Benjamin Franklin, born in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 17, 1706.
Father'sname: Josiah Franklin
Mother's name: AbiahFolger
Brother:John, Peter, James, Ebenezer, Thomas
Sister:Mary Holmes, Sarah Davenpor, Lydia Scott, Jane Mecom
Spouse:Deborah Read (m. 1730–1774)
Children:William Franklin, Sarah Franklin Bache, Francis Folger Franklin
Benjamin Franklin was a scientist, ambassador, philosopher, statesmen, writer, businessman and celebrated free thinker and wit. He has often been referred to as 'America's renaissance man' and was emblematic of the fledgling American nation. Benjamin Franklin was born January 17, 1706 into a large and poor family. His father, Josiah Franklin (1657-1745), a native of England, was a candle and soap maker who married twice and had 17 children. Franklin’s mother was AbiahFolger (1667-1752) of Nantucket, Massachusetts, Josiah’s second wife. Franklin was the eighth of Abiah and Josiah’s 10 offspring. Franklin’s formal education was limited and ended when he was 10; however, he was an avid reader and taught himself to become a skilled writer.
In 1718, at age 12, he was apprenticed to his older brother James, a Boston printer. By age 16, Franklin was contributing essays (under the pseudonym Silence Dogood) to a newspaper published by his brother. At age 17, Franklin ran away from his apprenticeship to Philadelphia, where he found work as a printer. In late 1724, he traveled to London, England, and again found employment in the printing business. Benjamin Franklin returned to Philadelphia in 1726, and two years later opened a printing shop. The business became highly successful producing a range of materials, including government pamphlets, books and currency. In 1729, Franklin became the owner and publisher of a colonial newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, which proved popular--and to which he contributed much of the content, often using pseudonyms. Franklin achieved fame and further financial success with "Poor Richard’s Almanack," which he published every year from 1733 to 1758. The almanac became known for its witty sayings, which often had to do with the importance of diligence and frugality," such as "Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." In 1730, Franklin began living with Deborah Read (c. 1705-74), the daughter of his former Philadelphia landlady, as his common-law wife. Read’s first husband had abandoned her; however, due to bigamy laws, she and Franklin could not have an official wedding ceremony. Franklin and Read had a son, Francis (1732-36), who died of smallpox at age 4, and a daughter, Sarah (1743-1808). Franklin had another son, William (c. 1730-1813), who was born out of wedlock. William Franklin served as the last colonial governor of New Jersey, from 1763 to 1776, and remained loyal to the British during the American Revolution. He died in exile in England. As Franklin’s printing business prospered, he became increasingly involved in civic affairs. Starting in the 1730s, he helped establish a number of community organizations in Philadelphia, including a lending library (it was founded in 1731, a time when books weren’t widely available in the colonies, and remained the largest U.S. public library until the 1850s), the city’s first fire company, a police patrol and the American Philosophical Society, a group devoted to the sciences and other scholarly pursuits. Franklin also organized the Pennsylvania militia, raised funds to build a city hospital and spearheaded a program to pave and light city streets. Additionally, Franklin was instrumental in the creation of the Academy of Philadelphia, a college which opened in 1751 and became known as the University of Pennsylvania in 1791. Franklin also was a key figure in the colonial postal system. In 1737, the British appointed him postmaster of Philadelphia, and he went on to become, in 1753, joint postmaster general for all the American colonies. In this role he instituted various measures to improve mail service; however, the British dismissed him from the job in 1774 because he was deemed too sympathetic to colonial interests. In July 1775, the Continental Congress appointed Franklin the first postmaster general of the United States, giving him authority over all post offices from Massachusetts to Georgia. He held this position until November 1776, when he was succeeded by his son-in-law. (The first U.S. postage stamps, issued on July 1, 1847, featured images of Benjamin Franklin and George. In 1748, Franklin was 42 years old, had expanded his printing business throughout the colonies and become successful enough to stop working. Retirement allowed him to concentrate on public service and also pursue more fully his longtime interest in science. In the 1740s, he conducted experiments that contributed to the understanding of electricity, and invented the lightning rod, which protected buildings from fires caused by lightning. In 1752, he conducted his famous kite experiment and demonstrated that lightning is electricity. Franklin also coined a number of electricity-related terms, including battery, charge and conductor. In addition to electricity, Franklin studied a number of other topics, including ocean currents, meteorology, causes of the common cold and refrigeration. He developed the Franklin stove, which provided more heat while using less fuel than other stoves, and bifocal eyeglasses, which allow for distance and reading use. In the early 1760s, Franklin invented a musical instrument called the glass armonica. Composers such as Ludwig Beethoven (1770-1827) and Wolfgang Mozart (1756-91) wrote music for Franklin’s armonica; however, by the early part of the 19th century, the once-popular