The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Ambition Quotes Page 1
How we cite our quotes:
I went however with the Governor and Colonel French, to a Tavern the Corner of Third Street, and over the Madeira he propos'd my Setting up my Business […] both he and Colonel French assur'd me I should have their Interest and Influence in procuring the Public-Business of both Governments. (1.40)
As a young guy Franklin's susceptible to flattery and status, and when high-ranking men suggest he start up his own business, Franklin's all ears. Governor Keith and Colonel French tempt Franklin with ideas about government-related success and with Madeira. Liquor is just as convincing as their ideas for his promotion, but even more delicious is the idea that he'd have such important "Influence" working on his behalf.
The Governor treated me with great Civility, show'd me his Library, which was a very large one, and we had a good deal of Conversation about Books and Authors. This was the second Governor who had done me the Honor to take Notice of me, which to a poor Boy like me was very pleasing. (1. 46)
Franklin puts himself down, saying he's just a "poor Boy," but for a simple guy he's meeting a lot of high-ranking officials. Here, Franklin achieves a kind of temporary equality with this governor by using the cultural capital – his self-education – that he possesses. In other words, he's able to talk to the governor like an equal because he's done such an impressive amount of reading.
But from this Incident I thought it likely, that if I were to remain in England and open a Swimming School, I might get a good deal of Money. And it struck me so strongly, that had the Overture been sooner made me, probably I should not so soon have returned to America. (1.77)
Franklin is tempted by the dubious honor of opening and running a swimming school. It's hard to imagine his ambitious ideas of empire-building and scientific discovery being satisfied with teaching English kids how to swim. There can't be so much money, or honor, in teaching swimming – no offense to swim teachers – that running a swimming school could best helping run a national government.