Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography is broken up into four integral parts, all written during different periods in Franklin's life. The first part, addressed to his son, William, was written when Franklin was sixty-five years old. Before he began the task of recording his past, Franklin carefully wrote out a list of topics he would narrate to his readers. Eleven years later, this list somehow fell into the hands of Abel James who urged Franklin to finish writing his memoirs. In 1782, Franklin completed the second part of his autobiography in France where he served as a peace commissioner, and in 1788, Franklin composed the longest part of his autobiography at the age of eighty-three.
The tangled history of how Franklin's autobiography became to be is interesting in itself. It shows Franklin's motives behind writing his autobiography. When Abel James wrote "kind, humane, and benevolent" Franklin to finish his life story, he told Franklin that his autobiography "would be useful and entertaining not only to a few but to millions (55)."
Franklin wrote to his friend and confidant, Vaughan, for advice. Vaughan agreed with James and also urged Franklin to print the history of his life because he could think of no "more efficacious advertisement (56)" of America than Franklin's history. "All that has happened to you is also connected with the detail of the manners and situation of a rising people (56)," he replied to Franklin. It is obvious that when Franklin resumed writing his story, he did so knowing that his story would serve as an example for Americans and as an advertisement to the rest of the world. He wrote his autobiography in full self-consciousness that he was offering himself as a representative of the American citizen. Just as America had succeeded in creating and forming a nation,