instrument had largely fallen out of use. In 1754, at a meeting of colonial representatives in Albany, New York, Franklin proposed a plan for uniting the colonies under a national congress. Although his Albany Plan was rejected, it helped lay the groundwork for the Articles of Confederation, which became the first constitution of the United States when ratified in 1781. In 1757, Franklin traveled to London as a representative of the Pennsylvania Assembly, to which he was elected in 1751. Over several years, he worked to settle a tax dispute and other issues involving descendants of William Penn (1644-1718), the owners of the colony of Pennsylvania. After a brief period back in the U.S., Franklin lived primarily in London until 1775. While he was abroad, the British government began, in the mid-1760s, to impose a series of regulatory measures to assert greater control over its American colonies. In 1766, Franklin testified in the British Parliament against the Stamp Act of 1765, which required that all legal documents, newspapers, books, playing cards and other printed materials in the American colonies carry a tax stamp. Although the Stamp Act was repealed in 1766, additional regulatory measures followed, leading to ever-increasing anti-British sentiment and eventual armed uprising by the American colonists. Franklin returned to Philadelphia in May 1775, shortly after the Revolutionary War (1775-83) had begun, and was selected to serve as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, America’s governing body at the time. In 1776, he was part of the five-member committee that helped draft the Declaration of Independence, in which the 13 American colonies declared their freedom from British rule. That same year, Congress sent Franklin to France to enlist that nation’s help with the Revolutionary War. In February 1778, the French signed a military alliance with America and went on to provide soldiers, supplies and money that proved critical to America’s victory in the war. As minister to France starting in 1778, Franklin helped negotiate and draft the 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War. In 1785, Franklin left France and returned once again to Philadelphia. In 1787, he was a Pennsylvania delegate to the Constitutional Convention. (The 81-year-old Franklin was the convention’s oldest delegate.) At the end of the convention, in September 1787, he urged his fellow delegates to support the heavily debated new document. The U.S. Constitution was ratified by the required nine states in June 1788, and George Washington (1732-99) was inaugurated as America’s first president in April 1789. Franklin died a year later, at age 84, on April 17, 1790, in Philadelphia. More than 200 years after his death, Franklin remains one of the most celebrated figures in U.S. history. His image appears on the $100 bill, and towns, schools and businesses across America are named for him.
Self-taught, apprenticed as a printer.Honorary Doctor of Laws, Universities of Edinburgh and Oxford.
Franklin was a Political Leader, Inventor, Scientist, writer, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat.
Benjamin Franklin was admired on two continents for his scientific accomplishments, wit, unpretentious manners, diplomatic ability, and kindly personality. He employed these personal qualities in the service of his country as an able diplomat and as the universally respected advocate of compromise in the critical moments of the early republic.
Career before the constitutional convention
He began his career as a printer, going on to found the New England Courant, the fourth newspaper in the colonies. Following a serious argument with his brother in 1723, Franklin left Boston to start life anew in Philadelphia. There he quickly became an honored citizen and began his lifelong participation in political affairs. He served in Pennsylvania's colonial legislature (1736-64), both as delegate and elected clerk of the general assembly. In 1737 he also became postmaster of Philadelphia. He rose to prominence throughout the colonies when he became deputy postmaster general of British North America (1753-74). During this period Franklin found time to publish the Pennsylvania Gazette and to write and publish Poor Richard's Almanac, which enhanced his reputation as a philosopher, scientist, and inventor. His publishing ventures brought financial independence, allowing him to become a philanthropist and to indulge his love for scientific investigation. As a philanthropist, he supported and encouraged such varied programs as the establishment of public schools and libraries and the installation of street lighting. He was elected a member of the Royal Society in recognition of his scientific achievements, especially for his study of electricity. His scientific renown earned him honorary degrees from Yale and Harvard in 1753 and from William and Mary in 1756. In 1754 Franklin was selected to represent Pennsylvania at the Albany Congress, called to unite the colonies during the French and Indian War. At the congress, Franklin advanced his Albany Plan of Union, one of the first proposals to bring the colonies together under some form of central authority. The plan was adopted by the congress, but rejected by the colonial legislatures because they believed it encroached upon their powers. Franklin then entered what was to be a pivotal period in his life. He went to London as an agent representing the interests of Pennsylvania, and then later as an agent for Georgia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts (1757-62 and 1764-75). Beginning as a contented Englishman who favored Royal rule and distrusted popular movements, he emerged as a leading spokesman for