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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

by Benjamin Franklin

Visions of America Quotes Page 1

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Quote #1

My Brother had in 1720 or 21, begun to print a Newspaper. It was the second that appear'd in America, and was called The New England Courant. The only one before it, was The Boston News Letter. I remember his being dissuaded by some of his Friends from the Undertaking, as not likely to succeed, one Newspaper being in their Judgment enough for America. (1.24)

The friends' attitude here is kind of cute. Can you imagine one newspaper being "enough for America"? Even in its beginning stages, with thirteen colonies of people spread across a wide distance, one paper wouldn't come close to providing the kind of news coverage a burgeoning nation needs. (P.S. Franklin's not exactly right with his facts here; while this was one of the first group of American newspapers to be published, it wasn't quite the second.)

Quote #2

[Meredith] had conceiv'd a great Regard for me, and was very unwilling that I should leave the House while he remain'd in it. He dissuaded me from returning to my native Country, which I began to think of. (1.86)

When Franklin says "Country" here, he doesn't mean America: he means Boston. His country is a city, so by "Country" he really means "home place." Obviously, Franklin's in what's not the United States of America yet, so it's impossible for him to consider himself American. It's funny to compare this sort of regionalism with how we categorize our country today; while we might think of ourselves as "from" a specific city or state, we consider "America" our country, and don't always align our country with our home.

Quote #3

These Libraries have improv'd the general Conversation of the Americans, made the common Tradesmen and Farmers as intelligent as most Gentlemen from other Countries, and perhaps have contributed in some degree to the Stand so generally made throughout the Colonies in Defense of their Privileges. (1.110)

Here Franklin defines America by the quality of its libraries and education. He even goes so far as to posit that it's this quality of education that made the Revolutionary War possible. So, there you go: without the founding of these libraries, we'd all still be British citizens.

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