October 12, 2010
Regarding your criticism
Dear Mr. Lawrence,
Is a man not entitled to his own life? The way he directs it? I don’t believe Mr. Franklin ever intended on imposing his precepts on anyone but himself. I don’t believe you would wish one to come into your house and criticize the fashion you prepare your meals. Unless of course it is you who have achieved the wisdom of the great Socrates and Jesus, in which case it may be Jesus murmuring to you: “Aren’t you wise in your own conceit?” (Lawrence 2) Perhaps it is you who should practice constraint, not on your actions but on your ego. I agree that Mr. Franklin’s “bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection” (Franklin 94) was as arduous as a man halting a river with nothing more than a net and his wits.
Perhaps Mr. Franklin should have reversed the order of his precepts and followed them in order during construction. I agree that the methodology of improving a “mechanical contrivance” (Lawrence 1) does not carry to a human being. Although I may say, although God is quite the engineer, I don’t believe he used a checklist. Perhaps if Mr. Franklin followed slightly more than the humility of Jesus he would know that we all have faults and follies and that they are accepted, if not by each other then by God. I wonder, Mr. Lawrence, what it is you suggest for the improvement of oneself?
Rather than a list to “play at Benjamin” (Lawrence 3) what do you honestly suggest? Did you ever consider that you are alone in your believe that: “I am I, my soul is a dark forest, my known self will never be more than a little clearing in the forest.” Perhaps Mr. Franklin has obtained a lucidity you do not deem possible. For in fact, you are you, and are in no better position to judge Franklin than he is to judge himself. Although you seem to profess doubt, about character and about purpose, many men think in certainty. It is more comfortable that way, they “say what [they’ve] got to say, and say it hot.” (Lawrence 3) I don’t believe Mr. Franklin is “fencing it [one’s soul] off.” (Lawrence 1)
It appears as though Mr. Franklin found “satisfaction in seeing them [his faults] diminish.” (Franklin 99) So although you may find this austere and a restriction of spirit, it appears as though Mr. Franklin enjoyed it. I’m sure you wouldn’t knowingly dare obstruct another’s pursuit of happiness. I understand how you constructed your criticism from your point of view, you must understand Mr. Franklin’s motives for creating these precepts. He find pleasure in improvement, whether it be a mechanical contraption or his own morality. He approaches the task with a strong demeanor.
Although you may see this attempted refinement as a futile and misguided effort, Mr. Franklin should be allowed at least one misguided effort as he is considered (even by you) as: “the centre of a moralizing club in Philadelphia...a member of all the important councils of Philadelphia, and then of the American colonies...the economic father of the United States.” A man like this should be respected, regardless of the few mistakes he has made.