Men who built an American Foundation
The Age of Reason was a period that revolutionized the way that Americans live their lives. Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin were both passionate writers during this time. Thomas Paine strongly believed in human rights, and that no government or religion could take away the freedom that man rightfully and naturally deserves. On the other hand, Benjamin Franklin was a self-made man who incorporated hard work and continuous self-improvement into his lifestyle. His own life reflected his beliefs towards mankind. Paine concentrated on the advancement of a nation as a whole, where as Franklin was interested more in the improvement of a single man. Regardless of their differences, these men have created a foundation for an open society where individuals are free to pursue individual happiness and liberty.
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Benjamin Franklin once quoted from Poor Richard?s Almanac, ?Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that?s the stuff life is made of? (452). In other words life is short, do not waste time. So he spent all of his days working diligently, creating a life full of prosperity. Throughout his lifetime, he created a foundation for the formation of American values and character. Many of such values are rooted to Protestant Christianity, which is defined as ?a strong puritan tradition, with its emphasis on hard work, education, the need for self examination, discipline and frugality was the soil upon which the beginning of the nation was built? (Effing 127). Franklin was born into a puritan family, where he believed in God, but he eventually grew towards deism. Deism is the belief in a God who created the universe and then abandoned it, assuming no control over life. According to the Norton Anthology of American Literature ?Franklin believed that people were naturally innocent, that all the mysteries that charmed the religious mind could be explained to our advantage, and that education, properly undertaken, would transform our lives and set us free from the tyrannies of church and monarchy? (Baym 450). He tried to help ordinary people become successful in order to meet the means of individual happiness. Franklin was a printer, writer, philanthropist, inventor, scientist and diplomat. He was, without a doubt, America?s greatest self-made man.
He focused on two important works during his lifetime. The first was The Way to Wealth, where he expressed his values on business ethics. From the support of Poor Richard?s Almanac, he coined many terms and sayings that were designed to inspire the working class family. Another important work was his autobiography, where he expressed his view of how man is capable of becoming better. Effing says that ?he took the puritan characteristic of self-scrutiny to its highest degree by contriving a method in which he set up his own chart of virtues, and methodically tried to acquire them one after another until they became a habit? (128). Benjamin Franklin was a perfectionist. He is one of the most important people that helped build the American dream and without him the dream may have been lost.
During the time of the American Revolutionary War, Thomas Paine once said ?These are the times that try men?s souls? (637). Indeed, it was a very difficult time for the English colonies. The people were in a moral battle between themselves. They could not decide if they should stay loyal to England or whether it was time to make a move for independence. Paine is known as the Father of American Revolution, in a sense that he was an inspirational writer. His writing?s brought courage in a time of need to people who wanted to become independent. Paine ?argued that individuals were not born to their position in life but came into the world with certain basic, indestructible rights? (Nash 4). With this concept in mind he was able to build a foundation for a free society. It all started with Common Sense, the writing that sparked an American Revolution. In this writing, Paine attempted to convince his readers of the need to rebel against English rule. Paine argued ?that by seeking independence the colonies could cast off such tyranny and look forward to the creation of a new society that would be governed by properly elected and accountable representatives of the people? (Nash 3). Later in life, Paine supported the French Revolution. Here, he remained a strong promoter of liberty. He carefully argued against Louis XVI?s execution. After being imprisoned by the French government, his life would slowly begin to decease.
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Like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine was a deist. Only, Paine held stronger beliefs, which would eventually have a negative effect on his writings. Paine wrote in The Age of Reason, that ?all national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit? (643). Here, he is simply applying that organized religion is not necessary for the human mind to understand the universe. Paine was convinced that only human reason is needed to discover the natural laws of the universe and the natural rights of mankind. Instantly, The Age of Reason became a source of controversy which still endures. Many of his supporters in the struggle for liberty avoided him, and he was forgotten by most of the world. Thomas Paine did not deserve this treatment. He helped to lay the foundations of our nation?s liberty, and was a courageous leader. Thomas Paine was one of America?s greatest political thinkers. Our nation would never have flourished so extraordinarily without him.
America has a strong history behind it. Many people and events have contributed to the making of a nation that we know today as ?the land of the free?. Our nation?s forefathers, including Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin, declared a government that would ensure us unalienable rights by our creator. In this declaration, we are encouraged to enjoy ?true life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?. No better men, than Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin, have founded such influential ideas. These men had one thing in mind. They wanted the American people to prosper, and prosper we did.