Ondertexts
Benjamin Franklin
Search

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin Benjamin Franklin[1†]

Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 O.S January 6, 1705 – April 17, 1790) was an American polymath who was active as a writer, scientist, inventor, statesman, diplomat, printer, publisher, and political philosopher[1†]. He was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, a drafter and signer of the Declaration of Independence, and the first postmaster general[1†].

Franklin became a successful newspaper editor and printer in Philadelphia, the leading city in the colonies, publishing the Pennsylvania Gazette at age 23[1†]. He became wealthy publishing this and Poor Richard’s Almanack, which he wrote under the pseudonym "Richard Saunders"[1†]. After 1767, he was associated with the Pennsylvania Chronicle, a newspaper that was known for its revolutionary sentiments and criticisms of the policies of the British Parliament and the Crown[1†].

He pioneered and was the first president of the Academy and College of Philadelphia, which opened in 1751 and later became the University of Pennsylvania[1†]. He organized and was the first secretary of the American Philosophical Society and was elected its president in 1769[1†]. Franklin became a national hero in America as an agent for several colonies when he spearheaded an effort in London to have the Parliament of Great Britain repeal the unpopular Stamp Act[1†].

Early Years and Education

Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706, in Boston, in what was known as the Massachusetts Bay Colony[2†][3†]. He was born in a small house on 17 Milk Street, across the street from the Old Meeting House[2†]. His father, Josiah Franklin, was a soap and candle maker, and his mother, Abiah Folger, was a homemaker[2†][3†]. Franklin was the 15th of 17 children, and the youngest son[2†].

Franklin’s formal education was limited and ended when he was 10[2†][3†][4†][5†]. However, he was an avid reader and taught himself to become a skilled writer[2†][3†]. At the age of 8, young Benjamin Franklin started attending South Grammar School (Boston Latin), showing early talent and moving from the middle of the class to the top within a year[2†]. The following year, he attended George Brownell’s English School, a school for writing and arithmetic[2†]. He showed great talent for writing and little for arithmetic[2†][5†].

At the age of 10, his father took him in as an apprentice in his soap and candle making shop[2†][6†]. This shop was located at Hanover & Union streets[2†]. Benjamin was in charge of cutting wicks for candles, filling molds, attending the shop, and running errands[2†]. His father intended for his young son to inherit the business when he retired, however, Benjamin did not want to follow his father’s steps, he wanted to be a sailor[2†]. He was employed in his father’s business for 2 years[2†].

In 1717, his brother James returned from England with a press and letters to set up his printing business in Boston[2†]. To prevent Benjamin from becoming a sailor, as his brother Josiah had, his father sent him to work with his brother James as an apprentice[2†]. He made him sign an indenture for his apprenticeship which bound him until he turned 21 and only then he could earn wages[2†].

Career Development and Achievements

Benjamin Franklin’s career was marked by his innovative spirit and diverse interests, which led him to make significant contributions in various fields[3†][7†].

At the age of 17, Franklin ran away from his apprenticeship to Philadelphia, where he found work as a printer[3†]. In late 1724, he traveled to London, England, and again found employment in the printing business[3†]. Franklin returned to Philadelphia in 1726, and two years later, he opened a successful printing shop[3†]. The business produced a range of materials, including government pamphlets, books, and currency[3†].

In 1729, Franklin became the owner and publisher of a colonial newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette[3†]. He contributed much of the content, often using pseudonyms[3†]. The Pennsylvania Gazette became one of the most prominent newspapers in the U.S. and remained so until around 1800[3†].

Franklin was also a prodigious inventor. His numerous inventions include the lightning rod, bifocals, long arm, and the Franklin stove[3†][7†]. His experiments enabled him to create a device that would protect buildings from the destructive force of lightning[3†][7†]. Thus, the lightning rod, which protects structures by earthing, was invented[3†][7†].

In addition to his contributions as a printer and inventor, Franklin held several prominent posts during his career. He was deeply active in public affairs in his adopted city, Philadelphia, where he helped launch a lending library, hospital, and college, and garnered acclaim for his experiments with electricity[3†]. During the American Revolution, he served in the Second Continental Congress and helped draft the Declaration of Independence in 1776[3†]. He also negotiated the 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War[3†]. In 1787, in his final significant act of public service, he was a delegate to the convention that produced the U.S. Constitution[3†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Benjamin Franklin was a prolific writer and his works spanned a wide range of genres and topics. Here are some of his most notable works:

Each of these works had a significant impact in their respective fields, whether it was literature, journalism, or political commentary. Franklin’s writings were known for their wit, wisdom, and insightful commentary on the human condition and societal issues of his time.

Analysis and Evaluation

Benjamin Franklin was a man of many talents and his contributions spanned various fields including literature, science, politics, and diplomacy[9†][10†]. His writings, which included everything from political commentary to scientific papers, were known for their clarity, wit, and insightful commentary on societal issues[9†][10†].

Franklin’s intellectual prowess was achieved in an era known for its philosophical advances, the Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason[9†]. His writings reflect the ideals of this era, which emphasized rationality, practicality, and the belief in the innate liberty of common people[9†]. Franklin was not just a passive observer of these ideals but actively propagated them among the common people through his writings[9†].

His works such as “Poor Richard’s Almanack” and “The Pennsylvania Gazette” were not only popular for their wit and wisdom but also for revealing some of the foibles of the colonists[9†]. His autobiography is essentially a story of the application of rationality, practicality, and wise frugality to everyday life[9†].

Franklin’s contributions to science, diplomacy, and politics have been conveyed through his clear and forceful prose[9†][10†]. His literary skills played a significant role in conveying his monumental contributions to these fields[9†][10†]. His writings illustrate a strong interest in both theoretical and applied science[9†][10†].

