Why was he so repulsed by the power of England? What made him so determined in the cause of the American independence in the 1760s and 1770s?
Benjamin Franklin was the 10th child born to his father, Josiah Franklin, and his second wife. By 10 years of age, he was assisting his father in the family’s soap business. Benjamin was attracted to the sea, which his father forbid. Sensing his son’s love of reading, his father – when Benjamin was 11 years old — apprenticed him to his older brother, James, who owned and operating a printing business. This indentured contract was binding on him until he was 21, pay coming only in the last year of the contract. James’ New England Courant was an early colonial newspaper.
His older brother was jealous of young Franklin’s brains and creativity. So when Ben submitted article after article for publication over a course of months, rejection followed rejection.
When Franklin was 16 years of age, he created the persona of a middle-aged widow he named Silence Dogood. James liked the articles and published all Silence supposedlywrote. Immensely popular. Witty. People were intensely curious about Silence Dogood. Who is she? Where does she live?
Every two weeks, the young Franklin slipped an article under his brother’s door. Some readers wrote the paper, proposing to marry the widow. Fourteen (14) articles were written and published before James knew his younger brother had written them. Instead of lauding his good compositions, James – the ever caustic and jealous older brother — beat him.
When his older brother was away, Benjamin ran the printing operation. Instead of applauding his younger brother’s diligence and initiative, his brother continued to occasionally beat him. Benjamin Franklin escaped to New York, then Philadelphia.
Fast forward 50 years to the 1770s. Franklin wrote of his disdain for arbitrary power. King George III of Great Britain bullied the colonies with extra taxes.
Then came the hinge on which Franklin’s attitude swung. It was January 29, 1774. Franklin was in London. Working relentlessly to prevent war, news of the Boston Tea Party came. For over one hour, he was ridiculed and humiliated by the Privy Council, top advisors to the king. Franklin’s attitude became determined, his mind set in stone.
Franklin had a visceral, total reaction. Having been shaped by an experience of bullying during his youth, the Privy Council was more of the same. From January 29 on, he supported total independence from Britain. And now you know – as Paul Harvey used to say – the rest of the story.
When I was four (4) years old (December birthday), my mother started me in school (Years later I found out she was eager to begin her own teaching career). My mental development was some months behind that of other children, so I was always in the slowest reading group. I was the kid who pronounced island is-land (everyone laughed; I still remember this painful moment from 68 years ago – the teacher kept asking student after students how to pronounce it until I gave her the “right” pronunciation).
The downside of such an early start in school is reported above. But the upside is that I accepted early in life that I had to work hard. If others could go out and play, I still had homework. That was okay. If my roommate in seminary needed to invest 45 minutes to do his Hebrew assignment, I would have to invest one hour and ten minutes. I did not see this as terribly wrong or an injustice dealt to me. It was just how things were . . . regular life . . . I accepted this without fighting it. And that acceptance was the grace of God in my life. He gave me that trust, that acceptable, and a don’t-think-about-it attitude.
I do not recall coming to some profound conclusion about it at age 14, 26, or even 35 – thinking it through and deciding to make the best of it. I never weighed the issues, the pros and cons, at least until about 50 years of age. Until then I was oblivious to it, which was, again, the grace of God to me. And the result was that I have worked diligently all through life, enabling me to accomplish many things.
Childhood is a very formidable time in a human being’s life. It was for Benjamin Franklin and for me. Likely for you. People arrive at conclusions, values, beliefs and attitudes during their first 15 years of life, then harden into adulthood. Very likely the reader has had such experience also. Shaping, life-forming, put-its-stamp-forever-on-a-life experiences.
In the world of 2022, much of the population is young. Up for grabs. Who will win their lives? What flag will they follow? Serving children is essential to turn their minds and wills to the Living God.
Source: Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s Killing England