Benjamin Franklin and Napoleon
The essay is a creative discussion of two very famous personalities, Benjamin Franklin and Napoleon. The essay discuss in details what the two argue about, bringing to light who is astounded by what, there agreement on a number of issues, there opinions, comparison of their countries of origin, and their fears and hopes of the 18th and early 19th centuries, history each experienced and witnessed as well as their life’s work.
Their discussion ranged from political, social, environmental and cultural to economic aspects. Generally speaking the two held the opinion that one opts to never give up and be determined in achieving set goals and objectives. One notable difference between the two is their family background from which they were brought up, Benjamin was from a poor family his father being a soup maker who lacked money for Benjamin to study. On the other hand, Napoleon’s family were well off, all agree that one’s family background does not deter one from achieving his dreams.
From Benjamin’s experience, although he was mistreated by his brother, his quest to be successful in life were not thwarted, the same is echoed by Napoleon who said, “Impossible is a word found in the dictionary of fools”(Napoleon, 5). The two also talked of working hard and shunning laziness as the key to success as Benjamin said, “Early to bed, and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” he further said, “laziness travels so slowly that poverty soon overtakes him” both held the opinion that poverty is brought about by laziness. Napoleon further said that, “with audacity one can undertake anything, but not everything” (Viktor, 48) this made him appreciate that human beings need one another for carrying out activities systematically and successfully.
The two also appreciated and concurred that time is money and no one should waste time, Benjamin said, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of” “Employ thy time well, if thou meanest to get leisure” (Viktor, 41). This meant that time well spent at an early age in most cases guarantee one, his/her family and the society as a whole better lives in future. Benjamin invented a number of things such as electricity, heat-efficient stove, swimming fin, musical instrument- glass armonica which made lives of American better.
On the issue on religion, Benjamin emphasized that America could survive only if people were virtuous. He argued that organized religion was vital to help keep men be good to fellow men, although he rarely took part in religious activities. He didn’t believe in salvation, hell, Jesus Christ’s divinity as well as various religious dogmas but rather in God’s fountain of morality and goodness in man, “All who think cannot but see there is a sanction like that of religion which binds us in partnership in the serious work of the world”,(Houston, 154) this astonished Napoleon. The later recognized the varied religious freedoms and believed that religion was key to shaping mankind, “religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet” . “I die in the apostolic and Roman Religion, in the bosom of which I was born over 50 years ago” (Napoleon, 3) clearly depicts that he attended and practiced religion unlike Benjamin. Napoleon believed that religion needed support from the government while Benjamin was of the contrary opinion, that religion should support itself and if not, it is not a good religion hence should be done away with. This notion of separating religion from the government was later in cooperated in the American constitution.
Both were of the opinion to empower their communities through various ways for instance educating them, mobilizing the communities to support and defend themselves from enemies, calamities such as fire among others. In this regard, Benjamin said that, “Educate your children to self-control, to the habit of holding passion and prejudice and evil tendencies subject to an upright and reasoning will, and you have done much to abolish misery from their future and crimes from society” (Brands, 82). Benjamin argues that mobilizing the community towards attaining certain goals help in bettering their lives, for instance he helped launch projects such as library company, street lighting American philosophical society, Pennsylvania hospital as well as a fire fighting company in Philadelphia. As Napoleon, he also contributed to the well being of his society by writing in print media as well as establishing printing business that help impart knowledge to the community as well as providing economic benefits through employment. In summary both, fostered education, science, art and literature all with the aim of assisting their people be better off in all aspects of life, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”, Benjamin.
Although Benjamin brought out the issue of protecting and cleaning up the environment as vital for well being of the society and sustainable development, Napoleon did contribute to the topic. These two personalities held very different opinion about women, Napoleon held very low opinion on women as he said, “Women are nothing but machines for producing children” (Herold , 42) according to him women cannot do anything meaningful such as fighting. He claimed to have divorced his first wife, Josephine just because she had no ‘womb’ and was extremely happy when his second wife gave birth to a son who would continue with his legacy. He had no respect to women as he engaged his future in-law into a relationship. On the other hand, Benjamin arguments seemed to have positive and strong opinion for women. He recalls advising his younger friend to take woman, reasoning that despite marriage being a natural state of man, “getting a prudent, healthy wife, ones industry in a profession, coupled with her good economy will be a fortune sufficient” (Ketcham, 241). He sums up by saying that women especially older ones are ‘grateful’, this left Napoleon perplexed.
In the context of politics both Napoleon and Benjamin had similar opinion meaning that they agreed, for instance they were ready to pay any prize to liberate their people but at the same time, they held different opinions or views on a number of issues. It is worth noting that both were revolutionist who wanted their people to be freed from chains of ‘slavery’ so to say. Their political ambitions, contributions and tactics were later used by subsequent leaders within and without their countries of origin. For instance, Benjamin fostered signing of treaties between America and France. Napoleon’s believed that his style of governance, a centralized one which entailed appointing departmental heads was the best and could be used by future leaders.
Whilst Benjamin used and encouraged talking, negotiation and diplomacy in solving emerging issues, Napoleon just used force through wars which he won in most cases. The former disregards force as he said that, “All wars are follies, very expensive and very mischievous ones” (Viktor, 78). Battles fostered by Napoleon brought massive death and destruction of properties despite the fact that it helped bring justice to those suppressed. Although Benjamin helped organized a local militia to defend Pennsylvania against the mob, he later met with Paxton leader and peacefully ended the war. He wrote, “If an Indian injures me,” he asked, “does it follow that I may revenge that Injury on all Indians?” (Viktor, 123) This meant that he didn’t advocate for revenge contrary to Napoleon views.
Napoleon brought to light a number of political issues such as granting constitutions, introducing laws, doing a way with feudalism, anarchy and creating efficient governance. In regions that he had conquered, Napoleon gave his brothers the mandate to rule because he trusted them rather than outsiders. During his reign, he believed in government for the people but not by the people, he had spies and secrete police network. He controlled press, and any opinion could only be expressed after his approval or consent.
For these reason, he viewed himself as a liberator as he said, “I closed the gulf of anarchy and brought order out of chaos. I rewarded merit regardless of birth or wealth, wherever I found it. I abolished feudalism and restored equality to all regardless of religion and before the law. I fought the decrepit monarchies of the Old Regime because the alternative was the destruction of all this. I purified the Revolution” (Napoleon, 4).
In the conversation, Benjamin talked of his thirteen virtues that included temperance, humility, chastity, tranquility, cleanliness, silence, order, industry, resolution, frugality, sincerity, moderation and justice. All these he believed helped him build his character being happy and be successful, although they were not practiced at the same time and he fell short of them a number of times. Napoleon on the other hand despite agreeing on a number of these virtues believed that there is no need of trying to perfect something that failed in the first attempt rather devising a workable strategy.
Economically, both Napoleon and Benjamin saw the importance of empowering their people in terms of economy. Napoleon advocated for solders to be paid, his quest to conquer more nation had a basis in the field of economy. Benjamin also encouraged economic development for instance when he was an ambassador in France, he convinced the French government to take loans. In addition, Benjamin established a trust that later loaned the money to the local residents, who later used in mortgage and scholarship.
Their greatest fears were wars, oppression, slavery, corruption plus a number of various injustices to human race. The hopes they had were that the world will one time unite and end wars.