Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. The Wikipedia describes Franklin as a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat; what is called a polymath.
Following Luca’s recommendation, I read some months ago Franklin’s autobiography. It was terrific. For the most part it describes his early life and how he was rising in the society and the origin and the work behind some of his great contributions to society: “Poor Richard’s Almanack” (which includes a collection of sayings that mark not only American culture but Western culture in general), “The Pennsylvania Gazette”, the first public lending library in America, the first fire department in Pennsylvania, etc.
One initiative that I especially liked was the creation of the Junto club; a club for mutual improvement where its members debated all kinds of questions from morals and politics, to sciences and business. This reminded me to the joy I have attending a particular Toastmasters meeting when you feel you have learnt something from the speeches you have heard. I will have to check whether there are such broad mutual improvement clubs in Toulouse (… note that he just went and created it! When he was 21!).
Other remarkable aspect was his setting of 13 virtues by which he was going to live (he did that at age 20) and apparently managed to practice for the rest of his life.
- “Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.”
- “Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”
- “Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.”
- “Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.”
- “Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.”
- “Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.”
- “Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”
- “Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.”
- “Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”
- “Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.”
- “Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”
- “Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
- “Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”
Finally, last November, Luca and I visited the only remaining house where Benjamin Franklin once lived, for nearly sixteen years between 1757 and 1775, in one of his periods in London. I definitely recommend the visit to the house, at 36 Craven Street (2 blocks from Trafalgar Square), as it doesn’t take more than an hour and the animation that goes with it makes it highly entertaining (it goes without saying it that I highly encourage the reading of his autobiography).