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History 102 February 26, 2012 Change over Time between the Lives of Luther and Franklin

Martin Luther was born in the Eiselesben, Germany in 1483 which was then part of the Holy Roman Empire. At this time in the Holy Roman Empire, many political issues were taking place, including the weak rule of Frederick III’s son, Maximillion and the apparently hierarchical structure which was a lot like the rule of Charlemagne. There were only seven people, called “electors” that were allowed to vote on the election of Holy Roman Emperor, which could of course lead to corruption and general public disagreement. But that was the way the government was run at this time. Frederick Witten, or Frederick the Wise one a big ally of Martin Luther in his time of protest, but when Charles V asks him not to run for Emperor, Charles ends up taking power. This proved to be a massive misfortune for Luther in his future endeavors. After the 95 theses were posted by Luther, Charles V was supposed to arrest him but the influence of Frederick the Wise let him go free. This is one of the biggest events in Luther’s life that gives us insight into his character and values, and this also reveals political situations of the time. As a continuation of the specifics of the time period, the mercantilist system was very prevalent in the society of Luther during his life. This ties into politics here because the ruler essentially controls economic opportunity. Guilds were a large part of society and thus made it very difficult for lower-class citizens to go from “rags to riches,” but Luther’s father found a way. They started in the middle class but then subsequently earned their way to becoming middle class. He starts as a poor farmer and as he gains control of some mines around the area he quickly becomes wealthy, and in my opinion this event in his father’s life made known to his son played a role in the way Martin Luther lead his own life and helped build his perseverant,


if they were important at all. seeing as Luther began as a commoner. These events just gave him more to fight for and made him more daring than before. He was always a very bold person and these theses made he himself finally see the innermost corruption of the church. Upon being called to the Diet of Worms to be allowed a chance to take back his words 2 . thus fueling his lust for creating the right order of things in the Holy Roman Empire and changing his outlook on the task before him. Whether it is set up to be that way or not. the important people are always the ones with money. This was one of the only ways a poor person could become rich in that society due to the way the guild system was set up. In my opinion. You could only make good money as a master and you could only become a master if you had enough money to build your own shop. After this. which made it a vicious circle excluding the less wealthy. In fact it gained hope in the lower class that there was actually something they could do to change things. I think Luther felt the need and responsibility to change things once he earns his way to a higher class. and vice versa. This was a papal rebellion that was seen as a way to reduce the authority the church held and it was also seen as somewhat of a commoner uprising. he was subsequently excommunicated. but not forcing him to lose hope. this economic and political system seems to convey a sense of aristocracy in that only people with wealth could be in power and the rest were less important. I believe every opportunity or event in a person’s life changes them and sculpts them into the person they become. Being born in this social class.tenacious character. I have found that he is not as biased as many protestors are in history and he is generally out to do what is right for society and its people. With that I think it relates back to many societies and systems. and this includes Martin Luther as well. He gained praise from the lower class through this act and started something bigger than he had intended. In studying Luther. His biggest feat in the Holy Roman Empire is no doubt his posting of the 95 Theses on the door of the church.

but Luther. He was supposed to be beheaded that day after refusing to stand down. In my opinion.’” (Oberman. That would be any normal man’s choice. This “stunt” at the Diet of Worms should certainly have gotten him killed. and the best thing he could do there is admit his “faults” and live to fight another day. Oberman.and actions. This was a common belief at the time but he was one to go past the basic meaning of it and actually out it into action by rebelling against the 1 Heiko A. Luther: Man between God and the Devil. the way a person is brought up and their social class at birth is another one of the aspects that can help shape the values and character of a person. and they demonstrate his character amazingly. “’If I now recant these. Luther also believed in individuation and the idea that anyone could choose their own path. and no matter how ill-advised his actions may seem even to his allies. which is certainly still a respectable feat. he stands his ground. which clearly could have impacted the rebellious side of his character then and in later years. sometimes you have to realize when enough is enough. These few events obviously show his character strengths but also show some of his weaknesses. then. Luther didn’t. and took him to a castle outside of the city. This reveals the true character of Martin Luther. His mother was of traditional/lower status and his father was a radical. I would be doing nothing but strengthening tyranny. 39)1 These are Luther’s words as given by Heiko Oberman. (Luther’s quote as relayed by Oberman) Yale University Press. Just by reading them one gets a sense of his voice and how tenacious and perseverant he is. in my opinion. shows his stupidity and tenacity standing up for what is right in his mind. 3 . Nevertheless. Knowing he would not take back his words he had devised an escape route for him. He is one to stand up for what he believes in no matter what the cost. He needed to understand that nothing he could do at the Diet could change the Pope’s mind about the way he and his officials run things. but of course Frederick the Wise could see through Luther.

