Article 54: Benjamin Franklin: “Among the numerous luxuries, coffee may be considered as one of the most valuable.”

10/11/2020
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“Among the numerous luxuries, coffee may be considered as one of the most valuable.” Founder of the United States - Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790)

“Among the numerous luxuries, coffee may be considered as one of the most valuable.” Founder of the United States – Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790)

Modern history has validated, coffee and coffee shops, either quietly or openly, have always appeared as important catalysts for the birth of great ideas.

The dream of changing lives from the knowledge base

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) is known as one of the “founding fathers of the United States of America”, who had great merit in promoting the unification of the American colonies. Benjamin Franklin is also honored by Americans as “America’s Greatest Model”. It was he who aroused the self-made man mentality, a traditional American view of life, which is understood that each person’s fate is the result of individual self-striving and creativity.

Benjamin Franklin was the 15th child of a poor family, only officially going to school for two years, though, Benjamin Franklin became a brilliant scientist, writer, philosopher, and politician. He is not the first person to rise from poverty to great achievements, but no one in American history has started so low to achieve such extreme success.

Politicians spent many days and nights arguing in a coffee house to come up with the right strategy for American independence.

Politicians spent many days and nights arguing in a coffee house to come up with the right strategy for American independence.

The key to Benjamin Franklin’s success was none other than his determination to pursue total virtue and make his ambitions a reality. At the age of 12, after dropping out of school, Benjamin Franklin worked in a printing factory to support his family. From there, he began his self-study journey by reading all the books that were brought to the printing house. As a result, he mastered many subjects such as algebra, geometry, grammar, logic, physics and natural sciences. It was also during this period that he had access to articles in The Spectator – the British enlightening magazine, published mainly in cafes. Benjamin Franklin was extremely interested in the ideological thesis of the enlightened philosophers and gradually formed the idea of a life-changing dream.

In 1726, just 20 years old, Benjamin Franklin set his life’s highest goal: to be a good and happy man. He traveled alone to Pennsylvania – the birthplace of modern American democracy. Here he founded the Junto club consisting of people who “share the same spirit of inquiry and desire to improve themselves.” The Junto club contributed books to read together and took turns giving lectures on moral, political and scientific issues every week at London Coffee House. Thanks to this discussion, the members have progressed in both knowledge and thinking. Moreover, the number of books collected by members was increasing day by day. Realizing the intellectual benefits of reading, in 1730, Benjamin Franklin and Junto founded the Library Company of Philadelphia. This is the first library in North America, opening the movement to build later libraries. It was thanks to books from the library that the people of Philadelphia at that time had a higher level of culture than the neighboring areas.

If read books alone, Benjamin Franklin was not necessarily the most successful. He always affirmed that in order to become the best self-model, it is necessary to apply knowledge and practice comprehensive moral qualities. He compiled thirteen virtues and one plan for self-improvement. Although he realized that the path to changing behavior and lifestyle was filled with difficulties, he remained committed to lifelong practice with the values he chose.

The intellectuals of the Royal Society of Arts meet at Rawthmell's Coffee House.

The intellectuals of the Royal Society of Arts meet at Rawthmell’s Coffee House.

In 1743 Benjamin Franklin founded the American Philosophical Society – the oldest scholarly organization in the United States to further its mission “promotes knowledge in the sciences and humanities”. The American Philosophical Society brought together outstanding figures such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Dickinson, etc. Because of its focus on the national pillar generation, Benjamin Franklin promoted youth education and supported the establishment of the Academy of Philadelphia, later the University of Pennsylvania, published the Pennsylvania Gazette, the yearbook “Poor Richard’s Almanac” and established an inter-colonial press network…all for the cause of public enlightenment.

Change to be great

From the mid-1750s to the mid-1770s, Benjamin Franklin spent most of his time traveling to European countries such as England, France, and Germany. During these trips, he earnestly wished to win the freedom of the American colonies. With his expertise in many fields, Benjamin Franklin quickly made friends with the enlightened intellectuals and became an important figure in scientific and philosophical societies. He was a member of the Honest Whigs Club, the Royal Society of the Arts (RSA), Freemasonry. These were the core intellectual associations of the British Enlightenment, often meeting in the cafes of London’s Covent Garden district. In France, Benjamin Franklin participated in discussions with politicians, scholars, and reformers at the Procope Café. He approached the French revolutionary spirit and conceived the idea of the United States of America. Also at Procope Café, Benjamin Franklin drafted the Franco-American Treaty of Alliance in 1778 to prepare for the revolution to regain America’s freedom.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “I love all the honest people I meet at the coffee house.” For from cafes, he had access to progressive ideas, clearly defining how to realize the American dream. Also because of realizing the benefits of coffee in awakening, changing human dignity, Benjamin Franklin specifically stipulated that coffee was an indispensable drink.

The 1773 Boston Tea Party originated from the Green Dragon Tavern café is known as an important political event in the birth of the United States of America.

The 1773 Boston Tea Party originated from the Green Dragon Tavern café is known as an important political event in the birth of the United States of America.

Recognizing that knowledge is important to make colonies strong, especially in need of political discussion forums to create elites to realize the American dream, after returning from Europe, Benjamin Franklin advocated for activities of knowledge dissemination and virtue education in cafes. Politicians, businessmen and even workers could access political ideas gathered through books and newspapers published in coffee shops. Those who could not read were also educated by lectures and debates in the cafeteria.

As the collective wisdom developed, Americans became more and more aware of the “American Dream” with the ideal that everyone had the opportunity to achieve a free and happy life. The emergence of an elite class that clearly recognized the role of each individual in the nation’s destiny did not suffer a colonial fate. They gradually made efforts to participate in activities to develop key areas that created national power such as economics, culture, political policy making, etc. This ideological convergence eventually led to the American Revolution with the majority of its force were young people who dared to think and act, who cherished equality and carried an inherent belief in the opportunity to make America great.

Coffee shops were the place where patriotic intellectuals planned the future of the nation.

Coffee shops were the place where patriotic intellectuals planned the future of the nation.

Benjamin Franklin is revered by Americans not only for his role in America’s freedom, but above all for his efforts to become a better person. He taught himself to be a philosopher, writer, scientist, and politician. At the same time, he trained himself and his mind to acquire the qualities of his own choosing, from there, step by step to the ultimate glory. Benjamin Franklin said that “there cannot be good living where there is not good drinking”, so choosing coffee as a favorite drink and coffee shops as an educational space has contributed to the success of Franklin as well as the Americans who pursued the American dream

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Source: “The Philosophical Way of Coffee” – copyright by Trung Nguyen Legend