Childhood and Apprenticeship


- "a second edition to correct some faults of the first" (22).

- literally, a tabula rasa, but with the advantage of revising errata.

- Franklin's conception of salvation: "a new & more perfect Edition" (23).

 Humble persuasion: What persona does Franklin adopt as narrator?

- the anecdotes of a garrulous, unpretentious old man prone to go off on rambling digressions. (Franklin wrote Part One when he was 65.)

"Hereby, too, I shall indulge the inclination so natural in old men, to be talking of themselves and their own past actions; and I shall indulge it without being tiresome to others, who, through respect to age, might conceive themselves obliged to give me a hearing, since this may be read or not as any one pleases. And, lastly (I may as well confess it, since my denial of it will be believed by nobody), perhaps I shall a good deal gratify my own vanity." (22)


Tribute to Family:

- Franklin himself was the latest in a long line of franklins (franklin: A freeholder; in 14-15th c. the designation of a class of landowners, of free but not noble birth, and ranking next below the gentry.) (OED) (Remember the Franklin from The Canterbury Tales?)


-  "I was the youngest son of the youngest son for five generations back."  (24)
-  freemen: tradespeople: blacksmiths, dyers, scriveners
-  His Uncle Thomas was "a scrivener" who died just before Ben was born .
-  His namesake, Uncle Benjamin, was a would be poet who could also write short-hand.

- Parents:

- "Josiah, my father, married young, and carried his wife with three children into New England, about 1682." (25) : a religious Nonconformist and ‘a tallow-chandler and sope-boiler’ by trade
- Mother: Abiah Folger, daughter of Peter Folger, one of the first settlers of New England who came to the New World in pursuit of "liberty of conscience".
- Franklin was the youngest son in a family of seventeen (!), born in Boston (1706)

Early Education (Family):

Describe how Franklin’s parents supplemented his education:


Franklin was initially educated to be a clergyman in a grammar school, but very early in life he was pulled out of that school and put in another for writing and arithmetic. He was pulled out of that school at the age of ten and put to work in his father's chandler shop. (25-26)


Franklin hated the work and dreamed of running away from home to become a sailor. Even so, he loved his parents and learned essential lessons from them.

Rather than telling him what to do, his parents taught him values using anecdotes and maxims. They told him stories which illustrated a lesson, and so Franklin does too. In this case, he tells of the time that he and his friends ripped off a construction site in order to get materials to build a wharf on a pond, but he got caught and punished: the lesson he learned was that "Nothing useful can be made by dishonest means." (26) (Franklin Maxims from Poor Richard's Almanac)

- Dinner Table Conversations: Franklin's father also made it a point to invite fellow business people to join his family for dinner at his house, so Ben got to know much about the town just from paying attention at dinner and joining into conversations with his father's friends. (26)

- Role Models: look at the memorial that Franklin raised over the grave of his parents. What made Franklin’s parents heroes in his mind? (26-27)

Without an estate, or any gainful employment,
By constant labour and industry,
With God's blessing,
They maintained a large family
And brought up thirteen children
And seven grandchildren


Apprenticeship as a Printer (age 12-16)

How did Franklin make himself into a talented writer?

- Reading: From the age nine to twelve, Franklin progressed from Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and Plutarch's Lives to DeFoe's Essays on Projects, and then by age sixteen he was reading  John Locke's Essay on Human Understanding, Addison and Steele's The Spectator and Xenephon's Memorable Sayings of Socrates.

- Franklin imitates Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress particularly in this section of his Autobiography: mixing narration with dialogue

- At age 12, he was indentured as a Printer's Apprentice to work for his brother for nine years. He quickly learned all the tools of the trade.

- He read more, everything he could get his hands on.

- Writing: He tried his hand at poetry, imitating some of the ballads he read: "The Lighthouse Tragedy", "Teach: The Death of Blackbeard"

- After his father told him that his future as a poet was limited, Franklin focused on developing his prose style.


- Public Speaking: He got into the habit of "confuting disputatiously" with his friend Collins about issues like "the propriety of educating the female sex in learning" (28). In his debates with his friend, Franklin learned very early in life one of the keys to his later success: avoiding 'abrupt contradiction and positive argumentation(30):  What is that?

Men should be taught as if you taught them not,
And things unknown propos'd as things forgot; (Pope)


- Instead, Franklin played the part of the ‘humble inquirer and doubter’ and developed the habit of speaking with ‘modest diffidence’.  (31) What made this speaking style so successful for him in dealing with others?

- Later, he got a hold of copies of The Spectator and imitated some of the "sentiments" he found in that magazine. To increase his vocabulary, he would convert these prose arguments into verse. (28)

How did Franklin free himself from his apprenticeship?

- The New England Courant (1720)


- Submitting articles to his brother's paper anonymously. (31-32)

- Why did problems develop between Ben and his older brother James? (31-32)

- Ben was planning from the first to get out of the apprenticeship at the earliest possible moment. (See his frugality and vegetarianism (29-30))

- James' jealousy of his younger brother's talent?

- James violence?

- How did Franklin take advantage of his brother's trouble with the authorities to get his indentures broken? (32)

- Later Franklin regarded this action as the first major 'erratum' of his life. Why? (32-33)

Flight from Boston:

- What other reason, besides his brother's enmity, made it important for Franklin to get out of town? (33)

- How did his friend Collins arrange to get Ben passage on a boat bound for New York? (33)

- Describe Franklin's adventures during his 'progress' to a new home (33-34)

- Describe his state of mind upon arrival in Philadelphia (34-35)