In the Americanization of Benjamin Franklin Gordon S. Wood
portrays the life of Benjamin Franklin. Through his various life experiences Wood is able examine Benjamin Franklin and give a better understanding of who this man actually was. Franklin was a man who aspired to do something great, something that would change the world. He came from Boston, a life of “poverty and obscurity in which he was born and bred,” he left it behind for Pennsylvania where he was able to create, “a state of affluence and some degree of reputation in the world.” (Franklin23)
Benjamin Franklin saw the new world as an expanding nation that would soon outnumber Europe. He sought to create a prosperous life for the people of the new world. At ﬁrst he believed in the imperialism of the British Empire, but soon began to question their rule. From there he began to become a Patriot and sought after the separation from British control. Through all this you can see how Franklin began his life as a British loyalist, but through “Americanization” his thoughts evolved only helping create the nation we live in today. “Franklin could scarcely restrain the excitement as he contemplated the future of this proliﬁc New World that would eventually outnumber the Old.” (Wood71)
Franklin was a “true-blue Englishman,” he loved Britain and
believed that colonists were every bit British subjects. The people all shared common interests and believed that the New Word could only beneﬁt from British control. He wanted to create a union in which all of the colonies and colonists would come together and work with each other. His plan was to create this union and send it to Britain to have them establish a parliament so the colonies could be represented, but the colonial assemblies didn’t want anything to do with the union. The colonists didn’t want a few people determining the outcome of their lives. “The colonists themselves,… knew better the needs of the colonies for defense than did the distant parliament.”(Wood125) Britain saw the increasingly expansion and wealth of the colonies and began to tax them. Franklin only wanted the colonists to be treated equally as to those in the British Empire. When Franklin went to London he just grew more impressed with the British Government. “He had developed an emotional commitment to the Crown’s empire.”(Wood129) Colonists were wondering if he was ever going to return to America.
When Franklin returned to America he lost most of his support. Colonists felt that “his commitment to the empire was seriously clouding his political judgment.”(Wood140) After the 7-year war Britain placed a stamp act upon the colonists, creating great hatred towards the empire.
At ﬁrst Franklin was all for the stamp act and favored the opinions of the British Empire. The colonists began to blame Franklin for the stamp act and threatened to attack him. “His enemies in Pennsylvania accused him not only of framing the Stamp Act but also of proﬁting from it.”(Wood142) He had lost his newspaper business as less people believed in him. Franklin only wanted Britain and the colonies to be considered as a one but he noticed that there was a change in the relationship between Britain and the colonies. Englishmen felt superior then the colonists “ the term American often conjured up images of unreﬁned, if not barbarous, persons, degenerate and racially debased.” (Wood143) Franklin began to believe that a compromise or even representation in parliament was far and in-between for the colonies. He felt sympathy for the American opposition and made it clear that Parliament had no right to lay a stamp tax on the colonists without proper representation.
Franklin began to change his opinion on the imperial control of the British Empire. The Hutchinson letters were published in Massachusetts and it called for an increase in the number of troops to help control the American rebellion. When Franklin published them in England tension grew between the two sides “angering the government and by encouraging the colonists in their resistance, (Franklin) did not seem to care anymore.”(Wood145) The English government didn’t want anything
to do with Franklin anymore and thought of him as another “unruly colonists.” When the extensive conciliation or Chatham proposal was brought to the House of Lords, they rejected it without even giving it a second look. Franklin was outraged that they rejected it in such an abrupt manner that his anger grew for British Empire. Franklin was so irate that he told his American conﬁdants that England “had become rotten to the core; in fact, continuation of the union with England might infect America and destroy the glorious public virtue so predominant in our rising country.”(Franklin150) Leaving Britain behind Franklin became one of the most patriotic and passionate leaders.
When Franklin got back to America the ﬁghting between the
colonists and British had already began. He wasn’t going to ﬁght in the war or lead an army but he sought after an alliance between France, which would help strengthen the colonies efforts. Franklin’s political success started in France where he was able to persuade the French government to become allies against the British. This not only strengthened America’s relationship with France but also with other European nations. It was said that the connection with Europe was a huge turning point in the war against Britain. “Franklin was indispensable to the success of the revolution abroad.” (Wood200)
Franklin always wanted to be in a position of power where he could
shape events on a world stage. He attempted to help change the way Britain went about it’s business but soon realized that his attempts were pointless. Once he realized that the British Empire was only hurting the colonies he began to show patriotism towards the New World in which he was born. Franklin was not ashamed that he once favored the British rule but eventually understood that there was a better life and a new beginning to be had. Franklin’s life was much like that of all colonists during this time. They came to the New World with nothing under their name and worked until their dreams were reached. Franklin was Americanized through the many events or lack of events that Britain put upon on the colonies. If the British Empire would have allowed for representation we could have had a totally different scenario. Fortunately we were able to create our own country in which Franklin had one of the most important roles.
Biographies of great men help us understand how they become so great. We can learn so much about the colonist’s separation from the British Empire by just looking at Franklin’s life. His life story is so inspirational, coming from a very poor family and creating a very prosperous and successful life should be everyone’s dream. We can look up to great individual’s like Franklin and aspire to be like him.
Woods didn’t want to just name historical facts and the
surrounding events of Franklin’s life but wanted to examine him as an individual. He wanted to see how the events “Americanized” the most inﬂuential founding father.