Americanization Of Benjamin Franklin

Topics: Stamp Act 1765, Benjamin Franklin, American Revolution Pages: 6 (1759 words) Published: March 22, 2015
A Man Becomes a Patriot, and a Land Becomes a Nation
The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin by Gordon S. Wood illustrates the shift from dependence upon the “mother land” of Britain, to the independence of a newly born nation, and the effects these changes had socially, economically, and politically for the people of this era.

An evident division of the people emerged during the early 1700s, and provided little diversity and social mobility amongst the colonists. The rich, though a minority, triumphed over the majority, who were poor. Benjamin Franklin was born into a large and modest family, the fifteenth of seventeen children; he grew up underprivileged, but with hard work and determination, made it further than anyone in his social standing could have ever dreamed. Franklin’s father was a candle maker, which was considered “one of the lowliest of the artisan crafts. (Wood 17)” When he was of a young age, his father decided that a formal education would be too expensive, and entered him instead into an apprenticeship as a soap and candle maker. Apprenticeships at that time were regarded as “the principle means by which most young men prepared for the world. (Wood 18)” Franklin, however, had other ideas about his preparation for the world, and after a short amount of time, convinced his father that he would thrive better in the printing trade. Franklin chose a craft that required the most amount of intellect for his time, but was rarely given the credit it deserved. Printing required an education composed of spelling, reading, and writing, which was rare for that time. “Writing competently was such a rare skill that anyone who could do it well immediately required importance. (Wood 20)” A gentlemen, as opposed to a commoner, could be defined easily by majority of the colonists. John Adams said that someone who was common was easy to spot, because they were often “from ordinary parents and could scarcely write {their} name.” Gordon believes that a gentleman was able to be distinguished as such if he “came from being independent in a world of dependencies, learned in a world only partially literate and leisured in a world of laborers. (Gordon 38)”

While gentlemen shared a sense of freedom and entitlement to rights in the colonies, indentured apprentices did not. Gordon states that this large “unfree population” couldn’t enjoy simple luxuries like getting married, gambling, playing cards, or even leaving without their master’s permission. As more and more immigrants from Germany and Ireland began to pour into the colonies, the number of indentured servants rose exponentially. According to Gordon, at least half of the population of Philadelphia was composed of indentured servants, as this is how many acquired their passage to the New World. These new immigrants, not all of which were servants, expanded the social structure by introducing new commerce, trade, and manufacturing. These people could not be put into either the cluster of rich or poor, but instead, found themselves in the middle. Franklin became the average “middling” man, because he “possessed the attributes of a gentleman while still remaining one of the common working people. (Wood 42)”

The economy boomed due to new found raw materials, trade routes, and manufacturing businesses that appeared throughout the land. The wealthiest artisans could at last receive the opportunity to interact with the “upper social ranks. (Wood 43)” Though this mingling of the classes became more popular, it was halted by hostilities to ideas such as Franklin’s notion of paper currency. The rich feared paper currency because it put their income and inheritance into reality, and encouraged them to work in order to maintain their titles. The poor supported the notion, because it provided more jobs, and allowed them to possess physically their incomes and savings. Franklin’s thoughts shifted closer and closer to those of a gentleman. He began...

Cited: Wood, Gordon S. The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin. New York: Penguin, 2004. Print.
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