Through his "Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America," Benjamin Franklin shows that he has a strong curiosity about how other people thought, spoke, and lived. His wide-ranging interests are revealed in the essay as he addresses numerous aspects of society and culture that differ between Native Americans and people...
Through his "Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America," Benjamin Franklin shows that he has a strong curiosity about how other people thought, spoke, and lived. His wide-ranging interests are revealed in the essay as he addresses numerous aspects of society and culture that differ between Native Americans and people from European nations, whether living in Europe, European colonies, or the recently created United States. Franklin published the essay in 1784 while living in Paris and serving as US ambassador to France. His intellectual curiosity is shown by the range of topics considered in the "Remarks," including government, education, religion, and trade. An example about government focuses on Native councils.
Having frequent Occasions to hold public Councils, they have acquired great Order and Decency in conducting them.
Throughout the essay, by contrasting the so-called savagery of Native American people to the civility that the Euro-Americans believe they have, Franklin demonstrates his open-mindedness. He often presents the Native peoples’ ways as equally worthy of respect or even superior. In discussing the councils, he emphasizes courtesy and civility.
To interrupt another, even in common Conversation, is reckoned highly indecent. How different this is from the Conduct of a polite British House of Commons, where scarce a day passes without some Confusion that makes the Speaker hoarse in calling to order.
Franklin’s humor is conveyed by the essay as a whole, which is a satire. Among the devices he uses to convey his humorous, satirical intent are anecdotes about cultural misunderstandings and irony, in which his meaning is the opposite of what he states. An example that combines both is found in the last paragraph, where he presents a Native American man’s understanding of the purpose of church on Sunday. A white American man asserts that his people close the shops and assemble in the “great house” in order “to hear and learn good things.” The Native American man concludes that the real reason is to mislead and cheat his people in trade.
Whatever they pretended of Meeting to learn good things, the real Purpose was to consult, how to cheat Indians in the Price of Beaver. ... If they met so often to learn good things, they would certainly have learnt some before this time. But they are still ignorant.