Benjamin Franklin was one of the founding Fathers of America. He was born on January 17, 1706 in Boston Massachusetts. His parents were Josiah Franklin who was a soap maker and his mother Abiah Folger, Josiah Franklin’s second wife (Franklin & Dole, 2003). He was the youngest in a family of 17 and was the Tenth son of Josiah Franklin. Franklin’s family was considered as poor and although Josiah wanted his son to be clergy, he could not afford to send his son to school. Benjamin was a sharp kid and he loved to read. Benjamin’s brother James was a printer and he apprenticed him to his work. As young as 12 years old Benjamin had the knowledge of composing pamphlets, type setting and would sell their products on the streets. At 15, Benjamin the apprentice writer started out writing on his own after his brother started a newspaper in Boston and he did not think him good enough to contribute. Benjamin started writing with a fictional name of a widow called Silence Dogood. He wrote letters of advice concerning women and the way in which were treated. He would then sneak the letters in his brother’s print shop at night since he did not want anyone discovering that he was the one writing these peaces. His Letters became everyone’s favorite and they were very popular. Benjamin confessed of his little secret at 16 after everyone wanted to know the true identity of Silence Dogood.
Although James’s friends thought Benjamin was funny and talented, James was not impressed by his brother’s little act and all the attention that was paid to him. He was jealous of Benjamin and stated scolding him. After a while Boston’s powerful puritan preachers, the Mathers, found themselves in conflict with the Franklins. This was after outbreak of smallpox a deadly disease, whereby the Mathers advocated for vaccination whereas the Franklins believed immunization would only make people sicker. This saw Benjamin’s Brother James thrown in jail for his views and making fun of the clergy. Benjamin was then left to run the paper, an issue that was not taken kindly by his brother upon his release. He then started harassing Benjamin by beatings and in 1723 when he could not take anymore, he decided to run away.
Benjamin took a boat to New York and hoped to get a job as a printer. What he did not know is that runaways were not treated well in America at that time and were in fact regarded as illegal. After failing to get some work in New York, he walked across New Jersey to Philadelphia. On October 6, 1723, a rugged Benjamin, wet, untidy, messy and broke after using his last penny to buy some rolls, met Deborah Read who was to be his wife some seven years later. While still in Philadelphia, Franklin found a job as an apprentice printer, which he did so well that the governor of Pennsylvania was impressed. He then sent him to London to buy fonts and printing equipment with a promise of setting up a business for him. Franklin went to London but the governor did not honor his promise, this forced Benjamin to do some print work for several months in England. When Benjamin left for London Deborah Read got married to another man.
After sometime Franklin returned to Philadelphia where he helped run a shop but since he was good at printing, he later went back to being a printer’s helper. Franklin was a hard worker and was busy working all the time a character that did not go unnoticed to Philadelphia citizens. They gained confidence in him and he began getting contacts to do government jobs, this got him thriving in business. Benjamin fathered a son named William in 1728 with a woman who remains unknown. He later married Deborah Read his childhood sweetheart in 1730.At this time the Franklins were very enterprising. Franklin ran a print shop in addition to running a bookstore and Deborah ran their store, which sold everything including fabric to soap.
Benjamin Franklin bought a newspaper called ‘The Pennsylvania Gazette’ in 1729.Franklin printed the paper and also contributed pieces to the paper through aliases .His paper would print his own authored First political cartoon among other things. In no time, his newspaper became the most successful in the region. Franklin by now was not only an entrepreneur but was also social with people. In 1720’s and 1730’s he organized a young working-man’s group called Junto, which was dedicated to civic and self-improvement. He also joined another group called Mason, which showed that he was really devoted to public good. In 1733, Franklin published an Almanac called Poor Richards Almanac (Isaacson, 2004). Almanacs are publications that are done annually that contain tabular information in a given field including weather reports, periodicals, recipes, homilies or predictions. Franklins published a witty almanac under a semblance of a poor man called Richard Saunders who needed money to take care of his whining wife. His almanac was full of lively writing and he used interesting quotes and phrases one of the famous one being ‘A penny saved is a penny earned’ (Franklin & Dole, 2003).
