Benjamin Franklin was a renowned American polymath as well as the founding father of the United States. Aside from his busy life, Franklin was married to Deborah who he rarely got the time to stay with her. Franklin's autobiography has been severally referred to by historians in the representation of true American citizen and a great leader in the history of America (Franklin, 36-37). They make emphasis on his diplomatic and political roles as well as the input in the development of the public front to the American Revolution as some of the greatest achievements of his life. However, when it came to his domestic life, Franklin was emotionally detached from his family especially from his wife Deborah.
Notably, in a span of two decades, Franklin managed to come home on only two occasions of which one was during the funeral of his wife. Many people wondered why a man of such a reputable character managed to stay emotionally unavailable for his only wife (Greene, 52-73). Therefore, the paper focuses on the story of Deborah and Benjamin Franklin basing the argument that during the eighteenth century there was a distinguishable separation of national politics and domestic politics. In addition, the paper looks at the gender gap between husbands and wife that led to estrangement due to separations between national politics and domestic life. Separation of national politics and domestic life in the eighteenth century.
Separation of national politics and domestic life in the eighteenth century
During the eighteenth century, there was a new way in which people identified roles as men and women. The idealism was surrounded by the rhetoric of liberty and virtue. For instance, the males were portrayed as the revolutionary figures and the main beneficiaries in all aspects of life. Elsewhere, women were associated with maintaining marriage, managing the household economy and carrying out domestic arts which in the long run enhanced the birth of the US.
Indeed, according to the story of Deborah and Benjamin as married couples in the eighteenth century, there was a complete separation of national politics and domestic life. Ben Franklin wanted an independent wife who would be a helpmate in that she could help in managing his businesses, raising a family, sharing the problems in life and being able to create a home. Fortunately, due to Deborah's interest, Franklin was able to seek his political life comfortably without worrying about his domestic life. Benjamin and Deborah established a common-law marriage in 1730 since Deborah was legally still married to John Rodgers. The two started staying together after which they got two children together after which one passed away due to smallpox. Aside from marriage, Franklin was actively involved in national politics which saw him represent America (Greene, 52-73).
Franklin was interested in leadership in that he focused on inventing a leadership scheme that would fit the impending democratic age as opposed to Cato or Brutus or Publius which was being practiced in the 18th century. From the mid-1750s to the mid-1770s. Franklin residence was majorly in London carrying out the political roles that were assigned to him by the Pennsylvanian Assembly as a colonial agent representative (Lemay, 1730-1747). Since 1757, he stayed in London for five continuous years trying to stop the proprietors' sanctions and nullify the legislation from the duly elected assembly and as well as refusal to pay taxes on the lands they own.
In 1764, he was elected as the speaker of the Pennsy lvanian House where he later lost his seat due to fears by both the political and religious parties to modify proprietor to royal government and sent to London once more. While in England, he took the chance to tour around and advance his studies. Benjamin employs the virtue of being industries "Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions" (Franklin, 78-88). For instance, he took the opportunity to advance his interest in science majoring in electricity which earned him a crucial election opportunity in the Royal Society in 1756. The following years saw him take part in defending the American cause, declaration of independence, got appointed Ambassador of France, became a delegate in Philadelphia Convention and unanimously elected as the president of Pennsylvanian in 1785. Notably, over the years, he never mixed his political life with his domestic life.
Barely much is known of his early life in his autobiography where he only focuses on his life after arriving in Pennsylvania. The separation is depicted when Franklin ran away leaving his brother from the printer's partnership in Boston as he wanted to go explore his political ambitions and further his studies where he ended up in Pennsylvania (Sletcher, 47-52). However, Franklin kept ties with his sister Jane who was his favorite sibling. The two were inseparable and kept in touch by means of letters throughout Benjamin's lengthy stays overseas where she kept updating him on his businesses and family.
Certainly, Benjamin is a man who seldom got emotionally available for other people. He rarely paid visits to his wife and children. On the other hand, Deborah was afraid of the sea and she was unable to travel with her husband on her political missions neither did she visit him in Landon. The only form of communication existing was through the letters that were written occasionally. When Franklin lost his son in 1736, he remained silent about the tragedy but he later addressed the untimely death of his son Franky (Lemay, 1730-1747). In a short while, he continued traveling and advancing his national politics to the extent of taking long vacations of more than a decade at the expense of his family. Deborah continued staying at home with children and taking care of family businesses in the hope that one day her husband will return to help her raise the children.
