The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Ambition Quotes Page 3
How we cite our quotes:
[B]esides the Pay for immediate Service as a Clerk, the Place gave me a better Opportunity of keeping up an Interest among the Members, which secur'd to me the Business of Printing the Votes, Laws, Paper Money, and other occasional Jobs for the Public, that on the whole were very profitable. (3.16)
The kind of ambition Franklin shares with us is always based in practicality. He sees value in this promotion on many levels: it's an immediate raise, but it also has all this networking potential to get other jobs and meet new clients. He approaches this government position as a businessman. And yet, it doesn't seem like Franklin's taking advantage of anyone or stepping on any toes. He's just acting on his instincts in a reasonable way.
I would not however insinuate that my Ambition was not flatter'd by all these Promotions. It certainly was. For considering my low Beginning they were great Things to me. And they were still more pleasing, as being so many spontaneous Testimonies of the public's good Opinion, and by me entirely unsolicited. (3.49)
Franklin's only human – whose ego wouldn't be stroked by these kinds of promotions and raises? This language shows him as someone who's not afraid to admit his ambitious tendencies, or his hope for better things, while still being mindful of his origins, where he came from, and how hard he's worked to get where he is. What Franklin values here, too, is that he doesn't ask for this kind of honor and increased responsibility, people are just giving it to him. That's a pretty subtle way of seeing one's ambition pay off.
I had not been previously acquainted with the Project [of an honorary escort], or I should have prevented it, being naturally averse to the assuming of State on any Occasion, and I was a good deal chagrin'd at their Appearance, as I could not avoid their accompanying me. (3.117)
In this moment, Franklin says he's embarrassed to be publicly honored like this. It's funny that he is ambitious about effecting change in the world around him, founding institutions and sharing his inventions and ideas, but he's less excited about a bunch of guys with swords escorting him around. Some people would be all about this public acknowledgment of their contributions. We can see this attitude as reminding us of Franklin's practicality and the humility that he often, if not always, practices – and how those qualities are so bound up with the real, human ambition he does possess.