When Bono introduced Dierks Bentley singing his song “Home” last year at the Country Music Awards, he made the statement that America is not just geography or a country but an idea. While Benjamin Franklin wasn’t the only “idea man or woman” among the Founders, one can’t help but give him a significant amount of credit for the idea of America.
As I stated in a previous post, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin probably ranks as the book that has been recommended to me the most but I somehow had never managed to read – until now. I was expecting to like it. Not only did it meet my expectations, it exceeded them.
For a book written over two hundred years ago, it surprised me at how readable it was. Franklin gets straight to his many points and ideas. I admit that I have a stereotype of 18th century American writers as those who feel the need to write pages and pages describing trees. Franklin doesn’t fall into this category.
It’s interesting that many of his ideas described in this book are not necessarily patriotic in the sense that we may think, today. Many of them are incredibly practical. I loved his idea for cleaning dirt from the streets. He decided that when it rained, the water needed to drain to the center of the street making a strong enough current to wash all the dirt away. Draining on each side made for weaker currents that just moved the dirt and dust around without getting rid of it. How observant!
Since the book was never completed and he only takes himself up to around 1757, we don’t get much detail regarding those occasions that lead to the American Revolution. However, one of the few references made to that time period involved his love of books and his pioneering of libraries:
These libraries have improved 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 deference of their priveleges.
I was pleased to discover that much of his frugality for which Franklin has become famous helped him buy books that furthered his education and the education of those in his community.
Last week, my family took a trip to Philadelphia and toured many of the historical sites that played a part in creating the United States. We walked through Christ Church cemetary and saw where Benjamin Franklin was buried (pictured below). While freedom has been a long difficult process at times, I cannot help but be amazed at the ideas, the determination and the ingenuity of those that founded this country.