The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is a representation of the new prospect of upward mobility in colonial America during the 18th century and the development of the Age of Reason, which assisted in the conception of the idea of the “American Dream”; a dream that includes fundamentally social ideals such as democracy, equality, and material prosperity. Furthermore, Franklin’s autobiography exemplifies a significant shift in focus from religion to enlightenment and reason. Additionally, there were forces specific to Benjamin Franklin's Philadelphia, that played an important role in his perspectives and the changes that occurred within colonial America during the 18th century.
The newly evolving opportunity for rising to a higher economic and social position is one of the most important changes we find in Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. As Americans became significant purchasers within a connected Atlantic world of goods and services, the expansion of a consumer economy became the basis of a society that was further removed from plantation life and now allowed for the development of commercial opportunities for self-advancement.
One of the more important developments that arise during Benjamin’s youth is the creation, by his brother James, of The New England Courant in 1720, the second newspaper in America. (Franklin 23) While the newspaper was not as commercially successful as James projected, it did provide an opportunity for Benjamin to develop his skills as a printer and encouraged him to improve his ability to communicate in writing. The growth of Benjamin Franklin’s writing abilities is very important because it allows him to pursue new avenues for success as he later finds that his writing and his intelligence can be used as a source of power and influence. One of the many times Franklin used his writing persuasively was when he wrote a pamphlet titled “The Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency”; the pamphlet’s purpose was to encourage the printing of more money for the colony, in order to stimulate economic growth. Franklin observes the success of his writing when he states, “[The pamphlet] was well received by the common people in general; but the rich man disliked it, for it increased and strengthened the clamour for more money; and they happening to have no writers among them that were able to answer it, their opposition slackened, and the point was carried by a majority in the House.” (81) here we see that people were becoming more receptive to ideas that were written and conveyed in a sound manner; increasing the ability for influence of those who developed persuasive writing skills; also, showing that well executed writing could be as influential as being wealthy.
The greater variety of trades and occupations that were generated during the 18th century were also important in creating opportunities for upward mobility. The ability to engage in what could be considered non-traditional occupations was a development that...