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In his Autobiography, Franklin comes across as a very pragmatic character. Give two...

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kareemoo | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted May 20, 2013 at 12:58 PM via web

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In his Autobiography, Franklin comes across as a very pragmatic character. Give two examples from the text to illustrate his pragmatism.

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 20, 2013 at 1:56 PM (Answer #1)

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One example of Franklin's pragmatism is the way he cultivated an image of frugality in order to establish himself as a businessman in Philadelphia:

In order to secure my credit and character as a tradesman, I took care not only to be in reality industrious and frugal, but to avoid all appearances to the contrary. I drest plainly; I was seen at no places of idle diversion...Thus being esteem'd an industrious, thriving young man, and paying duly for what I bought, the merchants who imported stationery solicited my custom; others proposed supplying me with books, and I went on swimmingly. 

Franklin, of course, values frugality and industry in their own right, but as he points out, it was very important in a "face to face society" like Philadelphia to cultivate an image and a good reputation. This was how, Franklin tells his readers, he was able to become a successful businessman. 

Another example is his account of how he dealt with a family that hoped he would marry their daughter. Franklin was interested, but was disappointed when the family revealed that they lacked the ability to pay for a proper dowry (in Franklin's case, enough to pay off the debts he had amassed in beginning his printing house.) Franklin's suggestion, which seems cold to modern readers, was not that he marry the girl irrespective of dowry, but that the family "might mortgage their house in the loan-office." They refused. Here Franklin reveals himself as a tough, pragmatic negotiator, who, like many people of his time, entered into marriage for reasons not really related to love.

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