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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

Part Three, first section

Summary Part Three, first section


Franklin is writing Part Three from his home in America. He is writing in August 1788, about four years after ceasing work on Part Two and 17 years after completing Part One.

Franklin in 1731, begins a project "great and extensive" to create a new political party with international appeal. He writes a note outlining his political beliefs as they relate to parties, which he believes carry on and effect "wars, revolutions, etc." He thinks that someone ought to found a international Party for Virtue, open only to the wise. Franklin begins forming this party by preparing a condensed set of the essential principles of every major religion (it includes such basics as the existence of God, the power of God and the immortality of the soul). All the people in the Party for Virtue would have to subscribe to the thirteen virtues from Part Two as well as these religious principles, and they would each have to form a plan for helping mankind. However, due to constraints of time and the necessity to focus on other issues, his ideas for such a party were abandoned.

In 1732, Franklin begins Poor Richard's Almanac, a publication that lasts 25 years. Franklin founds it out of the intent to begin something "both entertaining and useful." He also wants something to instruct "the common people," which he does via his many aphorisms. One issue, for instance, quips, "It's hard for an empty sack to stand upright." He uses parts of his newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette, to the same educational purpose. The paper, with its circulation of 1,500, comprises over half of Franklin's income. He makes sure at all time to keep the paper free from libel and abuse, and he never allows private arguments to make their way into his presses.

As he moves further into adulthood, Franklin takes up more political issues, advocating publicly the education of women, particularly in accounting. He flourishes intellectually, learning French, Italian, Spanish and Latin, and he advocates that Latin be taught in schools as the last language rather than the first after English. He plays chess regularly. He also gives support to his local Presbyterian church, although he withdraws that support when he realizes that the preacher plagiarizes his sermons.

His life is far from perfect, however. He is particularly hurt, for instance, when his son dies at the age of four, although he does not give the event any more than brief mention. Despite hardships, he does return to Boston for a visit to see his family, and he makes amends with his brother, James helping him with printing types.

Back in Philadelphia, Franklin oversees the branching out of the Junto, his debating club, which expands to include different chapters in other parts of the nation. Meanwhile, he keeps up his printing work, becoming the Clerk of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania in 1736. The following year, he becomes the Deputy Postmaster of Philadelphia, a job which allows him to see that his paper, the Gazette, is delivered by mail. In 1753, Franklin rises to the top of the mail delivery world, becoming Postmaster General of the United States.

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