In the “Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America”. Franklin contemplates the attitude of “white” Americans towards so-called savages. The work written by Franklin backs then to 1784 must be one of the first one promoting tolerance. The author, through metaphorical language, reflects on why the Indians are called savages, showing them hospitable and humane, and proving that being different does not make culture barbarian.
The main point Franklin is having is that Native Americans are far from being savage. To convince the reader, the author brings up some elements of their culture that characterize them as highly reserved, hospitable, and respectful. For instance, Franklin describes the way Indians enter each other’s villages, carefully waiting for permission. Once invited, a table is set for the guest, tobacco is handed out, and conversations begin. Everyone observes these rules, maintaining a kind and not so barbaric custom.
Franklin goes even farther with his argument and claims that the British can, in fact, be considered more savage. He draws an example of how the Indians listen to their interlocutor so attentively and calmly that it can be assumed that they agree with you, although this might not be the case. As the author states, “The politeness of these savages <…> is carried to excess. <…> It is mere civility.” (p 464). This trait is not so common among well-educated Americans.
Moreover, Franklin depicts how the perception of other cultures can be ironically erroneous when judged by some standard criteria. The reputed savage shames the white missioner, “My brother, it seems your friends have not done you justice in your education; they have not well instructed you in the rules of common civility.” (page 464). Thus, Native Americans seem to be more knowledgeable about manners than “civilized people” simply because things happen in their midst.
Overall, Franklin’s work undeniably has a critical historical role in the development of American values. Promoting tolerance and respect for foreign culture is the cornerstone of the article. Of course, Indians can appear to be savages if you look at their life through the prism of a white man. However, believing that there is only one correct civilized way to live can be detrimental to society.
Levine, R. S., Elliott, M. A., Gustafson, S. M., Hungerford, A., & Loeffelholz, M. (2017). The Norton Anthology of American Literature (9th ed., Vol. 1). W. W. Norton & Company.