By: Dr.Mohammad Aleem, Editor-ICN Group
NEW DELHI: Benjamin was at heart a good writer, so he was a good observer of human feelings and sentiments also. He writes in the same chapter of the book while observing his men on the battlefield in these words:
“This gave me occasion to observe, that, when men are employed, they are best contentented; for on the days they worked they were good-natured and cheerful, and, with the consciousness of having done a good day’s work, they spent the evening jollily; but on our idle days they were mutinous and quarrelsome, finding fault with pork, the bread, etc., and in continual ill-humour, which put me in mind of a sea-captain, whose rule it was to keep his men constantly at work; and, when his mate once told him that they had done everything, and there was nothing further to employ them about, “OK”, says he, “make them scour the anchor.”
How these words could be applied to us Indians also. Should not our government think prudently in that way to curtail the mass unrest of many areas where our men are aiming guns against our own establishment?
Doesn’t it show us that if we want to get rid of all kinds of extremism and terrorism from this country, we should also think about employing our disgruntled youth in some serious manner, so their genuine and real energies could be channelized and tapped in most fruitful manner?
But alas! Who has time to think over it? We want to get cured of the wound, but, we don’t bother to see that how this wound came out on our bodies.
Benjamin didn’t stop here to make his countrymen a wise and sensible citizen. He gives them many types of advice and shows the path of success through his own experiences and proper exhortations. In his very famous almanac, which was published in his own time, and was a great hit among the masses, he writes these wise words on its pages:
“It would be thought a hard Government that should tax its People one-tenth part of their “Time”, to be employed in its service. But, “idleness” taxes many of us much more, if we reckon all that is spent in absolute “sloth”, or doing of nothing, with that which is spent in idle employments or amusements, that amount to nothing. Sloth, like rust, consumes faster than labor wears; while the used key is always bright.”
He writes further on the same page:
“If you were a servant, would you not be ashamed that a good master should catch you idle? Are you then your own master, “be ashamed to catch yourself idle?”
“Poverty often deprives a Man of all spirit and virtue: It is hard for any empty bag to stand upright.”
He remembers his early days of life in one of his letters to Samuel Mather, on May 12, 1784. He writes:
“It is now more than 60 years since I left Boston, but I remember well both your father and grandfather, having heard them both in the pulpit, and seen them in their houses. The last time I saw your father was in the beginning of 1724, when I visited him after my first trip to Pennsylvania. He received me in his library, and on my taking leave showed me a shorter way out of the house through a narrow passage, which was crossed by a beam overhead. We were still talking as I withdrew, he accompanying me behind, and turning partly towards him, when he said hastily, “Stoop, stoop!” I did not understand him, till I felt my head hit against the beam.
He was a man that never missed any occasion of giving instruction, and upon this he said to me, “You are young, and have the world before you’ stoop as you go through it, and you will miss many hard thumps.” This advice, thus beat into my head, has frequently been of use to me; and I often think of it, when I see pride mortified, and misfortunes brought upon people by carrying their heads too high.”
Such a man of extraordinary character and vision could not gain wisdom by sitting idle and dreaming on wild days. He earned all his achievements through hard labor and persistent struggle. How he had covered his distance from his hometown to Philadelphia while running away from his home could be easily judged and understood by this account of the writer, Franklin Benjamin- An autobiography:
“Running away was illegal. In early America, people all had to have a place in society, and runaways did not fit in anywhere. Regardless, Ben took a boat to New York, where he hoped to find work as a printer. He didn’t, and walked across New Jersey, finally arriving in Philadelphia via a boat ride. After debarking, he used the last of his money to buy some rolls. He was wet, disheveled, and messy when his future wife, Deborah Read, saw him on that day, October, 6, 1723. She thought him odd-looking, never dreaming that seven years later they would be married.”
Benjamin after successfully establishing his own printing press which was so rare in those days in America, which was infested with slavery, hardship and penury, brought his own newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette. He also wrote many articles under aliases. His newspaper soon succeeded in attracting attention of people, and it became a most sought after reading material among the learned men. He was one of the first editors, who printed political cartoons authored by him.
He hasn’t earned reputation and rewards only as a writer of par excellence but as one of the founding fathers of the United States of America.
His autobiography portrays a fascinating picture of America, through his shrewd observations on the literature, philosophy, religion and its colonial and revolution periods.
He wrote the first five chapters of his autobiography in England in 1771, and resumed again, thirteen years later (1784-85) in Paris, and later in 1788 when he returned to the United States. He ended the accounts of his life in 1757 when he was 51 years old.
This great masterpiece of literature was written in eighteen long years. And it truly surprises many that how a book which was written some two centuries back could still be a good book to read and admire.
I salute this man of art and vision with an open heart and deep feelings. This was the man who helped in making America a great nation on the earth.