Benjamin Franklin was born on the 17th of January, 1706. He was also known as The First American” as he was one of the founding fathers of the United States of America. In addition to this, he was also a dominant author and printer as well as a postmaster, politician, statesman, diplomat and most importantly, a civic activist. Franklin had made many discoveries and inventions in the field of science as well. The invention of the lightning rod, Franklin stove and bifocals were some of them. As a civic activist, he had founded and facilitated a university and Philadelphia’s fire department. He had also become the US Ambassador to France at the time. Franklin viewed the American nation as a marriage of all the practical values of life and education as well as community spirit, thus involving self-governing institutions. He was greatly inspired by The Enlightenment and was opposed to authoritarianism. Since Franklin had become a successful printer at the time, he started publishing many of his works that were very influential in creating a sense of unity among the people. Poor Richard's Almanack and The Pennsylvania Gazette were some of his famous works. After he established the University of Pennsylvania, he was elected as the very first president of the American Philosophical Society. As he was also a diplomat, he was greatly admired by both the French as well as the Americans. It was this spirit that enabled the success of the American Revolution. During the British colonial rule, Franklin worked as a postmaster and thus, was able to facilitate communication nationally. He was very active in both national and international affairs. Due to his hardworking nature, he was able to free the oppressed slaves. Since he was a dominant figure of the time, he was honored in terms of coinage and many cities and towns as well as universities were also named after him.
About his early life, Benjamin Franklin was born in Milk Street that is located in Boston, Massachusetts. He was one of the ten children his father, Josiah Franklin had with his second wife, Abiah Folger. Franklin’s father wanted his son to attain education with the clergy but could not afford the high rates of the school for more than two years. However, Franklin continued to educate himself by reading and gaining knowledge about the various things in and around him. Before the age of 12, Franklin worked for his father and later at 12 years of age, he was taught the printing trade by his brother named James. Franklin had adopted the name of Mrs. Silence Dogood, who was a middle-aged widow, when he was rejected from publishing a letter he had written at the age of 15. The letters of Mrs. Dogood had become a subject everyone talked about in his town. When the British Governor found out that James was publishing articles that were offensive to him, James was jailed and his business was taken over by Franklin in 1722. Mrs. Dogood’s articles created awareness among the people about the freedom of speech and expression as well as ideas of wisdom.
Franklin had run away to Philadelphia when he was 17 years of age. He wanted to start afresh in the city so he started to work in several printing shops in town and later he was sent to London by the Governor of Pennsylvania to bring instruments that were needed to set up another printing press in Philadelphia. In London, Franklin worked as a typesetter and later came back to Philadelphia in 1726 with help from Thomas Denham. Denham had a great role in appointing Franklin as a clerk, bookkeeper and shopkeeper in his business. At the age of 21, Benjamin started the group of merchants and traders who thought alike in terms of improving their condition as well as business. It was called Junto. After the creation of this group, many other organizations began to be set up in the city of Philadelphia. Franklin had hired the first American librarian when he set up a foundation in which everyone donated so that all the people could afford to read. This was so because books were very limited and costly at the time. At the time, the books were actually stored in the houses of the librarians who formed Junto.
Franklin went into a partnership with a newspaper owner and went back to his former trade after the death of Denham in 1728. He slowly established a German newspaper in America which failed after there had come up three more dominant German newspapers in the American market. Franklin believed that through newspapers, fellow Americans could be made aware of moral virtues. At the time, he had also become the publisher of the Pennsylvania Gazette which was poorly printed like all the other newspapers of the time. When his second partner of the newspaper died, his widow continued his work and Franklin and Elizabeth Timothy made the newspaper a success. The Pennsylvania Gazette covered the political as well as the social events of the country. Later when Timothy’s son took over the newspaper business in 1746, Franklin established his own newspaper, the Connecticut Gazette which turned out to be quite unsuccessful. At a time, Franklin also joined the Masonic lodge and became a freemason for the rest of his life.
At the age of 17 in 1923, Benjamin Franklin had proposed to a 15-year-old named Deborah and was opposed by her mother who was very well aware of Franklin’s financial conditions. So, he was set off to marry John Rodgers who, later, fled to Barbados with Deborah’s dowry. Deborah was also unable to remarry because of the bigamy laws of the time. Hearing this, Franklin went into a common-law marriage with Deborah and gave birth to their illegitimate son and raised him. Later, they gave birth to two more children, a son and a daughter. Their second son, who was born in 1732, died out of smallpox in 1736.
Franklin started to publish the Poor Richard’s Almanack in 1733 under the name of Richard Saunders. Franklin had engaged in writing under many names even though people knew that the author was Franklin himself. Later, in 1741, he went on to publish The General Magazine and Historical Chronicle for all the British Plantations in America which was the first magazine in the country that portrayed the actions of the British. He further succeeded on to publishing They Way to Wealth. In the same year, Franklin began to write his autobiography which was published only after his death.
In addition to being a successful writer, Franklin was also a great inventor. He had also made various kinds of scientific inquiries. His research on demography was one of them. From the 1930s, he began to conduct major studies on population and its composition. He also engaged in the study of slave demography i.e. the population of slaves. Also, as a deputy postmaster, Franklin had always wondered why it took a long time for mails to reach Britain. So he began his research on the Atlantic Ocean currents and advised the British to do so. His theories were ignored for a very long time but later, the British finally took notice of his study and was, therefore, benefited as the transportation of mails had then become easier. Franklin’s other investigations include studies on electricity, that was carried out in Germany in 1766 with a German scientist, the wave theory of light, meteorology, traction kiting and one of the most famous experiments, on the concept of cooling. Further in 1772, Franklin laid out the description of the most well-known decision making technique, the Pros and Cons list. Franklin’s news of discoveries spread wide across Germany as well as France. During the same time, he had also devised six new alphabets.
