This is more of a collection of separate writings (often decades apart)
rather than a coherent autobiography. Im always fascinated by a glimpse
into historical society so I enjoyed the read, although many sections
are quite detailed and not very interesting descriptions of some particular
civic, political, or academic affair Franklin was involved in.
I think many are interested mainly in Franklin's character and its
ethical foundations- there are quite a few self-reflections
on these such as the value of honesty, sincerity and integrity, etc.
Other things I found interesting was the description of the problem
of alcoholism already 300 years ago (and the rejection by society people
suffering from it met with), the description of the Indian wars (where Indians
are describes as quite ruthless and vile, and, eventually wiped out by alcohol
rather than force), and the corruption and selfish characters
dominating politics and public office ("few in public affairs act from a view of the
good of their country, and fewer still with a view to the good of mankind"),
and the foundation of his friendships (which is always an activity or common interest).
Of great interest is also Franklin's list of virtues which he tried to live by
1 Temperance : moderation in food and drink.
2 Silence : Not unnecessary chatter!
3 Order : Things must be in their place, tasks must be allowed to take their time
6 Industry : Be always employed in something useful! Otherwise you are losing time.
10 Cleanliness : No uncleanliness in body, clothes or habit
11 Tranquility : Dont be disturbed by trifles, accidents, or unavoidable things.
Franklin also strongly recommends anyone desiring to clean up their moral code
to do it one step at a time, with perhaps one week for each point here.
An interesting habit he acquires is to stop using dogmatic expressions like "certainly", "undoubtedly" etc
in debates, and rather use "In my opinion..", "one possibility" etc..which in his opinion
avoids fiery responses and unnecessary conflict (and instead gives a
pleasant and constructive dialogue). This method also actually leads others to more
quickly give up erroneous stances.
The personal trait that Franklin describes as the most strongly manifest in most people is pride.
An any dealings with people, their pride is what you must consider and avoid insulting or
In his newspapers, he is adamant in not writing any libeling or personal abuse, which apparently
was becoming a widespread phenomenon already 300 years ago.
He also notes that doing people favors does not make them more benign to you in any way.
There is an interesting piece of history, where Franklin describes the settlement of the southern
states (like Georgia) to be dominated by cast-outs people in debt or from prison.
Franklin describes the challenges of business partnerships (or other partnerships), which
in his experience tends to end in quarrels and disagreements. His advice to reduce the risk
is to clarify from the starts what is expected, what is exactly the nature of the cooperation.
One value is that one should share inventions freely and generously with others.
Another observation is that people are most happy and content when busy with something, when
idle they start complaining and feeling miserable.