Benjamin Franklin and the American Character

By Charles L. Sanford | Go to book overview

the necessaries of Life. . . . Where cunning People pass Counterfeits, and impose that on others which is good for nothing, it is considered as a Wickedness; but to sell that to People which we know does them Harm, and which often works their Ruin, for the Sake of Gain, manifests a hardened and corrupt Heart, and is an Evil, which demands the Care of all true Lovers of Virtue to suppress. . . .

During the period when Franklin, with fifty or sixty men, was constructing forts against the Indians, Woolman, whose Quaker views on warfare Franklin liked to ridicule, was with a single companion threading his way into the same region to labor quietly among the Indians, alongside a Moravian missionary, to show them the advantages of Christian living.

Woolman had the spiritual depth of Edwards, without the latter's high intelligence, and so in his expression he appears less studied, with a straightforward, frank simplicity that is earnest for but one end -- transmission of the truth. He knew the dangers bred of fluency of speech and was careful to avoid them. On one occasion he spoke fluently, but realized immediately afterwards that he had exhibited himself rather than the truth.

As I was thus humbled and disciplined under the Cross [he wrote], my Understanding became more strengthened to distinguish the pure Spirit that inwardly moves upon the Heart, and taught me to wait in Silence, sometimes for many weeks together, till I felt that rise which prepares the creature to stand like a trumpet through which the Lord speaks to His flock.

Woolman had, also, much of the mystical insight and the devoutness that characterized Edwards. But he was more human, mingled more freely with men, understood and sympathized with their weaknesses.

Of these three eighteenth century Americans, two are almost forgotten. In comparison with their well-remembered contemporary, Franklin, do these two in their philosophies have any suggestions for us, equal to or surpassing his, of "what is most worth while in life and how to go about to achieve it?"


A. Whitney Griswold: TWO PURITANS ON PROSPERITY

SINCE the German economist, Max Weber, first called serious attention to the relationship of Protestantism and capitalism, various scholars have become intrigued with the idea.1 Some have taken issue with Weber on minor points, but most have accepted his general conclusions. R. H. Tawney, in particular, has elaborated the thesis, and integrated it with the history of the Reformation.22

____________________
Reprinted by permission from A. W. Griswold, "Three Puritans on Prosperity," The New England Quarterly, VoL VII ( September, 1934), pp. 475-488. The original article was entitled "Three Puritans on Prosperity." The final section on the "Puritan," Timothy Dwight, has been eliminated in the interest of space. ED.
1
Weber work first appeared in Archiv fur Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, 1904-1905. It was published as a book in Germany in 1920 and afterwards translated into English and published as The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism ( London, 1930).
2
In Religion and the Rise of Capitalism ( London, 1929). For an excellent review of both Weber

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