Portrait Of Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was a respected statesman, inventor, philosopher and publisher in the years surrounding the Revolutionary War. He also signed the Declaration of Independance and the Constitution.

According to Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin was "the greatest man and ornament of the age and country in which he lived." Franklin is one of the most important figures in North America history. He was a prominent and influential diplomat, signer of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, and signer of the U.S. Constitution. He was also a talented inventor among whose inventions such as the lightening rod, the Franklin stove, and the bifocal glasses. He magnanimously refused to take payment for his inventions and preferred them to be used for general human benefit.

Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston Massachusetts on January 17, 1706. He was the 15th of 17 children, and 10th son, of Josiah Franklin, a tallow chandler. Franklin's mother was Josiah's second wife, Abiah Folger. Like most colonist families, especially those with 17 children, the Franklin family was not wealthy.

Ben attended grammar school from that age of 8 to 10, but was then removed from school to work in his father's business. His formal education was short, but he said that "the doors to education are never shut". In fact, he taught himself geometry, algebra, logic, history, science, English grammar and five foreign languages through voracious personal study. He was, indeed, a life-long scholar. As a boy, he undertook reading such authors as the Congregational minister, Cotton Mather, the Greek essayist, Plutarch, and the British statesmen Sir Richard Steele and Joseph Addison. He was determined to learn to write similar masterful prose. Indeed by his life's end, he was well known for his philosophical and humorous writings.

He hated the work in his father's business, and for a time went to work for a cutler. Then, when Benjamin was 13 years old, his elder brother, James Franklin, returned from England with a printing press. Ben became an apprentice, and, in the future, would provide the basis of much of Benjamin Franklin's life's work.

When Ben was just 15, his brother had started the New England Courant newspaper. In the mornings, he delivered papers, and, in the evenings, he wrote articles for the paper that were published anonymously to great acclaim. The newspaper had a tendency to be liberal in its viewpoints, and, in 1722, James was imprisoned for a month for an article that was considered highly offensive. (Perhaps this had to do with Franklin's later influence regarding the inclusion of the Constitutional amendment affording freedom of speech to North America citizens). During his brother's imprisonment, 16-year-old Ben Franklin produced the newspaper in his own name.

In 1723, the Franklin brothers had some disagreements that forced Benjamin to leave for Philadelphia. By October, he found work as a printer and managed to make friends with the governor of Pennsylvania, Sir William Keith. Keith encouraged Franklin to travel to England for more training in the printing field. Franklin arrived in London, in December of 1724. For some reason he hadn't gotten letters of recommendation, promised to him by Keith, and found himself on his own in a strange city at the age of 18. But, he soon found employment at two prestigious printing houses in London, Palmer's and Pratt's. It wasn't long until he caught the attention of the literary world.

Franklin returned from London in 1726 and worked in the printing business. In 1729, he purchased a foundering newspaper called, The Pennsylvania Gazette and turned it into a success with his witty and intellectual writing. He married Deborah Read in 1730. At the age of 24, and he had already established a brilliant publishing career, which gave him a voice in his community and forged the way for a promising future.

Franklin was nothing if not industrious, as reflected in his famous saying, "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." In 1732, he published the first edition of Poor Richard's Almanac under the pen name Richard Saunders. In 1736, he became the clerk of Philadelphia's General Assembly and was later assigned the position of Post Master of Philadelphia. Meanwhile, he established a fire company and implemented plans to improve street conditions and public lighting. In addition to his printing, publishing work, and civic duties, in 1742, he helped establish the country's first library where books could be checked out for independent use. He studied and made important discoveries about science and, in 1743, founded American Philosophical Society to promote scientific study and theory. That same year he studied methods of decreasing the amount of smoke emitted by chimneys and developed the Franklin stove that emitted more heat with less fuel. He also founded America's first hospital.

In 1947, theorizing that lightening was produced by electricity, he demonstrated this fact by a famous experiment using a kite, a key and the jar. Tests were done on the theory in France and England before Franklin did his test in the North America in 1752. Subsequently he invented the lightening rod and determined that there are two kinds of electricity, negative and positive.

For his work with electricity, Franklin was given honorary degrees from the University of Saint Andrews and Oxford University and made a fellow of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge. In 1753, he was awarded its Copley Medal for distinguished contributions to experimental science. He furthered educational opportunities for Americans with his writings and the ultimate establishment of the Academy of Pennsylvania, which was later, named the University of Pennsylvania.

In1748, Franklin sold his printing business. In 1950, he was elected to the Assembly of Pennsylvania and served until 1764. He served as an ambassador during the French Indian War when the Quakers in the North America declared that their religious would not permit payment of taxes for the furtherance of war. Then a staunch supporter of the British government, he went to Britain to get permission to tax such proprietary land, and stayed there from 1757 to 1763 as the chief Colonial representative. During this time in England he became friends with the renounced inventor Joseph Priestly, the freethinking philosopher David Hume and the liberal economist Adam Smith.

By 1775, after endless fruitless negotiations with England on behalf of the colonies, he recognized the inevitability of Revolutionary War and with great regret returned to North America. When he arrived on May 5, he learned that the war had already begun.

He was chosen a member of the second Continental Congress. After returning from a difficult trip to Canada to get their support of the colonies during the war, Franklin became one of five men who drafted the Declaration of Independence, and later was one of the signers thereof. Always at the ready with a pithy comment he said, "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

Despite fierce opposition from French financial officers, Franklin used his diplomatic skills and connections to get generous grants from the French government to support the Americans in the Revolutionary War. He later negotiated the Treaty of Commerce and Defensive Alliance with France that was instrumental in bringing about the war's end. He was later appointed the first U.S. ambassador to France.

Along with John Adams and John Jay, Franklin coordinated a peace treaty with Britain that was signed at Versailles in France in 1781. During his time in France he received many distinctive commendations for his works in science and diplomacy. He was a dignitary of the Freemason's lodge in France and was able to speak to groups of leaders of the French Revolution, with considerable influence on their future actions.

Franklin requested to return to the colonies in 1785. There he was chosen as President of the Pennsylvania Executive Council, and served, in that capacity, for two years. In 1787, he was elected delegate of the convention of the United States Constitution.

Franklin was a Unitarian by faith, a freethinker in practice, and a liberal philosopher. He was an outspoken abolitionist, and in 1790 one of the last acts of his life was to sign a petition to the U.S. Congress to abolish slavery. Franklin died at home in Philadelphia on April 17, 1790 at the age of 84.

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