A Contrast and Comparison of Jonathon Edwards and Benjamin Franklin

In the 21st century, individualism is widely accepted and encouraged by people in America. This was not the case in the 18th century colonies when America was finding its beginnings. Among many beliefs during the 18th century, there were Puritans who thought that everyone was equal and should contribute to their community. There were also Deists who believed that everyone was a part of a bigger whole. No one strove to be different from the other. During the 18th century, there were no two men more obviously different than Benjamin Franklin and Jonathon Edwards. Although they had different beliefs and goals, they still had the same motivations and work ethics. Despite Franklin and Edwards’ obvious differences, they were very much alike.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Edwards and Franklin’s beliefs are the root of every other thing they accomplished in their lives. Franklin, who was a deist, believed that everything could be solved by reason. Edwards was a Calvinist. He believed in predestination and the mystical powers of God. Although both men believed in completely different theories, they both lived by a high moral code. Franklin first listed out his highest virtues in his autobiography and secondly tried to master every one. Edwards also stated in his personal narrative that, “I used to be continually examining myself, and studying and contriving for likely ways and means, how I should live holily, with far greater diligence and earnestness, than ever I pursued any thing in my life,” (312). Both men tried to better themselves due to their strong beliefs. Both men also shared their beliefs with others. Edwards was different in the fact that he felt it was necessary to preach his religion to others, while Franklin did not. Franklin and Edwards’ convictions were their motivations for their work.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Edwards and Franklin were highly driven to succeed at what they did for a living. Franklin was a printer as well as being involved with many other affairs in America. He was mostly motivated by life on Earth. He was constantly reading and trying to educate himself. Benjamin wanted to improve daily life for everyone. Edwards was a preacher. He was more concerned with life after death. He was motivated by his religion and the mystical powers of God. He also read many books searching for proof of God’s power. Jonathon wanted to save people’s souls. Both men had a Puritan work ethic instilled in them. Franklin rarely went to social functions. Instead reading was his pleasure. Edwards worked just as hard. He was always praying, reading, or meditating. Although these men had semi-different goals, they were both equally motivated.

Both men’s beliefs had an effect on the early colonies. Franklin was a part of The Enlightenment, which was a new era of reason. People that followed this doctrine believed that everything could be solved by reason. Edwards was involved in The Great Awakening. This was the last attempt to revive Puritanism. The Great Awakening started a great evangelist wave across the colonies. Franklin also started a public library, published an almanac every year, and invented several things to improve daily living. Franklin also snuck some of his moral beliefs into the extra space in his almanac. Edwards converted many people to Calvinism, and created a higher moral code for people who listened to or read his philosophies and became the president of Princeton University. Edwards used fear of the masses to convert the colonists. Both men had a great deal with the mindset of the colonies in the 18th century. Franklin stated that:Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

When I advanced anything that may possible be disputed, the words certainly, undoubtedly, or any others that give the air of positiveness to an opinion; but rather say, I conceive or for such and such reasons; or I imagine it to be so; or it is so, if I am not mistaken. This habit, I believe, has been of great advantage to me when I have had occasion to inculcate my opinions and persuade men into measures that I have had been from time to time engaged in promoting.

Edwards was the exact opposite in his method of arguing. He was very blunt, and it was his way or no way. Although these men went about their accomplishments in two different ways, they had the same impact on the colonies. (325)

Although both men grew up in the same era, they perceived life in two different ways. They used the same ethics and morals to accomplish two different ideals. Franklin and Edwards were both hard workers and believed strongly in the good of people. Although these men seem to be very different, they were in fact more alike than any other adversaries.

Works Cited

Franklin, Benjamin. Autobiography. Ed. George Perkins, Barbara Perkins. “The American Tradition in Literature.” New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2002.

Edwards, Jonathon. Personal Narrative. Ed. George Perkins, Barbara Perkins. “The American Tradition in Literature.” New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2002

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