Benjamin Franklin


Benjamin Franklin, born January 17, 1706, was 10th son, and 15th child, of seventeen children. Franklin became one of the founding fathers of the United States. Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomant. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. He invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, a carriage odometer, and the glass armonica.   

Franklin's father, Josiah Franklin was a soap and candle-maker. However, Benjamin did not enjoy the candle-making profession, and two years later, he was apprenticed to his brother James, a printer. For five years, Franklin sought to master the printers trade. During this period, he also pursued to improve his education. Franklin loved to read and among through the practice of reading classics, he perfected his writing style. Evidently, Franklin had a knack for writing and he started publishing anonymous essays under the alias "Silence Dogood", which would appear in his brother's newspaper, the New England Courant.

After a disagreement with his brother in 1723, Franklin left Boston for Philadelphia, where he again worked in the printing industry. He would soon establish many friendships and one of his most influential was his friendship with Pennsylvania governor, Sir William Keith. At Keith's suggestion, Franklin decided to go into business for himself. Keith seemed to be a good friend who apparently saw a lot of promise in Franklin and offered to arrange letters of credit and recommendations for Franklin to go to London to purchase equipment for his business. Unfortunately, Keith proved to be unreliable once Franklin arrived in London. Despite being in London without any means, Franklin proved determined and found employment in two of London's largest printing houses, and after two years, earned enough money to return to America. In 1726, Franklin returned to Philadelphia and anxiously resumed his trade. Franklin worked tremendously according to neighboring businesses who would state that "Franklin would be first to work and still there as others would close to go home". The hard work payed off and four years later, in 1730, he opened up his own business. It proved to be a active year because he would marry Deborah Read that same year, a woman he met before setting out to England. 

Franklins business ventures included the purchase of the Pennsylvania Gazette, which, after his improvement, was considered one of the best colonial newspapers; Poor Richard's Almanac, written under the pseudonym, Richard Saunders, and published from 1732 to 1757; and the printing of Pennsylvania's paper currency. In 1731, Franklin founded what is considered the first public library. During the next several years, through of love of reading and knowing its benefits, Franklin formed the first public lending library in America and was instrumental in establishing the first fire department, a police force and the Academy of Philadelphia, which became the University of Pennsylvania. Around 1744, Franklin invented a stove which reduced excessive chimney smoke. The Franklin stove is still used today. 

Besides all of the genius tangible innovations that Franklin came up with, he also created a list of virtues which he titled "Lessons in Manliness: Pursuit of the Virtuous Life". There were 13 and they included the following: Temperance - Eat no to dullness; drink not to elevation. Silence - Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; Avoid trifling conversation. Order - Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time. Resolution - Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve. Frugality - Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself, waste nothing. Industry - Lose no time, be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions. Sincerity - Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly. Justice - Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty. Moderation - Avoid extremes, forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve. Cleanliness - Tolerate no uncleaniness in body, clothes, and habitation. Tranquility - Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable. Chastity - Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation. Humility - Imitate Jesus and Socrates. 

In the 1740's, the curious and inquisitive Franklin began experimenting with electricity, which led to the invention of the lightning rod. By 1748, Franklin had sold his printing business to devote himself to his scientific experiments. His famous electricity experiment, which included flying a kite during a lightning storm took occurred in 1752. A year later, he was elected to the Pennsylvania assembly and held the position for 14 years. He was also appointed deputy postmaster general the same year. in 1754, Franklin became a Pennsylvania delegate to the intercolonial congress. He suggested to unite the colonies as a defense against the French and natives but since Franklin was ahead of his time, the suggestion was deemed premature and therefore was rejected. 

Franklin would make several visits to England. In 1757, he was sent to England to petition the king for the right to levy taxes. He remained in England for the next five years, as the representative of the American colonies. He was later able to secure the repeal of the Stamp Act, but Parliament continued to levy taxes on the colonies. In 1775, with war on the verge, Franklin returned to America. This move was a historical one. Shortly after returning back to America, as a member of the Continental Congress, Franklin helped draft the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson supposedly stated that the only reason Franklin didn't write the entire Declaration was because he would include too many jokes. 

In December of 1776, at the age of 71, Franklin traveled to France to successfully negotiate a treaty of commerce and defensive alliance. He remained in France for nine years, working on trade treaties. Franklin was viewed as a hero to the French, and his company was sought by diplomats and nobility. He was honored by Louis XVI, and his portrait was placed on everything from chamber pots to snuff boxes. 

Franklin returned to Philadelphia in 1785. Two years later, he became a member of the Constitutional Convention. Franklin was bedridden during the final year of his life and died on April 17, 1790 at the age of 84. An incredible age considering the average life expectancy at the time was 35 years old. When asked at his bedside if he believed in God, he simply replied "Why ponder such a question when I myself shall know the answer very soon". As one of his final public acts, two months prior to his death, he signed a petition to the U.S. Congress urging the abolition of slavery. 


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