Personal Freedom and Independence in the Works of Benjamin Franklin and Henry Thoreau
It is an undisputable fact that the contribution of such prominent philosophers, writers, political and social activists as Benjamin Franklin and Henry David Thoreau in developing American statehood is tremendous. The literary works of both men can serve as a manifesto of national and personal liberation, a call for building a better society, where each citizen can live and work freely. Indeed, both Henry Thoreau and Benjamin Franklin emphasize the independence and freedom of an individual, but they do so in significantly different ways. These differences can be linked to their different worldview, life positions, philosophies, or interests. Nevertheless, this fact cannot detract from the obvious uniqueness and importance of Thoreau’s and Franklin’s literary heritage.
Benjamin Franklin’s Conception of Independence and Freedom of Individual
Benjamin Franklin was a scholar and lexicographer, a representative of the American Enlightenment, ideologist of the national liberation movement. It should be noted that Franklin was one of the most active participants of the struggle of American people for independence. He condemned slavery and ardently defended the rights of American national minorities.
The basis of political views of Benjamin Franklin is the concept of the natural and inalienable rights of an individual. Franklin attributes life, liberty, and property to such natural rights. According to Benjamin Franklin, a man is simply “a tool-making animal,” a creature, whose freedom and, thus, independence is limited (Houston 45). In his Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain, Benjamin Franklin put the statement that every individual is limited in his or her actions. In spite of the fact that Franklin was not a fanatic Puritan, he used to emphasize his belief in God, but he also denied the common representation of Providence. Thus, the philosopher does not directly argue that God’s foreordainment can be ignored by any human being, who is to exert the will of Lord (Houston 67). Nevertheless, the writer cannot agree with the fact that all individuals lack liberty, free will and even ability to perform or refuse to perform a certain action.
Furthermore, Benjamin Franklin defends the naturalness of human liberty. He notes that “by Liberty is sometimes understood the Absence of Opposition” (qtd. in Houston 143). Consequently, what people consider personal independence or freedom sometimes can be characterized as the absence of interference or obstacles, and, in this sense, it can be argued that all our actions are consequences of our freedom. Nonetheless, this freedom can be compared with the behavior of a rigid body falling to the ground. Evidently, this body is free to fall, and this means that it does not meet with anything that would prevent it from falling down. At the same time, every person is aware of the fact that the heavy body...