Benjamin Franklin, the First Civilized American

By Phillips Russell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII First Studies of Men and Things

I

ON the voyage home, which lasts eighty days, Franklin sets himself a task betraying that a subtle change, long gathering, has come over him. He begins a diary. It records not only the state of his mind and feelings, but the external things of the matter-of-fact world in which he has now chosen to live.

Metaphysics has heretofore had no little fascination for him. He has at times been occupied with internal searchings and has concerned himself with the old human problem: Why am I here, and what is it all about? He no longer asks himself this question. He accepts the fact that he exists, and that he must find the means to maintain and promote that existence.

He becomes an "extrovert" -- his gaze is turned from himself outward to other men and things.


II

The diary begins at Gravesend, the Thames port, which is described as "a cursed biting place." Off Portsmouth he hears of a dungeon into which the Queen's soldiers have been thrown for the most trifling offenses and partly starved. He writes down this observation:

" I own, indeed, that if a commander finds he has not those qualities in him that will make him beloved by his people, he ought, by all means, to make use of such meth-

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