American rights. When the Stamp Act crisis arose, he demonstrated his new political sentiments by speaking out against the Act. He gradually adopted the theory that Parliament did not have the power to tax or to legislate in the colonies, and that the colonies and Great Britain were united "as England and Scotland was before the Union, by having one common Sovereign, the King." Returning to America, he advanced to the forefront of the Patriot cause as a member of the Continental Congress (1775-76). He served on the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence. (It has been said that he was not chosen to draft the document for fear that he might conceal a joke in it.) He was the eldest signer of the Declaration of Independence, and when he finished signing the document, he joked, "Gentlemen, we must now all hang together, or we shall most assuredly all hang separately." Ironically, while Franklin was working on the Declaration, his son William, a militant Loyalist and the last Royal governor of New Jersey, was being incarcerated in Connecticut. Franklin left the Continental Congress to become president of Pennsylvania's constitutional convention in 1776. The greatest achievement of Franklin's public career occurred during his tenure as one of the fledgling nation's ambassadors. His work as minister to France (1776-85) was critical to the achievement of the nation's first foreign alliance, so essential to the success of the Revolutionary War effort. The respected and admired old statesman obtained loans, negotiated treaties of commerce and alliance, and, along with John Jay and John Adams, negotiated the Treaty of Paris that ended the War for Independence. Once independence was achieved, Franklin came home to Pennsylvania to serve as the president of the Supreme Executive Council of Philadelphia (1785-88).
Contributions to the constitutional convention At the age of 81, Franklin was the senior statesman of the Constitutional Convention, but his advanced years only served to enhance his importance in the Convention, giving him a singular role to play. His few formal discourses were written out and read, since he was no orator, and none of his major ideas, including a single-chambered legislature, an executive board rather than a single President, and service in public office without pay, was ever adopted. Yet he remained among the most influential delegates because of his unique ability to soothe disputes and encourage compromise through his prestige, humor, and powers of diplomacy. When a deadlock developed over the question of how the states should be represented in Congress, Franklin rephrased the problem in simple yet direct terms: "If a property representation takes place, the small states contend their liberties will be in danger. If an equality of votes takes place, the large states say their money will be in danger. When a broad table is to be made, and the planks do not fit, the artist takes a little from both, and makes a good joint." In the end, Franklin was an important member of the committee that adjusted the matter of representation, thus working out the "good joint" that was to be the most important prerequisite to the adoption of the Constitution. When the time came to sign the document, Franklin encouraged his fellow delegates to take this spirit of compromise to its conclusion by lending the Constitution their unanimous support, despite the fact that he himself did not approve of every aspect of the new plan of government. He concluded: "On the whole . . . I cannot help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention . . . would with me, on this occasion, doubt a little of his own infallibility, and to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to the instrument."
Career after the constitutional convention
Franklin's last public acts were to sign a memorial to Congress urging the abolition of slavery, a cause with which he had sympathized since the 1730s, and to become the first president of the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery. His funeral in 1790 became a national event attended by some 20,000 people.
Science experiments were a hobby of Franklin. This led to the:
Franklin never patented his inventions, preferring to offer them freely for the benefit of society. As he wrote: "... As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely andgenerously."
Benjamin Franklin believed in God throughout his life. In his early life he professed a belief in Deism. However, he never gave too much importance to toorganised religion. He was well known for his religious tolerance, and it was remarked how people from different religions could think of him as one of them. As John Adams remarked: "The Catholics thought him almost a Catholic. The Church of England claimed him as one of them. The Presbyterians thought him half a Presbyterian, and the Friends believed him a wet Quaker." Franklin embodied the spirit of the enlightenment and spirituality over organised religion. Franklin was a keen debater, but his style was to avoid confrontation and condemnation. He would prefer to argue topics through the asking of awkward questions, not dissimilar to the Greek philosopher Socrates.
Franklin was a member of the learned societies of many nations. Among these were the Royal Society, which awarded him its prestigious Copley medal for his work in electricity (1753); and the American Philosophical Society, of which he was a founder. He received several honorary degrees, including a doctorate from St. Andrews.
Franklin died on April 17, 1790, at age 84, in Philadelphia.Approximately 20,000 people attended his funeral. He was interred in Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia, USA.