Why Benjamin Franklin is the Archetypal American

English: Lesson 50

 “Is there anyone you think is more of the archetypal American than Franklin?”

Benjamin Franklin was an industrious, hard-working man who spent his life striving to become a better person and a better servant to others. His life revolved around improving his character so that he would become a more humble, sincere, resolute, and just human. He kept a journal in which he went through and practiced 13 virtues throughout the whole year. Most people would find this already difficult, to be constantly reminding yourself to practice these virtues, but Franklin did not stop there. Franklin was also a genius inventor, politician, founding father, prominent author, printer, and scientist. What is even more incredible is that he didn’t just dabble his hands a little in each of these fields but immersed himself all the way. His hard work ethic and entrepreneurial mind made him a master in every one of these fields, and he became well known throughout all of America, and the world, for his work.

When you think of a list of people that represent America, George Washington usually comes to mind, and I would have almost forgotten Franklin. But Franklin’s legacy still lives on to this day and that is when you realize he is the perfect archetypal American. He is most remembered today for his book of aphorisms called Poor Richard’s Almanac, which many people still remember and repeat to their children today. A few examples that I have grown up hearing are:

“Haste makes waste.” 

 “For want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe, the horse was lost; for want of the horse the rider is lost.”

  “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

These catchy phrases are just a part of Franklin’s legacy, he was also an inventor who contributed many wonderful inventions that still live to this day. The most famous of these are the Franklin stove, lightning rod, and bifocals. Many versions of the Franklin stove are still available today, and everybody has heard of a lightning rod, and many people have benefited from bifocals. Franklin was a master at finding problems and then working out a solution, and during his lifetime people quickly recognized and took advantage of it.

In Franklin’s autobiography, he writes how people would have trouble raising funds and getting people to subscribe to a project unless they consulted Franklin. One person who had this very problem Franklin remembers in his autobiography. In 1751 a Dr. Thomas Bond was trying to establish a hospital in Philadelphia when he came to see Franklin.

“At length he came to me with the compliment that he found there was no such thing as

carrying a public-spirited project through without my being concern’d in it. “For,” says he

“I am often ask’d by those to whom I propose subscribing, Have you consulted Franklin

upon this business? And what does he think of it? And when I tell them that I have not

(supposing it rather out of your line), they do not subscribe, but say they will consider of

it.” I enquired into the nature and probable utility of his scheme, and receiving from him a

very satisfactory explanation, I not only subscrib’d to it myself, but engag’d heartily in the

design of procuring subscriptions from others.”

Although Franklin was no expert in hospitals, his advice was greatly valued and appreciated. Looking back at his long resume I can think of no other man who is more worthy of the title, archetypical American. He embodies everything the American people are supposed to be, save his lack of religious beliefs, and more. Franklin had America’s interests at heart and strove to make the country a more free and prosperous country.

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