church in an attempt to better the lives of himself and the people in Germany and Saxony. He wanted to do something different in his own life than just be complacent with what he is given as a child. With this movement. This was a major contribution because it opened up much more of the religion to the German people and expanded the religion in itself. These theses were not. People were no longer willing to simply accept what their leaders were doing. In the 160 years separating the lives of Martin Luther and Benjamin Franklin. He wrote many books on his beliefs regarding social class and religious power and corruption. I say this is one of his most impactful contributions to the world of religion because it changed Christianity forever in the eyes of the people. Many 4 . and it also helped continue his protest by allowing German-speaking people to understand his arguments. he had little to do in the castle. he would surely be recognized and taken into custody again to be murdered due to Charles V’s condemnation of him. and even scientific ideas underwent substantial change. religious. his only great contribution to the world of religion. With this in mind. he literally started the protest against Roman Catholicism and its corruption at the time. he was hidden away in Wartburg Castle by Frederick the wise. but the way he voiced it was very vulgar as if he was trying to evoke deeper reactions in his readers or just trying to voice his opinion more powerfully. many political. It also started a more secular movement. so he took to translating the Holy Bible into German. and this was exactly what Luther wanted. This obviously meant doing something radical and rebellious: the 95 theses. Religious wars including the 30 years’ war began less than a year after the death of Martin Luther and this changed the way people looked at religion. There were very few people there and if he left. In my eyes. Luther was a very scatological protestant as well. this was his second most important feat. economic. however. After his excommunication. This again seems to have been brought about by his radical father and lower class childhood.

That being said. Natural Law is a lesser known subject. began to push the idea of separation of church and state and this fueled the movement of secularism. Daniel Defoe of England really helped spearhead this change because of the flaws he saw in the mercantilist system. 5 .” (Oberman. but another form of economy in the capitalist system began to come about in England in the 1600’s. both social and personal. and enigma remains. and tying back into societal 2 Heiko A. This included the development of science. geology. This was a problem many people saw in England but Defoe actually did something about it. arguably to the major benefit of Benjamin Franklin which will be discussed later. Oberman. mainly Richard Cromwell. mercantilism stayed around for a very long time. and how we will never forget the impact he had on the religion of Christianity. 66)2 It shows just how important his contributions to the world of religion really were. “No matter how resolved we might be to leave Luther in the past. One of the bigger events that occurred in the years between the two men was the Enlightenment.people. In continuation with a more economic issue. The importance of science and its development in this age clearly does not need to be explained as it becomes one of the most rapidly growing fields of study from that point on and even in present day. the economy in the colonies still remained a mercantilist system. I find this to be one of the most important movements to occur between the times of the two men because it seems to decrease the power of religious leaders and shows that Luther’s efforts certainly transcended his time period. That being said. Luther: Man between God and the Devil. and even the controversial idea of Natural Law. A person could not open a business without having a guild for it and being a guild member which meant his father was breaking the law by selling imported wines. It basically means using reason to analyze human nature and it goes along with the movement from religious societies to secular societies. Yale University Press. It is basically just a secular way of thinking about humans and everything that encompasses behavior.

the monarchy still had enough power to institute the European economic system of mercantilism in the colonies. It served as another piece of the puzzle that over time decreased the power of the Church at the of morals. One of his greatest successes was mastering this system. Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston. This is one of the biggest events in this time concerning political movements and Charles II then begins to quietly remove Calvinists from his land. Cromwell pushed for democracy in the Roman Empire with the helped of the blooming Quaker movement. I believe it was developed as a complement to the secular movement and it helped people better understand how they could live without everything being based on religious beliefs. in my opinion. This is where Franklin comes in to. This secular movement also brings about the introduction of republicanism and democracy to Europe and even the colonies which is where Benjamin Franklin eventually comes into play. It was a society of latitudinarianism where the King would appoint a Governor and the colony would then have a general assembly to discuss constitutional and political matters. While it seemed that the colonies were moving towards Republicanism. change the way politics is seen in the world at that time. It was close to a government being run by the people but the monarchy was still pulling the strings from behind the curtains. That being said. Massachusetts. the King and Queen of England at the time. they obviously started out being controlled by William and Mary. Needless to say there was a lot of change occurring in a relatively short period of time making way for the Republicanism starting to form in the American colonies. He finally succeeds and attempts to turn it into a democracy with his new power but this quickly fails and the monarchy returns with Charles II throwing Cromwell out of the city and taking power back himself. He was the first person to franchise businesses and 6 . This system has already been explained in the life of Martin Luther but it seems that Franklin was much more successful with it. known as the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