In conclusion, Benjamin Franklin’s impact on various fields was significant and his writings continue to be influential. His ability to combine wit with intellect made his works appealing to a wide audience. His belief in the power of reason and the potential of the common people was a defining characteristic of his writings and his life.

Personal Life

Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706, in colonial Boston[3†][1†]. His father, Josiah Franklin (1657-1745), a native of England, was a candle and soap maker who married twice and had 17 children[3†][1†]. Franklin’s mother was Abiah Folger (1667-1752) of Nantucket, Massachusetts, Josiah’s second wife[3†][1†]. Franklin was the eighth of Abiah and Josiah’s 10 offspring[3†][1†].

Franklin was one of seventeen children in a family of Boston tradesmen[3†][11†]. When Benjamin was 12, he was apprenticed to his older brother James, a printer[3†][11†]. Rebelling against his brother’s stern treatment, he ran away, but maintained close ties with his family, writing frequently with news of his life[3†][11†].

At age 17, Franklin ran away from his apprenticeship to Philadelphia, where he found work as a printer[3†][1†]. In late 1724, he traveled to London, England, and again found employment in the printing business[3†][1†].

Franklin married Deborah Read in 1730[3†][1†]. They had two children together, Francis and Sarah[3†][1†]. Franklin also had a son named William from a previous relationship[3†][1†]. Deborah Read died in 1774[3†][1†].

Franklin had a variety of personal interests and was known for his inventiveness and curiosity[3†][12†]. He invented his own phonetic alphabet and wrote a satirical essay on improving the odor of flatulence[3†][12†]. Franklin never patented his inventions[3†][12†]. He also took “air baths”, sitting naked with the windows open[3†][12†]. At 16 years old, Benjamin Franklin became a vegetarian but later abandoned the practice[3†][12†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Benjamin Franklin was not only the most famous American in the 18th century but also one of the most famous figures in the Western world of the 18th century[13†]. His fame came not simply from his many inventions but, more importantly, from his fundamental contributions to the science of electricity[13†]. If there had been a Nobel Prize for Physics in the 18th century, Franklin would have been a contender[13†].

Franklin was a living example of the natural untutored genius of the New World that was free from the encumbrances of a decadent and tired Old World[13†]. This image later parlayed into French support for the American Revolution[13†]. Despite his great scientific achievements, however, Franklin always believed that public service was more important than science, and his political contributions to the formation of the United States were substantial[13†].

He had a hand in the writing of the Declaration of Independence, contributed to the drafting of the Articles of Confederation, and was the oldest member of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 that wrote the Constitution of the United States of America in Philadelphia[13†]. More importantly, as a diplomatic representative of the new American republic in France during the Revolution, he secured both diplomatic recognition and financial and military aid from the government of Louis XVI[13†]. He was a crucial member of the commission that negotiated the treaty by which Great Britain recognized its former 13 colonies as a sovereign nation[13†].

Equally significant were Franklin’s many contributions to the comfort and safety of daily life, especially in his adopted city of Philadelphia[13†]. No civic project was too large or too small for his interest[13†]. In addition to his lightning rod and his Franklin stove, he invented bifocal glasses, the odometer, and the glass harmonica[13†].

Franklin was the only Founding Father to have signed all three documents that freed America from Britain: the Declaration of Independence, The Treaty of Paris, and the United States Constitution[13†][14†]. He convinced the French to financially help America against Britain during the American Revolutionary War[13†][14†].

Franklin was a down-to-earth man who believed in the power of education as a way to self-improvement[13†][14†]. He was open to new technologies of his time[13†][14†]. He believed that knowledge was power and knew the importance of newspapers to reach the masses and not only the educated and wealthy[13†][14†].

When Benjamin Franklin died in 1790, he left the cities of Boston and Philadelphia 1,000 sterling pounds each[13†][14†]. Franklin required the money to be held in trust for 100 years after his death[13†][14†]. When the money became due 200 years after his death, the Philadelphia fund was worth 2 million and the Boston fund 5 million[13†][14†]. The Boston fund was worth more because the city withdrew less money in its first century[13†][14†]. Philadelphia used the fund to provide scholarships for high school graduates and Boston created the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology[13†][14†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Benjamin Franklin [website] - link
  2. Benjamin Franklin Historical Society - Early Life [website] - link
  3. History - Benjamin Franklin - Biography, Inventions & Facts [website] - link
  4. Britannica - What was Benjamin Franklin’s early life like? [website] - link
  5. AceReader Blog - The History of Education: The American Educational System, Early National Period (Benjamin Franklin) [website] - link
  6. Ducksters - Benjamin Franklin Biography for Kids [website] - link
  7. Learnodo Newtonic - 10 Major Accomplishments of Benjamin Franklin [website] - link
  8. Wikipedia (English) - Category [website] - link
  9. eNotes - Benjamin Franklin American Literature Analysis [website] - link
  10. eNotes - Benjamin Franklin Analysis [website] - link
  11. U.S. National Park Service - Benjamin Franklin's Character Traits - Independence National Historical Park [website] - link
  12. Britannica - Benjamin Franklin Facts [website] - link
  13. Britannica - Benjamin Franklin - Legacy & Fame, Inventor, Diplomat, Statesman [website] - link
  14. Benjamin Franklin Historical Society - Legacy [website] - link
  15. Kiddle Encyclopedia - Benjamin Franklin Facts for Kids [website] - link
Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 4.0; additional terms may apply.
Ondertexts® is a registered trademark of Ondertexts Foundation, a non-profit organization.