Franklin had a great interest in music as well. It has been found that he played the violin, the harp and the guitar. He not only played the musical instruments, he also composed music of his own as well as developed a more easy-to-use version of the glass harmonica. This version of the harmonica soon spread across Europe. Benjamin was interested in chess as well. He was an amazing player in the game. He had become the best chess player in colonized America in the year 1733. He further wrote an entire essay on chess that had come to be known as the second writing on the game in America. In the essay, The Morals of Chess, Franklin praises the game and describes the common behavioral rules of the game. According to him, chess also enabled him to learn the Italian language. Because of his interest in the game of chess, he was included in the US Chess Hall of Fame.
The Union Fire Company, the first firefighting association, was created by Franklin in the year 1736. He also developed a new currency for New Jersey in the same year. From the year 1743, Franklin began to engage himself in public affairs. He devised many schemes for The Academy, Charity School, and College of Philadelphia. In 1749, he had become the president of the Academy and The Charity School. In order to help scientists discuss and argue about their inventions, Benjamin also set up the American Philosophical Society in the year 1743. Along with scientific affairs, he also contributed in the political and economic spheres of the time. 1747 was the year when he retired from the printing business and went on to other businesses. He had become a councilman in 1748 and in the following year became a Justice for Philadelphia. In 1751, Franklin along with a fellow doctor established the first hospital in the United States of America. Later, between 1750 and 1753, Franklin collaborated with various other doctors and devised a moral textbook for America which was to be taught in universities.
When Franklin was in London, he had actively opposed the Stamp Act of 1765. By the time, he had made a political misinterpretation that enraged the Pennsylvanians back in the US. It was so because they believed that he had supported the act all along which had brought about the danger of destruction of his house in Philadelphia. Later when Benjamin realised the oppressive nature of the colonial rules, he testified against the act in the House of Commons. He then had become the best spokesman in England. Through this role, he expressed the interests of his fellow Americans. In 1771, Franklin travelled all through England with his companions. As a spokesperson in the Parliament, Franklin put forward the issues of taxes that were to be paid by Americans due to the French and Indian Wars. Such arguments brought about the feelings of nationalism and the Americans decided to revolt with Franklin as one of the leaders of the revolution.
At the time, a mob named the Paxton Boys had created havoc in Pennsylvania and had killed many peaceful Superhannock Indians. To end the mob’s misdeeds, Franklin organized a local force and came into an agreement with the Paxtons due to which they dispersed. During the time of the revolution, there were many fights between the English and the Americans. In the revolution, Franklin made many small and big changes due to which the declaration of Independence in America was made.
Franklin had always believed that men should be virtuous and that it would lead to unity among the people of his country. Franklin’s parents were Puritans but Franklin, on the other hand, often considered himself as a Christian. Franklin openly expressed his beliefs and also, published his writings about them in 1728. He believed that people must work as one and each person should contribute equally. Only then it can lead to the development of the country. He, however, did not mention salvation, the divinity of Jesus Christ and other religious beliefs in his published works. Benjamin Franklin was the first one in America to start the act of common praying every day in the month of June in 1787. Franklin believed in the Puritan and political values and succeeded printing them in the American culture in a permanent way. Franklin felt strongly about the republican government. He never supported the social division of class. He wanted to establish an egalitarian society. One of the notions that made him a memorable figure even today is the fact that he respected and was tolerant towards all churches. Such notions also contributed to the character of the American nation. Franklin also introduced many ethical writings in which he put forward more arguments regarding the Jesus of Nazareth.
In 1726, at the age of 20, Franklin introduced his own character by thirteen virtues and attempted to live by them for the rest of his life. They were “temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity and most importantly, humility”; from his autobiography. His virtues of frugality and industry are remembered even today. However, Franklin did not practice all of his virtues at once. He practiced each of them slowly. Even though he could not live by all of them, Ben believed that his attempts were enough in order to have a better life. He also wanted his followers to practice the virtues he laid down. In earlier times, slavery was prevalent in almost every part of the world. Franklin, too, owned as many as seven slaves. But later, Franklin adopted the practices of anti-slavery such as the international slave trade, and attempted to free many slaves, including his own. Some of these attempts were successful, whereas some were not. At the Constitutional Convention of 1787, he strongly opposed the system of slavery and publicly debated the issue.
Franklin had suffered with the problem of obesity and various other health problems during his middle-age. Some of them worsened as he aged. Franklin took his last breath on the 17th of April in 1790. It left fellow Americans devastated. After the death of this great figure, many streets were named after him to honor him. The US currency was also published in his name. Because of his major contributions to the American nation, he is remembered and honored even today. It was for him that the US is a beautiful country today.
Baym et al., eds. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 8th ed. Vols. A and B. New York: Norton, 2012. Smith, Sidonie and Julia Watson. Reading Autobiography. 2nd Ed. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2010.Franklin: Autobiography (Baym et al., eds. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 8th ed. Vols. A and B. New York: Norton, 2012.)
SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. n.d.. Web. 29 Oct. 2014.