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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

Part One, third section

Summary Part One, third section

Several months later, a debate arises in the government over paper money, and Franklin prints his pamphlet entitled The Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency. When the House votes in favor of paper currency, they hire Franklin to print it, which brings him good income. He was later hired to print even more government documents. Meanwhile, he starts to think about marriage. He has trouble finding a wife because the job of a printer is not yet seen as very respectable. He finally weds his old sweetheart, Miss Read, on September 1, 1730. It is her second marriage; her first husband abandoned her. She helps Franklin in his "first project of a public nature": a subscription library, which Franklin founds as the first library in America.

Note: At this point, Franklin stops writing his autobiography so that he can devote himself fully to the events of the Revolution, which are just beginning. He resumes writing after the Revolution, in the early 1780s.

We see that Franklin is beginning to become more prolific as a writer. In this section, he publishes a pamphlet in England and talks about the reasons for its necessity. Franklin clearly sees that writing is a tool through which he can express his ideas and argue points, and he believes that it is this mentality that helps him become such a success later on in life. One of the purposes of the Autobiography is to trace Franklin's intellectual growth as he slowly becomes that great mind as which future generations always remember him. This facet of the Autobiography may in part provide the theoretical groundwork for Henry Adams' autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams. This facet also partly places the work in its 18th-century Age of Reason context, when the perfectibility of the human mind through education was idealized by the intellectual community.

In this section, Franklin proves that he does have a generous side. He follows the religious principle of allowing others to borrow from you when they are in need, and as a result he loans much money to Ralph, none of which is ever repaid. Franklin shows here that although he thinks it necessary to live virtuously, he does not mind giving money to people who do not live virtuously, such as Collins and Ralph. Franklin shows that even though he aspires to be a part of the aristocracy, he is not interested in accruing as much money as possible, and he is willing to be generous and non- judgmental in the loaning of his money.

Franklin states in this section that he becomes a believer in Deism. Loosely explained, Deism emerged during the Age of Reason as a religious philosophy based on a belief in God but not in any particular denominations. To Deists, God was like a watchmaker who creates a watch and then lets its run of its own accord without interfering in its mechanisms. Most Deists believed in a non- interventionist God who created the world and humans but watches them from a distance without affecting the outcome of every action. Deists do not subscribe to any particular Christian denomination. Franklin's subscription to Deism places him intellectually among many prominent thinkers of the later 17th century. Franklin's faith in God but belief in Deism also worked its way into some of his writings, leading him to create the aphorism, "God helps those who help themselves." Along with Deism comes a utilitarian attitude by which Franklin idealizes things that are somehow useful or promote pleasure, utilitarianism itself being another ideal to grow out of the Age of Reason.

Also in this section, Franklin refers sometime to his various virtues and why they are important. This foreshadows the lengthy discussion of virtues that follows in Part Two of the Autobiography. However, Franklin's outline of some virtues here may be the result of poor planning on his part that results in repetition. Franklin wrote the Autobiography in several pieces separated by many years. Part Two was written over a decade after Part One, and it was written at a time when Franklin did not even have Part One with him; he probably had little recollection of what he had even written in Part One. He did, however, with the aide of some letters, remember that he had meant to discuss virtue more completely, thus prompting his decision to outline his list of 13 virtues as we will see in the next section.

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