Throughout 1730’s and 1740’s Franklin continued with his good work of civil contributions. He was involved in projects launching that concentrated on cleaning and lighting Philadelphia’s streets. He introduced environmental clean ups and in 1731 he launched a library company. Since at this time books were expensive and very scarce, he organized resources to put up the nation’s first subscription library. This made members of this library afford to buy books in England. In 1743, he helped launch the first learned society in America known as the American Philosophical Society (Morgan, 2003). He later brought together another group that formed Pennsylvania Hospital that was aimed to offer better health facilities and treating the sick. To date both the hospital and Library Company ‘Philosophical Society’ still exists. Franklin tried to come up with solutions to the problems that affected people of Philadelphia. Fire been one of their threats he organized Philadelphia’s Fire Company in 1736 in an effort to remedy this threat. This was the first fire company in the company and had one of his famous phrases ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ as their guiding principle.
In 1752, he helped form Philadelphia insurance contribution against Loss by fire to help people who suffered fire damages to their homes. People who took the insurance policies did not suffer economic loss like the others. This contribution is inexistence up to date. In 1730’s and 1740’s Franklins printing business was flourishing that he set up partnerships in other cities in franchise printing. In 1743, Franklin invented a heat efficient stove to help warm houses. Franklin did not patent the stove going by the name Franklin stove since his aim in inventing it was to improve the society. Franklin also had other inventions like a musical instrument known as the glass harmonica, swim fins among other things. In 1749, Franklin retired and started focusing mainly on Inventions, Science and Experiments. Franklin’s international fame was in early 1750’s when he started studying electricity, his kite Experiment and his observations that verified nature of electricity and lightning brought him world fame.
Franklin’s active interest in politics was in 1750’s.In 1757 he represented Pennsylvania in England over the colony representation (Isaacson, 2004).He remained in England to represent not only Pennsylvania but also New Jersey, Massachusetts and Georgia. In 1756, Franklin through parliament helped persuade Americans to repeal the law of the stamp Act which Americans Opposed. Though Franklin believed England has many amenities that some countries like America lacked, he was angry about the corruption he was observing in politics and royal circles and began working on his earlier proposal of uniting colonies. Franklin’s main political break was in ‘Hutchinson Affair’. When he got hold of Hutchinson’s letters called “An abridgment of English Liberties”, he sent them to America. His action made Americans annoyed and he was condemned in public in Whitehall the English Foreign Ministry (Morgan, 2003). This was the first failure Franklin was involved in.
He was forced to come back home, where he started working for independence. His views conflicted with the ones of his son William, who was by then the royal governor of New Jersey. Franklin helped in drafting the Declaration of Independence after he was elected as one of the committee members of the Second Continental Congress. He signed the declaration in 1776 after which he became an ambassador to the Court Louis XV. The French considered him a humble American and they loved him mostly because of his ability to tame the lightning. He was able to speak French fluently and with his wife dead several years earlier he was a known flirt and was favorite with the ladies. He helped accomplish several tasks for France like Treaty of alliance between France and America in 1778, Treaty of Paris in 1783 and aided France secure loans. At 70, Franklin returned to America and became the president of the Executive Council of Pennsylvania. He signed the constitution when he was serving as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and in 1789, he wrote an anti-slavery treatise. Franklin died at age of 84 on April 17, 1790.
Benjamin Franklin was a man known for his success and the impact that he made on the America’s history. He is known to have been everything in his lifetime; he was a successful printer, a leading author, a scientist, a politician, a civil activist, a diplomat, a statesman among others. With all this success, he had some failures like in Britain and as a father. Franklin upheld good virtues, which he related to his success. Some of these were Silence; speaking only that which benefited him and others, sincerity; thinking innocently and justly and using no hurtful deceit, Industry; he was always busy doing something, losing no time and cutting off all unnecessary actions, humility; he believed in Jesus and was living to imitate him, chastity, justice and temperance among others . His life is one that was well lived, with his quotes been used up to today and many places and things still named after him.
Franklin, B., & Dole, N. (2003). Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Pontiac, IL: Kessinger Publishing
Isaacson, W. (2004). Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. Delran, NJ: Simon & Schuster
Morgan, S. (2003). Benjamin Franklin: Yale Nota bene. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press