This knack for understanding the way business is run really brought out some of the qualities of his character. think critically. running away to Philadelphia and becoming a fugitive. His father was able to send him to school with the Clergy but he only had enough money to send him there for two years. in my eyes. he also gains a lot of respect from the people in his colony and even other colonies at the time. is a great feat in more ways than one. Being in somewhat of a lower class. and figure things out no matter the difficulty. Not only does he become very wealthy. This. 7 . one of the greatest moments in American history and changed the way the colonies viewed politics and their European counterparts. Needless to say. being our First Fruits and coming so seasonably. It seems to me that his character shows in this specific event even at a young age. I think this creates a larger value in money than most would have because he then seeks it out with vigor in his business endeavors later in life. of which Franklin was also a major part. The social system of this time period and location was basically the same as that of Luther’s time and Franklin’s family was lower/middle class. “All our Cash was now expended in the Variety of Particulars we had been obliged to procure. The fact that he gained the respect of the people really worked in his favor later when he becomes one of the delegates chosen to be on the Second Continental Congress and also the Committee of Five that originally drafted the constitution. It showed people that he could solve problems. and this Countryman's Five Shillings. this development he helped spearhead was.he ended up retiring at the age of 40 being a millionaire and the richest person in the colonies. This all relates to the developing republic challenging the monarchy which lead to the Revolutionary War. He then becomes an apprentice to his brother but gets fed up and leaves it. and still is. He runs away from his problems and settles down in a different place starting a new life for himself. He actually ended up helping other people keep their books and run businesses through the mercantilist system.

Science had only been around for nearly 100 years but he was inventing and innovating many things as a hobby and for the good of the colonies. 3 Benjamin Franklin: The Autobiography. Franklin’s contributions to the original constitution and his scientific endeavors were by far the most extraordinary of his accomplishments that benefitted society in many ways. 8 . musician. can really bring out the differences in character between that person and another. To him. a businessman. He experimented in many fields including electricity and meteorology and event spent time inventing things that he enjoyed like the swimming fin. I feel that he and Luther showed very different effects of what a lower class childhood can have on a person and that the way a person deals with certain positions of class. and comedian. University of Virginia Library Online Text Edition. Wealth and higher social classes quickly became a value of his which lead to other controversial moral and character decisions he later makes.” (Franklin. He gave back to the community in many more ways than the average person would but his morals and actual character when you get right down to it is certainly something that would leave a normal person wondering about him. This almost unwritten social class system was certainly a major idea of the time period along with that of secularism and natural law in some parts of the colonies. and from the Gratitude I felt towards House. the value of the money was whatever value he gave it himself. 59-60)3 This clearly shows the value he was putting on just a small amount of money due to the circumstances of his early life. in my mind.gave me more Pleasure than any Crown I have since earn'd. These all played large roles in the negative feeling many of the colonists had towards the monarchy on the other side of the ocean. and not that of what society gives it. has made me often more ready than perhaps I should otherwise have been to assist young Beginners. diplomat. He also dabbled as an author.

himself felt about his own actions according to his autobiography.” (Franklin. At this time there was not set code of ethics in what was considered right and what was considered wrong or immoral. 7)4 Clearly this was also the way he. but I give it fair Quarter […] it is often productive of Good to the Possessor and to others that are within his Sphere of Action: And therefore in many Cases it would not be quite absurd if a Man were to thank God for his Vanity among the other Comforts of Life. and thinking about it. I think he is justified and his character is shown differently due to the time period.On that subject. that is what any normal businessman would do nowadays. He did what was best for him. For this reason. Also. These are the things that can confuse a person regarding his true character but there are things that could justify his actions. he would actually open up his opponents’ mail to get the upper hand on elections and political positions for which he was running. 4 Benjamin Franklin: The Autobiography. there were a few instances that challenged my opinion of Benjamin Franklin. These are the major contributions of both men and the impact they had on the lives of the people living in their time periods. “Most People dislike Vanity in others whatever Share they have of it themselves. when he was a child he used to steal things for the good of his own well-being when he was on the run from his family apprenticeship. When he was serving as postmaster general. They were both miraculous men and this has been merely a glimpse into the impacts they had on their periods in the sense that there were probably so many more unknown or undocumented aspects of their actions. 9 . University of Virginia Library Online Text Edition. The change over time between them shows how Luther’s ideas and actions outlasted his time and how they changed political and economic views before Franklin came about to put his own mark on history. He would steal so that he could survive and he would look at mail so that he could survive politics and this is just the way it was during the colonial age of America.

Yale University Press. Electronic Text Center: University of Virginia Library. Benjamin. Heiko A. The Autobiography. Luther: Man between God and the Devil. - Oberman. 1989.Works Cited - Franklin. 10 .

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