The Portrait of America According to Benjamin Franklin

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Table of Contents

  • It's Easy to Accept America
  • America is a land of opportunity
  • Benjamin Franklin was Right

It’s Easy to Accept America

Benjamin Franklin’s (1706-1790) essay titled Information to Those Who Would Remove to America (1782) is his response to the Europeans’ and also potential immigrants’ mistaken imaginations about America. To prevent foreigners from disappointment of fruitless yet expensive journey, Benjamin Franklin explained America and its habitants to Europeans. America was a land for laboring people whose knowledge and abilities needed to be useful for the society and only such ones would be respected and suitably rewarded. Serving in Europe as a diplomat for an American Colonies gave Franklin the opportunity to get familiarized with the popular misconceptions about the America among the Europeans. He found that what made America attractive among the foreigners was perceiving it as a rich land wiling to reward the resourcefulness yet with inhabitants who were ignorant in case of the Sciences. This is why foreigners thought that possessing talents in fine arts was enough to become rich and respectable in America. Moreover, it was believed among Strangers that holding the offices in America was profitable and the Natives probably lacked competence to fill them all, hence Europeans wanted to obtain those offices and easily become rich themselves. Last but not least, mentioned misconception was related to Governments, which were thought to encourage migration to America by defraying newcomers’ voyage and offering them lands, Workers and livelihood. As Franklin commented: “These are all wild Imaginations”.According to first misconception mentioned above, Americans, as Franklin explained, were neither unduly rich nor poor. There was rather general mediocrity.

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Natives had to be industrious and they usually cultivated their own lands, worked as handcrafters or merchandisers to provide themselves livelihood. Merely few people were rich enough to be able to live idly. Thus only the immigrants, who were willing and ready to work hard and with useful employment were most welcomed there. Regarding the Sciences and the supposed ignorance, Franklin pointed strangers that, at that time, there were already nine universities existing in America, all hiring skilled professors and provide training in the languages, divinity, law or physic. Not only the natives but also the newcomers had a chance of employment, however, there were no vacancies offices, so strangers, having a means of living, should not leave their countries relying on hope of obtaining such offices easily. Furthermore, to prevent the dependence, servility and corruption, holding the civil offices in America was not profitable as to not make it desirable. Benjamin Franklin placed in his essay the 36th Article of the Constitution of Pennsylvania to favor it; he also assured that this idea was present in almost all the United States. Hence, relying on becoming rich because of holding the offices was not advisable as it was not possible. Benjamin Franklin emphasized that newcomers are indeed welcomed in America as there was enough space for everyone.

America is a land of opportunity

The land was void of inhabitants thereupon it was cheap and every laboring man could easily established themselves there. However, the reports about the Government offering to the newcomers the compensation of costs for the transport from Europe, free land, Workers, livestock and tools necessary to cultivate a land were untrue and every newcomer had to work to establish his position and to provide himself a livelihood. Franklin argued that every man arriving to America without bringing his fortune with him, had to be industrious and possess a useful employment. As he wrote: “[in America] people do not inquire concerning a Stranger, What is he? but, What can he do?” what means that only the ones who were profitable members of society, possessed useful skills, worked hard and behaved well could be respectable and suitably rewarded. Due to the cheap lands, America offered many possibilities but only for the ones who were willing to work and cultivate the land. Benjamin Franklin counseled to the newcomers to work for others at the very beginning and to save money. Subsequently, one could be able to buy own land and become a wealthy farmer. What is more, the price for the acre of land was increasing proportionately to increasing number of inhabitants, and over time the value of purchased land could be much higher and it could be sold with a great profit. The farmers in America also produced a great amount of wool and flax, but none was exported as it was produced in domestic manufacturers and used within the country. Franklin also claimed that America was in need of artisans to provide houses, furniture and utensils for increasing number of inhabitants encouraged to live there by the healthiness of the climate, plenty of provisions and the incentive for the early marriages. Even without possessing the skills in the mechanic arts one could start a work as a servant and with time and hard work become a master. In America mechanic arts were not associated with suffering humiliation in low-status work as in Europe, but with acquiring the respect. Also, living in the United States facilitated poor families getting their children trained by the artisans, as there was no fear of creating a competition as it was in Europe. What is more, it was popular among artisans to give money to parents for the opportunity of teaching the apprentice. The master was obligated not only to instruct a child in the Art of Profession but also to teach one to read and write and meet basic needs, in other words the master provided for his apprentice.

Benjamin Franklin was Right

According to Franklin, America was a land of labor, so the vices provoked by the idleness usually did not occur there. In view of the industriousness, people had a strong morals and virtues which resulted in rarity of bad examples to the youth. Moreover, the religiousness was highly respected and practiced in the United States. Franklin claimed that there was no atheism in his country and it was full of mutual kindness which resulted in prosperity sent by the Divine Being. All things considered, Benjamin Franklin in his essay depicted America as a land of great opportunities, in which one can establish oneself in business, nurse for the family, purchase a land and become a respectable citizen esteemed for one’s work. As it is pointed out in The British Critic and Quarterly Theological Review, this description was accurate and authentic. Franklin also emphasized that the value of knowledge is proportional to its utility, and that the talents in works of art may not be as suitable rewarded in America, as they are in Europe. Every man arriving to America should rely on his skills or prepare himself for a hard work, then he could truly benefit from Healthiness of the climate, provisions, mutual kindness and prosperity.

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