Franklin Autobiography is a story of a man "of the Third Estate" of how he, relying only on his own, reached the knowledge and glory. Without any affectation, Franklin tells about his life, comments on his successes and criticizes the mistakes. Ideological diagram of autobiography is the following: first, Franklin uses the rules of practical morality developed by him to achieve financial independence, and then he uses the material well-being for the further enlightenment of
his mind and for the activity to benefit the society. The pathos, as well contemporaries felt, was in the fact that the main character of the autobiography, the young bourgeoisie, rose not by renouncing his class and moving to the aristocracy, and not as a "rogue" achieving his goal by deception and humiliation before the power of the world, but within the framework of daily life practice of the bourgeoisie, and of its outstanding representative, who was recognized even by the enemies. The whole autobiography can be divided in several parts which represent certain period of time in life of Franklin.
Boston period (1706-1723)
Fifteenth (and not the last) child in the family of strong Puritan Boston soap-boiler, immigrated to the United States only in 1683, Benjamin Franklin visited Boston elementary school. Due to financial difficulties in the vast family of Franklin, he was unable to continue his education and to become a priest in the future, as was planned by his father, who was going to dedicate his tenth son to God as a living "tithe". Instead, after walking for a while in a private school for future traders, where he was taught only to read and write, Benjamin at the age of ten joined the family business, but as the production of soap and candles interested him it in the slightest degree, two years later he was given as an apprentice to a half-brother James, one of the Boston printers. In the printed craft Benjamin Franklin, according to his remarks, "has been very successful" for the soul enjoyed free access to book production. The literary activity of this "only not a poet", nevertheless started with "a pair of random ballads", which he himself printed and copies of which successfully sold. After this, however, his father derided his poems and informed the son that "the rhymers" usually become "beggars", Franklin obediently went to a prose and soon achieved the ease of his feather, which he declares in "Autobiography", "has been very useful in life and was the principal mean of elevation more than once". The first prosaic experience he published, hiding behind the pseudonym "Mrs. Silence Dogood", in the newspaper of his brother and the boss. Disclosure of hoaxes and exposing the true author (at the fourteenth
edition of the series) did not contribute to the growth of mutual understanding between the proprietor, who became a simpleton, and the willful apprentice, and a year later Benjamin Franklin broke the conditions of employment and fled to Philadelphia to start a new life.
The first Philadelphia period and London period (1723-1726)
Ingratiated himself with the governor of Pennsylvania, Sir William Keith, a young printer had the opportunity to go to London, in order to perfect his craft, to purchase new equipment and to establish the necessary business contacts - it was important to the successful opening of his own printing press. This road was paid by the governor, but in London, Franklin found that he should not have relied too much on the generosity of the patron. However, he was not discouraged; quickly found a job in one of London's famous printing houses, Franklin during the daytime honed his skills printer and as released, he tried to make the acquaintance with the famous English writers, scientists and philosophers.
The second Pennsylvania period (1726-1757)
He returned to Philadelphia in 1726. For some time forced to work on strangers for food, then he was determined to succeed in life, for what he amounted and scrupulously abided a work plan over himself. He developed the virtue and eradicated the shortcomings, specially dividing his notebook on two sides, and daily noting in the relevant section the number of blunders committed at one or another part (laziness, verbosity, etc.), methodically and with a fervor which was worth of his ancestors, the Puritans. Within three years, Franklin bought and actually brought back to life "Pennsylvania Newspaper," opening a special printing house for it (i.e. established a newspaper publisher) and get a paid position of a public printer of Pennsylvania. In 1730 he married Deborah Reed, who met back in the day of his arrival in Philadelphia as a fugitive apprentice from Boston (their marriage lasted for forty-four years - until the death of Deborah in 1774). From 1732 to 1744 Franklin founded the city’s fire department and the country's first public library, was appointed to a chief postmaster of the colonies, began to
publish a magazine, organized the American Philosophical Society, invented the Franklin stove, and made a project of the University of Pennsylvania. Also he conceived and realized an annual output of parody "Poor Richard's Almanac" – variegated mixture of weather predictions, signs, funny poems, culinary recipes, medical notes, proverbs, anecdotes and valuable tips on how to save time and "make money", addressed to those who had neither the one nor the other. All this time, Franklin was working constantly, following the motto, which he formulated in 1725: "To be useful to mankind, your country, your friends and yourself." By 1748, he "made" enough money to pass control of his various enterprises into another hands and direct his energy in two certain streams: science and policy. In each of these areas, he has achieved international recognition. In 1746, Franklin already began to conduct experiments with electricity, and five years later in London published the first of many editions of his "experiments and observation". Being far from inclining of ignoring the possibility of practical application of scientific discoveries, he had in 1753 proposed to put on the buildings' ‘pointed staves’ in order to prevent the damage that causes lightning and this his proposal was accepted worldwide. Yes, the man shown in one hundred dollars invented the lightning rod!
Short overview of the other periods included in Autobiography
Artists and poets of the XVIII century, made a lightning flash the symbol of political freedom, and Franklin is now firmly associated with this image. Since his proposal to Congress in Albany in 1754 to unite the colonies and to his impressive speech on the adoption of the Constitution in 1787, Franklin played a key role in the struggle for the independence of the colonies and the formation of a new nation. In the 1755-1756 years, during the French and Indian War, Franklin, versing in trading affairs, provided the supplies to the army of General Braddock by way of the transport and ammunition. As commander of the militia, he supervised the construction of forts in Pennsylvania, and from 1757 to 1762 was a representative of the province of Pennsylvania in London.
After the Autobiography
The last thirty years of the life of Franklin, which were not included in the ‘Autobiography’, reflected the peak of his political, diplomatic and literary career, the pinnacle of his glory. After the adoption by Britain the Stamp Act, Franklin, again sent to London this time as an authorized representative of all thirteen American colonies, on their behalf protested against the House of Commons. He returned to Philadelphia in 1775 and was a delegate to the Second American Congress as a member of the committee who worked on the "Declaration of Independence". Thomas Jefferson remarked at the time that Franklin was not committed to write "Declaration" only because he could not help but certainly put into the text a couple of quibbles. The following year, he, as a minister of the Congress, was adopted by the court of French King Louis XVI and captivated Parisian society. He has achieved the strong support of France for his homeland. In 1781, Franklin again sailed to France to sign a peace treaty with Great Britain, which he signed with John Jay and John Adams two years earlier. In Paris he became interested in experiments with animal magnetism of Mesmer, and he enthusiastically watched the flight of the Montgolfier in a balloon. Leaving the diplomatic post in 1785, Franklin returned to Philadelphia, consisted in the state government, and was elected as a president of the Pennsylvania abolitionist society and delegated to sign the Constitution. In 1788, "under the influence of constant and severe pain", Benjamin Franklin retired from public affairs. The last two years of his life were engaged in literary work - the work on the "Autobiography" and writing political pamphlets.
Roy Quick, “The selections from the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin”, 2014