Benjamin Franklin | Wikipedia audio article

Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 [O.S.
January 6, 1705] – April 17, 1790) was an American polymath and one of the Founding
Fathers of the United States. Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist,
politician, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, civic activist, statesman,
and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the
history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. As an inventor,
he is known for the lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove, among other inventions.
He founded many civic organizations, including the Library Company, Philadelphia’s first
fire department and the University of Pennsylvania.Franklin earned the title of “The First American” for
his early and indefatigable campaigning for colonial unity, initially as an author and
spokesman in London for several colonies. As the first United States Ambassador to France,
he exemplified the emerging American nation. Franklin was foundational in defining the
American ethos as a marriage of the practical values of thrift, hard work, education, community
spirit, self-governing institutions, and opposition to authoritarianism both political and religious,
with the scientific and tolerant values of the Enlightenment. In the words of historian
Henry Steele Commager, “In a Franklin could be merged the virtues of Puritanism without
its defects, the illumination of the Enlightenment without its heat.” To Walter Isaacson, this
makes Franklin “the most accomplished American of his age and the most influential in inventing
the type of society America would become.”Franklin became a successful newspaper editor and printer
in Philadelphia, the leading city in the colonies, publishing the Pennsylvania Gazette at the
age of 23. He became wealthy publishing this and Poor Richard’s Almanack, which he authored
under the pseudonym “Richard Saunders”. After 1767, he was associated with the Pennsylvania
Chronicle, a newspaper that was known for its revolutionary sentiments and criticisms
of British policies. He pioneered and was first president of Academy
and College of Philadelphia which opened in 1751 and later became the University of Pennsylvania.
He organized and was the first secretary of the American Philosophical Society and was
elected president in 1769. 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. An accomplished diplomat, he was widely admired
among the French as American minister to Paris and was a major figure in the development
of positive Franco-American relations. His efforts proved vital for the American Revolution
in securing shipments of crucial munitions from France.
He was promoted to deputy postmaster-general for the British colonies in 1753, having been
Philadelphia postmaster for many years, and this enabled him to set up the first national
communications network. During the revolution, he became the first United States Postmaster
General. He was active in community affairs and colonial and state politics, as well as
national and international affairs. From 1785 to 1788, he served as governor of Pennsylvania.
He initially owned and dealt in slaves but, by the 1750s, he argued against slavery from
an economic perspective and became one of the most prominent abolitionists.
His colorful life and legacy of scientific and political achievement, and his status
as one of America’s most influential Founding Fathers, have seen Franklin honored more than
two centuries after his death on coinage and the $100 bill, warships, and the names of
many towns, counties, educational institutions, and corporations, as well as countless cultural
Benjamin Franklin’s father, Josiah Franklin, was a tallow chandler, a soaper and candlemaker.
Josiah was born at Ecton, Northamptonshire, England on December 23, 1657, the son of blacksmith
and farmer Thomas Franklin, and Jane White. Benjamin’s father and all four of his grandparents
were born in England. Josiah had seventeen children with his two wives. He married his
first wife, Anne Child, in about 1677 in Ecton and immigrated with her to Boston in 1683;
they had three children before immigrating, and four after. Following her death, Josiah
was married to Abiah Folger on July 9, 1689 in the Old South Meeting House by Samuel Willard.
Benjamin, their eighth child, was Josiah Franklin’s fifteenth child and tenth and last son.
Abiah Folger was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, on August 15, 1667, to Peter Folger, a miller
and schoolteacher, and his wife, Mary Morrell Folger, a former indentured servant. She came
from a Puritan family that was among the first Pilgrims to flee to Massachusetts for religious
freedom, when King Charles I of England began persecuting Puritans. They sailed for Boston
in 1635. Her father was “the sort of rebel destined to transform colonial America.” As
clerk of the court, he was jailed for disobeying the local magistrate in defense of middle-class
shopkeepers and artisans in conflict with wealthy landowners. Ben Franklin followed
in his grandfather’s footsteps in his battles against the wealthy Penn family that owned
the Pennsylvania Colony.==Early life in Boston==Benjamin Franklin was born on Milk Street,
in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 17, 1706, and baptized at Old South Meeting House. He
was one of seventeen children born to Josiah Franklin, and one of ten born by Josiah’s
second wife, Abiah Folger; the daughter of Peter Foulger and Mary Morrill. Among Benjamin’s
siblings were his older brother James and his younger sister Jane.
