“…that Aversion to arbitrary Power that has stuck to me through my whole life.”*

*note in Benjamin Franklin’s “Autobiography “.

Image: (text from Kloss, William, et al. Art in the White House: A Nation’s Pride. Washington, D.C.: The White House Historical Association, 2008): “David Martin; 1757; Oil on canvas on panel, 50 x 40 inches. The portrait of Benjamin Franklin was commissioned by Robert Alexander, of the firm of William Alexander & Sons, Edinburgh. The impressive beribboned document held by Franklin in the portrait is not a treaty or an Act of Parliament, but one of Alexander’s deeds! The other books and pamphlets suggest the learned evidence brought in support of a wise man’s decision. The bust of Isaac Newton, whose gaze is directed toward Franklin, invokes the greatest English voice of Reason. The portrait nonetheless sits squarely in the broader tradition of Enlightenment. The pressure of the thumb against the chin expresses the pressure of concentrated thought (the painting has sometimes been called the ‘thumb portrait’), and the refracted light of Franklin’s spectacles on his cheek furthers the effect.”

From: Chapter One (1706-1724) of Benjamin Franklin in London (2016) by George Goodwin:

“At the age of twelve Ben was apprenticed to his printer brother James, who was nearly nine years older. James had recently visited London, where he had bought his own printing press…It is most likely that Bens career, with his rejection of the ministry and his love of reading, was chosen at the same time. His workplace certainly gave him “Access to better Books”, which he supplemented through overnight loans from the apprentices of booksellers and the use of a kind customer’s library. He thus introduced himself to John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding, which he later “esteemed the best Book of Logic in the World “…

…during the final years of his life…he amended the Autobiography to add Cotton Mather’s Essays to do Good to a list of the highlights of his childhood reading that included The Pilgrim‘s Progress, Plutarch’s Lives and Defoe’s Essay upon Projects…

(Goodman quoting Lemay quoting Isaacson): “One reason the Silence Dogood essays are so historically notable is that they were among the first examples of what would become a quintessential American genre of humour: the wry homespun mix of folksy tales and pointed observations that was perfected by such Franklin descendants as Mark Twain and Will Rogers.”

From Chapter Three (1726-c.1748):

“…His first step, in 1727, was to form a club with his cleverer friends. This like many others was called the Junto, after the Spanish junta or fraternity...as George Boudreau explains, “The club was the quintessential activity of the intellectual movement sweeping Anglo-America, known as the Enlightenment…” …there is also one particular philosopher whose thinking is behind the Junto’s four qualifications for membership, as they were standardised in 1732, and that is John Locke…

Locke’s A Collection of Several Pieces is one of the oldest books belonging to the Library Company of Philadelphia…From these small beginnings, as the Library Company itself proudly states, “America’s first successful public lending library and oldest cultural institution was born”.”

From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

John Locke (1632-1704) was a British philosopher, Oxford academic and medical researcher. Locke’s monumental An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689) is one of the first great defenses of modern empiricism and concerns itself with determining the limits of human understanding in respect to a wide spectrum of topics. It thus tells us in some detail what one can legitimately claim to know and what one cannot. Locke’s association with Anthony Ashley Cooper (later the First Earl of Shaftesbury) led him to become successively a government official charged with collecting information about trade and colonies, economic writer, opposition political activist, and finally a revolutionary whose cause ultimately triumphed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Among Locke’s political works he is most famous for The Second Treatise of Government in which he argues that sovereignty resides in the people and explains the nature of legitimate government in terms of natural rights and the social contract. He is also famous for calling for the separation of Church and State in his Letter Concerning Toleration.

Much of Locke’s work is characterized by opposition to authoritarianism. This is apparent both on the level of the individual person and on the level of institutions such as government and church. For the individual, Locke wants each of us to use reason to search after truth rather than simply accept the opinion of authorities or be subject to superstition. He wants us to proportion assent to propositions to the evidence for them. On the level of institutions it becomes important to distinguish the legitimate from the illegitimate functions of institutions and to make the corresponding distinction for the uses of force by these institutions. Locke believes that using reason to try to grasp the truth, and determine the legitimate functions of institutions will optimize human flourishing for the individual and society both in respect to its material and spiritual welfare. This in turn, amounts to following natural law and the fulfillment of the divine purpose for humanity.”

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