The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

by Benjamin Franklin

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How is Franklin's idea of virtue connected to Winthrop's "A Model of Christian Charity"?

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Benjamin Franklin’s idea of virtue connects to John Winthrop’s “A Model of Christian Charity” because they advocate similar behaviors like frugality and humility.

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In The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin lays out his ideas about virtue. In the book, Franklin declares that he once embarked on a “bold and arduous project.” The purpose of the project was to attain “moral perfection.” To live a completely virtuous life, Franklin had to identify the virtues that he needed to embrace. Franklin lists 13 central virtues, including temperance, order, justice, moderation, frugality, and humility. As Franklin carries out his plan to incorporate the virtues into his regular life, he realizes something. He discovers that he’s full of faults. This recognition could be considered a virtue because it indicates humility.

In his sermon, Winthrop claims that all people are “ranked into two sorts”: rich and poor. This way of organizing humankind links to Franklin’s notion of order. Like Franklin, Winthrop sees a rhyme and reason to the arrangement of society.

Winthrop also emphasizes humility and moderation. The rich person should not be carried away with their wealth and resources. There might come a time when a rich person will find themselves in a “sudden danger” and require a poor person to help them out.

Another virtue that connects the two authors is frugality. Franklin is an advocate of carefully spending money and not being a wasteful consumer. Winthrop, in his own way, champions something similar. If a person has an “abundance,” they shouldn’t hoard it for themselves. If they're virtuous, they should give it to someone who needs it and can put it to use.

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