Apparently, Franklin received letters from Deborah and he would respond to them promising to come home in a few months. However, when the day was nearer, he would postpone his arrival at the same time not explaining his decision. The postponement continued from months to a decade without paying a visit to his home (Lemay, 1730-1747). Thus, detaching himself from his domestic life which includes his family, wife, and children. As a national figure and a representative of American people in the 18th century due to his humility ways, it is clear that there was indeed a separation in the way in which individuals managed their national politics and their domestic lives.
The Resulting Gender gap between husband and wife
The gender gap was a serious issue in the eighteenth century and it significantly affected husband and wives. Most of the time, one party was discredited as opposed to the other. During the 18th century, women were deemed invisible and their identity was represented by their husband's identity. Thus, the husband was the sole controller of all wealth the wife contributes to a marriage. Moreover, the wife was not obligated to conduct any businesses without the authorization of the husband. Contrary to the laws and expectations, it was the responsibility of the wives to protect the integrity of businesses and homes when the man was not around to oversee it. Notably, it was difficult to execute the responsibility due to the limited resources that were available for women.
From the story, when Franklin spent most of his years that is during 1757 to 1762 and during 1764 to the period 1775 in Europe, where he was working as a representative of the government of Pennsylvania, Deborah by then was staying in Philadelphia. From what was happening in her life, she was leaving with the fear that her simple ways and plain appearance could be a great embarrassment to her husband in front of his elegant Europeans whom he was working with. When Franklin was in England, trying to work peace between England an America, he was not capable of returning to colonies.
During this period, he wrote a letter in which he first used the tender term "my dear love". However during this period, Deborah was very ill and she could not acknowledge, neither did she responded to the letter. It is important to note that the work made Franklin loose interest in his wife and after a period of three months, Benjamin Franklin returned to America. However, the letter he wrote to his friend was a clear indication that the gap between him and his Deborah had widened and the relationship was cold. "I have lately lost my old and faithful companion; and I every day become more sensible of the greatness of the experienced loss; which cannot be repaired".
Over thirty-five years of marriage, Franklin inserted an indirect praise on Deborah's work ethics and common sense through wife character as expressed in Poor Richard's Almanac and Pennsylvania Gazette. Franklin had celebrated her compassion, her competency, and her faithfulness as a hostess and as a housekeeper in one of the verses with the title "I sing my Plain country, Joan". From the story, one could actually tell that as a result of the distance which was between Deborah and Franklin, it is clear women develop a strong feeling for their spouse even if their husband is not around. From a political aspect, individuals tend to idealize our founding fathers, and not valuing the relationship that exists between husbands and wife, Benjamin Franklin, who was one big image could operate freely and even operate like a playboy. He doesn't put his marriage first even after he was married for a total period of forty-four years. What transpires in the story is that historians and biographers tend to the shy way and not talk about his marriage life because at some level it defies idealization. Considering the relationship between husband and wife a great gap was in between since both Benjamin and Franklin could spend two of their final seventeen years living apart. The main question that individuals will always raise is that why does this happened?
The intellectual difference between a wife and husband plays an important role in the marriage gap between wife and husband. Basically, the conventional wisdom is that Franklin and Deborah's marriage was actually doomed from the start by great differences in ambition and intellect and emphasis on practicality over love. From the story, Franklin is identified to be a great genius and as result, he needed freedom from conventional constraints. On the other hand, fear that comes from women to some extent made Deborah drift away from the husband, she feared traveling in the ocean hence this kept her far from meeting the husband. However, as a man, Franklin made serious mistakes and dissembling year after year on his return and refusing to come back even when he knew that his wife was deteriorating in her health is a clear evidence on something that is beyond bored indifference.
In relation to Benjamin and Deborah, women seldom held political positions nor have a say in politics. For instance, Deborah could have accompanied Franklin on his political escapades in London which she ended up not doing. Also, the wife had no right to self-divorce the husband after a separation since they were the ones paying dowry (Sletcher, 47-52). For instance, Deborah remained legally married to John Rogers even after moving in with Franklin. In addition, the wives had no power to question their husbands about their whereabouts nor reasons for not coming home. Franklin had the tendency to stay away from home and give no explanations of his postponement of coming to check on his wife and the family.
Furthermore, it was the duty of the wife to take care of the children and family business in the best way possible without making mistakes. Notably, Deborah took care of her children and mothered...
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