16 Apr 2022


Pocahontas and Benjamin Franklin

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Human history is extremely malleable and dynamic in nature. The reputation that makes historical figures can be attributed to various factors such as creation of circumstances that brought about noticeable change in their time through their own ingenuity. Others encountered circumstances in their normal lives that catapulted them into historical figures (Jensen, 2016). There is also a group of historical figures who lived a normal life yet future events, some of them posthumous, made them historical figures. 

Pocahontas was the daughter of a great indigenous Indian paramount chief. Few if any in her category have ever been named as historical figure. Her brush with the captive Captain John Smith and her eventual capture however, transformed her life (De Jong, 2016). On the other hand, Benjamin Franklin was a great journalist and an industrious young inventor who was born in the days of revolution when a group of several Americans earned the title ‘fathers of the nation’ (Franklin, 2016). Without the secondary circumstances, both Pocahontas and Benjamin Franklin would have lived industrious but ordinary lives that would not warrant even a passing mention in history. 

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There were many significant events in the life of Pocahontas. Historiography is however, unanimous that the defining moment in her life was electing to remain with the settlers after her capture (De Jong, 2016). She became a Christian and married a settler in John Rolfe in 1614 and this created an opportunity for her to travel to England. It is in England that Pocahontas became a celebrity who even dined in the palace. This celebrity status was however, the product of a commercial venture by the settlers who desired to inspire investment in the new world (Mceggtigan, 2016). Pocahontas never made it back from her maiden trip out of America, but herr few days stay in England created her place in history as a great American. 

Benjamin Franklin can credit his greatness to his own hard work, genius and personal ingenuity. In the same way that Pocahontas had a great heritage, Franklin was a great man guaranteed by a conjunction of two mistakes (Jensen, 2016). The first was a political mistake on his part and the second a perceptional mistake on the part of the American colonial populace. After many major achievements as a journalist, academician, inventor, entrepreneur and politician, Franklin was deputized to England by Pennsylvania (Franklin, 2016). 

Among his obligations was to plead against the excesses of the Penn family who owned the colony and oppose the 1765 Stamp Act. He failed in the later duty and, therefore, suggested a friend; a stamp distributor in his Native Pennsylvania (Franklin, 2016). The populace mistook this for his support of the stamp duty act and in an overnight became a pariah in America. This sudden and extreme hatred gave Franklin the impetus to fight and successfully have the Stamp Act repealed (Mceggtigan, 2016). Suddenly he found himself a darling of the entire American populace in all 13 colonies and his position in American history was at that moment secured. 

From a personal perspective however, becoming a historical figure is not always a positive thing. There is a very high chance that had Pocahontas not traveled to England, she would have lived on to a ripe old age and seen her grandchildren. Instead, she died young in a strange land of unknown causes and was buried in an unmarked grave (De Jong, 2016). In the exact opposite of that divide, Franklin’s life exponentially improved. As he had already flourished in other areas of life, his desire was to see a united and prosperous America (Franklin, 2016). His fame enabled him to lobby for the creation of the United States and he participated in its formation as he is also a signatory of the Declaration of Independence. France also played a major role in the success of America against an overwhelmingly superior British military juggernaut (Jensen, 2016). Franklin contributed greatly to this as ambassador of the 13 colonies/states to France. 

The upshot of the foregoing is that Pocahontas and Franklin are two great American historical figures. Pocahontas was immortalized by artist Simon van de Passe in 1616 in a painting while in England among other great works of art including monuments in the USA. Franklin has his name in the declaration of independence as well as being reflected in many historical works. The two are also featured in many historical books and works. Coincidences created their place in history due to their respective reactions, but the resultant eventualities worked differently for each of them.


De Jong, S. (2016, July). Finding Pocahontas in contemporary Europe: Migration research Meets historical studies on cultural brokerage. Third ISA Forum of Sociology. Vienna . England: Open University Press. 

Franklin, B. (2016).  Benjamin Franklin Autobiography . South Carolina: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Jensen, E. M. (2016). The Harvard Law Review and the Iroquois Influence Thesis. Working Paper 2016-26. Retrieved from <http://ssrn.com/abstract=2816074/>

McGettigan, T. (2016). The children of Ludlow: Their struggle is our struggle.  Colorado: Colorado State University. Retrieved from <http://ssrn.com/abstract=2834644/> 

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