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1 The Collision Of Cultures
2 Britain And Its Colonies
3 Colonial Ways Of Life
4 The Imperial Perspective
5 From Empire To Independence
6 The American Revolution
7 Shaping A Federal Union
8 The Federalist Era
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10 Nationalism And Sectionalism
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13 An American Renaissance: Religion, Romanticism, And Reform
14 Manifest Destiny
15 The Old South
16 The Crisis Of Union
17 The War Of The Union
18 Reconstruction: North And South
19 New Frontiers: South And West
20 Big Business And Organized Labor
21 The Emergence Of Urban America
22 Gilded-age Politics And Agrarian Revolt
23 An American Empire
24 The Progressive Era
25 America And The Great War
26 The Modern Temper
27 Republican Resurgence And Decline
28 New Deal America
29 From Isolation To Global War
30 The Second World War
31 The Fair Deal And Containment
32 Through The Picture Window: Society And Culture, 19451960
33 Conflict And Deadlock: The Eisenhower Years
34 New Frontiers: Politics And Social Change In The 1960s
35 Rebellion And Reaction In The 1960s And 1970s
36 A Conservative Insurgency
37 Triumph And Tragedy: America At The Turn Of The Century

From the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

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Benjamin Franklin was the foremost disciple of the Enlightenment in the colonies; moreover he was recognized in the sophisticated intellectual circles of Europe for his scientific experiments and his scientific knowledge. The passages selected here from his autobiography emphasize his philosophical reactions to some of the popular concepts of the Enlightenment. They also reflect some of his ideas about a daily schedule.

This library afforded me the means of improvement by constant study, for which I set apart an hour or two each day; and thus repair'd in some degree the loss of the learned education my father once intended for me. Reading was the only amusement I allowed myself. I spent no time in taverns, games, or frolics of any kind; and my industry in my business continued as indefatigable as it was necessary. I was indebted for my printing house; I had a young family coming on to be educated, and I had two competitors to contend with for business, who were established in the place before me. My circumstances, however, grew daily easier. My original habits of frugality continuing, and my father having among his instructions to me when a boy, frequently repeated a proverb of Solomon, "Sees thou a man diligent in his calling, he shall stand before kings, he shall not stand before mean men." I thence considered industry as a means of obtaining wealth and distinction, which encouraged me, though I did not think that I should ever literally stand before kings, which, however, has since happened; for I have stood before five, and even had the honor of sitting down with one the King of Denmark to dinner.

We have an English proverb that says, "He that would thrive, must ask his wife." It was lucky for me that I had one as much dispos'd to industry and frugality as myself. She assisted me cheerfully in my business, folding and stitching pamphlets, tending shop, purchasing old linen rags for the paper makers. We kept no idle servants, our table was plain and simple, our furniture of the cheapest. For instance, my breakfast was a long time bread and milk (no tea) and I ate it out of a twopenny earthen porringer, with a pewter spoon, but mark how luxury will enter families, and make a progress, in spite of principle; being called one morning to breakfast, I found it in a china bowl, with a spoon of silver. They had been bought for me without my knowledge by my wife, and had cost her the enormous sum of three and twenty shillings, for which she had no other excuse or apology to make, but that she thought her husband deserved a silver spoon and china bowl as well as any of his neighbors. This was the first appearance of plate and china in our house, which afterward, in a course of years, as our wealth increased, augmented gradually to several hundred pounds in value.

I had been religiously educated as a Presbyterian; but though some of the dogmas of that persuasion, such as the eternal decrees of God, election, reprobation, etc. appeared to me unintelligible, and I early absented myself from the public assemblies of the sect (Sunday being my studying day) I never was without some religious principles; I never doubted, for instance, the existence of a Deity, that he made the word, and governed it by his providence; that the most acceptable service of God as the doing good to man; that our souls are immortal, and that all crimes will be punished, and virtue rewarded, either here or hereafter. . . .

Though I seldom attended any public worship, I had still an opinion of its propriety, and of its utility when rightly conducted, and I regularly paid my annual subscription for the support of the only Presbyterian minister or meeting we had in Philadelphia. . . .

It was about this time I conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection; I wished to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into .. . . But I soon found I had undertaken a task of more difficulty than I had imagined.

The precept of Order requiring that every part of my business should have its allotted time, one page in my little book contained the following scheme of employment for the twenty-four hours of a natural day.

 
SCHEME.
 
MORNING 5     Rise, wash, and address
The Question. What 6 Powerful Goodness! Contrive
good shall I do this day? 7 day's business, and take the resolution of
  8 the day; prosecute the present study, and breakfast
  9  
  10     Work.
  11
NOON 12 Read, or overlook my accounts,
  1 and dine.
AFTERNOON 2  
  3     Work.
  4  
  5  
EVENING. 6 Put things in their place.
The Question. What good have I done today?   7 Supper, music or diversion, or conversation. Examination
  8 of the day
  9  
  10  
  11  
  12  
NIGHT 1     Sleep.
  2  
  3  
  4  


[From Memoirs of Benjamin Franklin, Written by Himself and Continued by His Grandson and Others, vol 1, (Philadelphia: McCary & Davis, 1840), pp. 32-35.]

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