The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

by Benjamin Franklin

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Could you explain how Benjamin Franklin resorted to the virtue of industry to achieve his American Dream? Why did he write so much about this virtue throughout the first and second part of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin? Please support your analysis with examples.

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It is important to consider the virtue of industry within the context of Franklin's background. He was the fifteenth child and youngest son born to his father, who made a living as a candle and soap maker. Raising such a large family with such limited means was certainly challenging. Benjamin Franklin began school at age eight; although he showed promise as a writer from the start, his father could not afford to fund his education for long. Thus, Franklin's formal education was complete at age ten.

His story has humble origins, yet he became one of the most influential men in American history. Despite beginning his life with such limited resources, Franklin became an author, inventor, and Founding Father. He helped draft both the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Industry, then, is a virtue Franklin valued because he realized the effect it had on his own life. He credits his parents for their industry, purchasing a piece of marble for their graves later in his life that praises their "constant labor and industry." Though Josiah and Abiah Franklin never achieved financial success, Franklin recalls the way his father was "very handy in the use of ... tools" and that people in town "showed a good deal of respect for [Josiah's] judgment and advice." He recalls that his mother had "likewise an excellent constitution" and that she "suckled all her ten children." (Abiah was Josiah's second wife.) Franklin values the daily labors his parents invested into their family, their community, and their tasks.

Franklin began working as soon as his education was finished; he first worked alongside his father and then became an apprentice for his older brother. Franklin recalls that during this time, his father sometimes took him on walks to observe the industry in the world around him: he observed bricklayers, braziers, and turners. This instilled an appreciation of various types of industry within Franklin, and he comments that "it has ever since been a pleasure ... to see good workmen handle their tools."

From a young age, Franklin recognized that industry is central to the promises of America. By pursuing worthwhile goals and adhering to a faithful work ethic, Franklin realized the transformative power of of an industrious spirit. In many ways, this spirit of industry is central to the foundational principles Franklin helped draft in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Franklin believes that "the pursuit of Happiness" is the hope of all Americans with an industrious spirit. His belief in this virtue formed the beginnings of the American Dream, which is a vision that many still try to capture in our modern world.

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