it habitual. Franklin believed that through practicing daily virtues, he could become a better person and maintain a spot-free ledger.

Franklin’s Daily Routine

Benjamin Franklin’s daily routine involved a disciplined schedule that began with asking himself the important question, “What good should I do this day?” He then planned his day, prayed, and ate breakfast. He worked from 8 a.m. to noon, took a break, and resumed work from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. After supper, he reflected and enjoyed music or conversation before going to bed at 10 p.m. This routine exemplifies Franklin’s dedication to productivity and self-improvement.

Franklin’s Early Years

Franklin’s entrepreneurial success and founding of a subscription library

In 1729, Benjamin Franklin opened his own printing business in Philadelphia, where he sold paper and parchment in his stationery shop. Despite having only one lackadaisical printing competitor, Franklin did well for himself as a printer. In 1730, he wed his support system, Deborah Read, who helped run his printing business.

Franklin ventured into the public sphere by creating a subscription library, securing 50 subscribers who each paid 40 shillings initially and 10 shillings annually for 50 years. The number of subscribers quickly grew through contributions from civic-minded individuals, and thanks to Franklin’s leadership, the venture became “the mother of all the North American subscription libraries,” ultimately spreading to other cities.

Through the library, Franklin found time to study and hone his linguistic abilities, quickly becoming proficient in several languages. Franklin’s early years were characterized by entrepreneurial successes and an ardent devotion to education through his founding of the subscription library.

Poor Richard’s Almanack

Benjamin Franklin published Poor Richard’s Almanack in 1732, which was immensely popular for about 25 years. The book contained practical knowledge, witty remarks, and proverbs. Printed about 10,000 times every year, it garnered a lot of love and appreciation not only in the colonies but also in Europe.

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