Establishment of Library in Philadelphia

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Establishment of the public library in Philadelphia and its effects

Benjamin Franklin loved books he spent most of his time reading Reading was the only delight I allowed myself. I spent no time in hostelries, games, or frolicks of any kind; (Franklin, 1986: Chapter 5) . Also, he was a member of a group of people whom would come together hold club meeting where they read and shared books. Franklin felt that it would be much better if the group began an internal library where everyone would pitch in their collection of books. They would lend these books to each other and would have a continuous flow of books for their reading. All the members of the club agreed, and that led them to the opening of a small library at Mr Grace’s where they had been holding their meetings.

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Contrary to what they expected the library did not do well. For starters, the books they put together, each member bringing their collection, were not as much as they expected. Also, managing the group was very hectic because there were inconveniences in caring for the books. Therefore, the library was dissolved, and everyone took back their books. However, Franklin considered the idea of having a public library was very beneficial. Consequently, he brought forth the approach to the Junto members and on 1st July 1731 they came up with the terms and conditions for the subscribers.

Also, they contributed the capital which they used to buy new books for the library. They also agreed on an amount that they would contribute on a yearly basis. The library began with a total of 50 subscribers who would invest 40 shillings whereby 10 shillings were purchasing more books thus adding to the library’s collection. The library was being opened once per week whereby subscribers would lend books and return borrowed books. Late returns were fined double the price of the book. The library was very beneficial to the community because they had access to books thus improving their conversations.

Franklin’s moral perfection

Franklin wanted to have a life whereby he would not commit any faults “it was about this time I comprehended the bold and laborious project of reaching to moral perfection. I coveted to live without committing to any fault at any time;” (Franklin, 1986: Chapter 6). Knowing what was right and wrong, Franklin assured himself that he would do one thing to avoid the other. Franklin found that it was challenging to live without faults. Therefore, he concluded that it was not adequate to prevent the slip-ups, but it was better to acquire and establish the right habits avoiding the contrary ones. In all the years that Franklin had spent reading he had received different virtues shown by various writers, and each writer gave diverse meanings to those virtues.

He came up with a method which included 13 virtues that were necessary to him at the time and made them more understandable with fewer ideas placed on them. Since he intended to attain all the thirteen virtues, he saw it necessary to deal with each at its own time until he had achieved to live by all of them. After making the virtues his habits, he came up with a table whereby he crossed the days of the week against the thirteen virtues. The purpose of that table was to help him find out the virtues he experienced difficulty and what days of the week.
On the table, he concentrated on one virtue each week ensuring that he perfected on that specific virtue on its week of concentration. Throughout the year he would go through four seasons of strengthening each morality in its week. Later on, he improved his table to a memorandum book in which he went through on program in the year. For Franklin, the order moral was the most challenging virtue of maintaining, and therefore he came up with a plan which included all the 24 hours of the day and what he was to do in every hour. But being a businessman who travelled a lot, it was complicated to stick to the schedule he had created.

Also, order regarding placing things where they were supposed to be Franklin found it exceedingly problematic to maintain. At some point due to continued imperfection in that area he wanted to give up ” and I made so little progress in the modification and had such regular relapses, that I was ready to give up the effort, and content myself with a defective character in that respect “( Franklin, 1986: Chapter 6). According to Franklin, the phrase “a speckled axe is best” he meant that it is better to try to attain morality regardless of the many obstacles there are to face than to wholly give in to immoral preferences. By struggling against evil a person will have both virtuous and wicked appearances which were more satisfactory than not trying at all

Religious Background of Franklin

Franklin was a very holy man, and he believed in the Bible. In his autobiography, he mentions a travelling doctor in England who spitefully biased the Bible’s message. Franklin described this doctor as wicked for disrespecting the Bible showing that Franklin knew what the Bible says and understood the meaning. Besides, the morals that he was striving to attain, one of them was humility which he described as the imitation of Jesus and Socrates which meant that he knew about Jesus and His doings thus wanting to emulate them. Therefore, Franklin depicts himself as one who had studied the Bible. Also, in his little book he had quoted the book of Proverb from the Bible and used the word as his motto. He was also prayerful as illustrated in the different prayers he had cited in his little book as guidance in achieving moral perfection. For instance: And conceiving God to be the cascade of wisdom, I thought it right and essential to solicit his aid for obtaining it; to this end, I moulded the following little prayer, which was prefaced to my tables of examination, for daily use. (Franklin, 1986: Chapter 6).


  • Franklin, B. (1986). The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
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Establishment Of Library In Philadelphia. (2019, Jun 10). Retrieved December 4, 2022 , from

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