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Summaries With Notes
FRANKLIN'S ANCESTORS and FAMILY DETAILS
In Part I, Franklin opens the narrative with a letter to his son discussing several details about the family background. His purpose is to instruct his son about his own life. He tells his son about the ways that he raised himself above poverty and insignificance to a position of eminence and power. He expresses his gratitude to the good luck and the providence that favored him in acquiring an enviable status in the society. He hopes that future generations will be interested in knowing the ways and means through which Franklin became a successful man. Franklin writes that if he were given a chance to live his life again, he would, without any hesitation, ask for a repeat of the same life except he would like the chance to correct some errors he made. He continues, however, that he cannot expect such an opportunity. As a result, he will live his life again by writing it down for others to read. He hopes that reading about him will be a much more interesting thing than listening to an old man talk about himself.
Franklin's interest in collecting family anecdotes led him to his uncle's notes; these invaluable notes furnished him with details about his ancestors. His family originally came from Ecton in Northamptonshire, England, where they had lived for more than three hundred years. 'Franklin' was the name of an order of people, which was later taken up as a surname by his family. The small Franklin estate of three hundred acres was not sufficient for the family's maintenance. For this reason, the eldest son became a blacksmith. Franklin's grandfather was Thomas, who was born in 1598, lived in Ecton, and later retired to Banbury in Oxfordshire. Later in the book, Franklin relates more details about his grandfather and his four sons; Thomas, John, Benjamin, and Josiah (Ben Franklin's father).
Franklin tells that his forefathers were Protestants, who were involved in the Reformation; therefore, they had to be careful about their religious practices. A small anecdote about their cleverness is interesting. Whenever Franklin's grandfather wanted to read the Bible, he would overturn a stool to reveal a Bible, which was carefully taped underneath it. He would then put the stool on his knees and would read from the Bible, while one of the children stood near the door to warn them of the presence of any unwanted person coming along. Once the warning was sounded, the stool would be turned down on its feet and the Bible would remain concealed under it.
Around 1682 (before Benjamin's birth), Franklin's father, Josiah, went to New England with his first wife and their three children. Eventually, Josiah had seven children by his first wife and ten by his second wife. Ben Franklin was the youngest son. Franklin's mother was Abiah Folger, daughter of Peter Folger, one of the first settlers of New England who was known as a solid citizen and good Christian.
In this opening section of the book, Franklin gives a general profile about his ancestors and his family. The details that he presents show the high regard and affection he has towards his parents and other family members. This section also sets a pattern for the book. As a middle-aged man when he wrote the book, Benjamin indulges himself, pats himself on the back from time to time, and occasionally rambles as he presents his narrative.