The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Visions of America Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
This [paper] was much spoken of as a useful Piece, and gave rise to a Project, which soon followed it, of forming a Company for the more ready Extinguishing of Fires, and mutual Assistance in Removing and Securing of Goods when in Danger. (3.19)
Sometimes Franklin's modesty is too much. His plan for creating a fire department system is a big deal, but he calls it just "a useful Piece." Instead of lingering on why it's useful or what kind of reception it got, moves right to the point of telling us what it was all about and how it worked. His concept of "mutual Assistance" is a very American one.
I had on the whole abundant Reason to be satisfied with my being established in Pennsylvania. There were however two things that I regretted: There being no Provision for Defense, nor for a complete Education of Youth. No Militia nor any College. (3.30)
It's intriguing to see what Franklin thinks is most important for developing Pennsylvania, which is not a country but a rising city-state. He puts equal value on education and military defense, which is an unusual opinion, one that's remarkable for its combination of idealism and practicality. In creating a strong defense, he's also simultaneously making sure there's something important to defend.
The Colonies so united would have been sufficiently strong to have defended themselves; there would then have been no need of Troops from England; of course the subsequent Pretense for Taxing America, and the bloody Contest it occasioned, would have been avoided. (3.68)
Here's Franklin as both historian and injured strategist, saying that the entire Revolutionary War could have been avoided if only people had adopted his plan for uniting the colonies around the time of the French and Indian War. We wonder if his hurt feelings – that the plan was turned down – cloud his judgment, or if he's right that the whole Boston Tea Party and its aftermath could have been avoided, if people had only listened.