Benjamin Franklin 1706- 1790
Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston, Massachusetts Bay, British America . He was one of seventeen children.
His formal schooling ended when he was ten because his father needed him to help make candles so Franklin continued his education by reading.
In 1718, at the age of twelve, Franklin was apprenticed to his older brother, James, a printer. James Franklin founded “The New-England Courant,” the first truly independent newspaper in the colonies, in 1721.
As Benjamin was not allowed to write for the publication, he sent letters using a pseudonym, Mrs. Silence Dogwood, supposedly a middle-aged widow and had fifteen letters published in the paper over time. Mrs. Dogwood once wrote, “Without Freedom of thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such thing as public Liberty, without Freedom of speech.”
At the age of seventeen, Franklin left his apprenticeship and found work as a printer, shopkeeper, clerk, bookkeeper, and currency cutter in Philadelphia and even as a typesetter in London. In fact, Benjamin Franklin spent 27 years of his life overseas. He crossed the Atlantic 8 times – the first time at age 18, the final time at age 79. Overall, he visited 10 countries .
At the age of twenty, Franklin developed his list of the thirteen virtues, temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility and he practiced these virtues in some form for the rest of his life.
!8th century Puritanism had created challenges to the traditional notions of social stratification by preaching that the Bible taught that all men are equal, that the true value of a man lies in his moral behaviour, not his class, and that all men can be saved. Franklin, steeped in Puritanism and an enthusiastic supporter of the evangelical movement, rejected the salvation dogma, but embraced the radical notion of egalitarian democracy.
In 1727, Franklin created the ‘Junto’, a group of young men looking to improve themselves and their community. The members bought books to create a library they could share. The collection grew and eventually became the first lending library in the United States.
In 1730, Franklin established a common-law marriage with Deborah Read, the young lady to whom he had proposed marriage years before.
They took in Franklin’s illegitimate son, William, whose mother is not known, then had two more children, Francis and Sarah.
In 1733 he began publication of the iconic ‘Poor Richard’s Almanac’, under the name of Richard Saunders. The almanac contained many of his now famous adages and the income from this and ‘The Pennsylvania Gazette’ gave Franklin the freedom to pursue his many other interests, including pamphleteering, inventing, travel, and politics.
He was elected Grand Master of the Pennsylvania Masons and in 1737, Postmaster of Philadelphia and he later became the first Postmaster General for the United States.
After his second mission to Great Britain and by the time Franklin arrived back in Philadelphia on May 5, 1775, the American Revolution had begun—with fighting between colonials and British at Lexington and Concord. The New England militia had trapped the main British army in Boston. The Pennsylvania Assembly unanimously chose Franklin as their delegate to the Second Continental Congress in 1775. In June 1776, he was appointed a member of the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence in 1776 Although he was temporarily disabled by gout and unable to attend most meetings of the Committee, Franklin made several ‘small but important’ changes to the draft sent to him by Thomas Jefferson.
At the signing, he is quoted as having replied to a comment by Hancock that they must all hang together: “Yes, we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately’’, he said. Franklin had become became the American spokesman over the split from Britain summarised in his highly publicized testimony in Parliament in 1766 .
In December 1776, Franklin was dispatched to France as commissioner for the United States. He remained in France until 1785 and conducted the affairs of his country toward the French nation with great success, including securing a critical military alliance in 1778 and negotiating the Treaty of Paris in1783 which ended the American Revolutionary War. Franklin returned to the U.S. in 1785 and represented Pennsylvania at the Constitutional Convention, which ratified the new U.S. Constitution. He served as the 6th president of Pennsylvania and he supported George Washington as the first President in 1789.
Franklin was an ‘Enlightenment’ thinker; a musician, he played violin, harp, and guitar, as well as composing a string quartet in the early classical style.
He was a keen chess player.
Benjamin Franklin was an avid inventor – of the Franklin stove and bifocals as well as experimenting with electricity, inventing the lightning rod and discovering how to conduct electricity. Franklin formulated an artificial fertilizer, identified lead poisoning, and charted ocean currents. He designed a flexible urinary catheter, swim fins, a rocking chair,a folding library step-stool, a mechanical arm for reaching books on high shelves, a smokeless fireplace, and an improved glass harmonica with spinning goblets.
Perhaps Franklin accomplished so much because he slept so little. He reportedly slept only four hours per night.
During his lifetime, slaves were numerous in Philadelphia. Franklin owned as many as seven slaves, but after returning from England in 1762, Franklin became more anti-slavery. By 1770, Franklin had freed his slaves and attacked the system of slavery and the international slave trade. Franklin, however, refused to publicly debate the issue of slavery at the 1787 Constitutional Convention and he tended to take both sides of the issue of slavery, never fully divesting himself from the institution.
In his later years, as Congress was forced to deal with the issue of slavery, Franklin wrote several essays that stressed the importance of the abolition of slavery and of the integration of blacks into American society.
His colourful life and legacy of scientific and political achievement as well as his status as one of America’s most influential Founding Fathers, have seen Franklin still honoured more than two centuries after his death on US coinage and the US $100 bill, warships, and the names of many towns, counties, educational institutions and corporations, as well as countless cultural references.
Franklin suffered from obesity throughout his middle-aged and later years, which resulted in multiple health problems, particularly gout, which worsened as he aged. In poor health during the signing of the US Constitution in 1787, he was rarely seen in public from then until his death.
Benjamin Franklin died from pleuritic attack at his home in Philadelphia on April 17, 1790, at age 84.
20,000 people attended his funeral. He was interred in Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia.