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America the Busy
“It is rather a general happy mediocrity that prevails,” Benjamin Franklin wrote about his beloved and newly freed country. But Franklin was not referring to a ...

America the Busy

“It is rather a general happy mediocrity that prevails,” Benjamin Franklin wrote about his beloved and newly freed country.

But Franklin was not referring to a poor work ethic. This man who loved his old blue velvet suit as much as he loved his newly invented bifocals was exalting the virtues of American uniqueness and individuality.

After signing the peace treaty, Franklin received some interesting mail from Europeans who wanted to emigrate to America. By this time Franklin was as comfortable with European culture as he was his beaver cap, which ignited a fashion trend when he began to wear it in Paris. He feared some immigrants had a false impression of America, which was not a “mini-Europe.” He knew their expectations could dump them into despair. Franklin decided to enlighten these prospective Americans. He wrote a pamphlet in 1784 on the “Characteristics of America.”

“There are few great Proprietors of the soil, and few Tenants; most people cultivate their own lands, or follow some handicraft or merchandise; very few [are] rich enough to live idly upon their rents or incomes; or to pay the high prices given in Europe, for Painting, Statues, Architecture, and the other works of Art that are more curious than useful,” described Franklin.

This senior statesman warned European immigrants about relying on their social status for employment. Americans valued hard work more than birthrights.

“[In America] people do not enquire concerning a stranger, What is he? but What can he do? If he has any useful art, he is welcome; and if he exercises it, and behaves well, he will be respected by all that know him,” Franklin wrote, noting that strangers were welcome. “Industry and constant employment are great preservatives of the morals and virtue of a Nation.”

Franklin also noticed a difference between Europe and America on the subject of religion. These discrepancies went beyond Catholicism and Protestantism. They were ones of sincerity and sentiment. “To this may be truly added, that serious Religion, under its various denominations, is not only tolerated, but respected and practised. Atheism is unknown there,” this Quaker observed.

“And the Divine Being seems to have manifested his approbation of the mutual forbearance and kindness with which the different sects treat each other, by the remarkable prosperity with which he has been pleased to favour the whole country.”

And so with his characteristic diligence, Benjamin Franklin recognized both God’s hand in America’s freedom and his blessings on her industriousness.


Thank you for the blessings that hard work and diligence bring. May I honor you with my hands and heart today as I enjoy the freedom you have given this country.

“Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor”

(Proverbs 12:24).

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