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...
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...y, considering citizenship and working for the benefit of society, while Henry Thoreau emphasizes the illusory nature and imperfection of the state and sees individual freedom in unity with nature and rejection of pseudo-needs enslaving people.
Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. New York and Cincinnati: American Book Company, 1896. Web. 5 June 2012.
Houston, Alan. Franklin: The Autobiography and other Writings on Politics, Economics, and Virtue. New York: Cambridge UP, 2008. Print.
Wolf, Abraham. History of Science, Technology, and Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century. New York: MacMillan Press, 1968. Web. 5 June 2012.
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden: A Fully Annotated Edition. New Heaven: Yale UP, 2004. Print.
Myerson, Joel. The Cambridge Companion to Henry David Thoreau. New York: Cambridge UP, 1995. Print.
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