Josiah wanted Ben to attend school with the clergy, but only had enough money to send
him to school for two years. He attended Boston Latin School but did not graduate; he continued
his education through voracious reading. Although “his parents talked of the church as a career”
for Franklin, his schooling ended when he was ten. He worked for his father for a time,
and at 12 he became an apprentice to his brother James, a printer, who taught Ben the printing
trade. When Ben was 15, James founded The New-England Courant, which was the first truly
independent newspaper in the colonies. When denied the chance to write a letter to
the paper for publication, Franklin adopted the pseudonym of “Silence Dogood”, a middle-aged
widow. Mrs. Dogood’s letters were published, and became a subject of conversation around
town. Neither James nor the Courant’s readers were aware of the ruse, and James was unhappy
with Ben when he discovered the popular correspondent was his younger brother. Franklin was an advocate
of free speech from an early age. When his brother was jailed for three weeks in 1722
for publishing material unflattering to the governor, young Franklin took over the newspaper
and had Mrs. Dogood (quoting Cato’s Letters) proclaim: “Without freedom of thought there
can be no such thing as wisdom and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of
speech.” Franklin left his apprenticeship without his brother’s permission, and in so
doing became a fugitive.==Philadelphia==
At age 17, Franklin ran away to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, seeking a new start in a new
city. When he first arrived, he worked in several printer shops around town, but he
was not satisfied by the immediate prospects. After a few months, while working in a printing
house, Franklin was convinced by Pennsylvania Governor Sir William Keith to go to London,
ostensibly to acquire the equipment necessary for establishing another newspaper in Philadelphia.
Finding Keith’s promises of backing a newspaper empty, Franklin worked as a typesetter in
a printer’s shop in what is now the Church of St Bartholomew-the-Great in the Smithfield
area of London. Following this, he returned to Philadelphia in 1726 with the help of Thomas
Denham, a merchant who employed Franklin as clerk, shopkeeper, and bookkeeper in his business.===Junto and library===In 1727, Benjamin Franklin, then 21, created
the Junto, a group of “like minded aspiring artisans and tradesmen who hoped to improve
themselves while they improved their community.” The Junto was a discussion group for issues
of the day; it subsequently gave rise to many organizations in Philadelphia. The Junto was
modeled after English coffeehouses that Franklin knew well, and which had become the center
of the spread of Enlightenment ideas in Britain.Reading was a great pastime of the Junto, but books
were rare and expensive. The members created a library initially assembled from their own
books after Franklin wrote: A proposition was made by me that since our
books were often referr’d to in our disquisitions upon the inquiries, it might be convenient
for us to have them altogether where we met, that upon occasion they might be consulted;
and by thus clubbing our books to a common library, we should, while we lik’d to keep
them together, have each of us the advantage of using the books of all the other members,
which would be nearly as beneficial as if each owned the whole.
This did not suffice, however. Franklin conceived the idea of a subscription library, which
would pool the funds of the members to buy books for all to read. This was the birth
of the Library Company of Philadelphia: its charter was composed by Franklin in 1731.
In 1732, Franklin hired the first American librarian, Louis Timothee. The Library Company
is now a great scholarly and research library.===Newspaperman===
Upon Denham’s death, Franklin returned to his former trade. In 1728, Franklin had set
up a printing house in partnership with Hugh Meredith; the following year he became the
publisher of a newspaper called The Pennsylvania Gazette. The Gazette gave Franklin a forum
for agitation about a variety of local reforms and initiatives through printed essays and
observations. Over time, his commentary, and his adroit cultivation of a positive image
as an industrious and intellectual young man, earned him a great deal of social respect.
But even after Franklin had achieved fame as a scientist and statesman, he habitually
signed his letters with the unpretentious ‘B. Franklin, Printer.’ In 1732, Ben Franklin published the first
German-language newspaper in America – Die Philadelphische Zeitung – although it failed
after only one year, because four other newly founded German papers quickly dominated the
newspaper market. Franklin printed Moravian religious books in German. Franklin often
visited Bethlehem, Pennsylvania staying at the Moravian Sun Inn. In a 1751 pamphlet on
demographic growth and its implications for the colonies, he called the Pennsylvania Germans
“Palatine Boors” who could never acquire the “Complexion” of the English settlers and referred
to “Blacks and Tawneys” as weakening the social structure of the colonies. Although Franklin
apparently reconsidered shortly thereafter, and the phrases were omitted from all later
printings of the pamphlet, his views may have played a role in his political defeat in 1764.Franklin
saw the printing press as a device to instruct colonial Americans in moral virtue. In Benjamin
Franklin’s Journalism, Ralph Frasca argues he saw this as a service to God, because he
understood moral virtue in terms of actions, thus, doing good provides a service to God.
Despite his own moral lapses, Franklin saw himself as uniquely qualified to instruct
Americans in morality. He tried to influence American moral life through construction of
a printing network based on a chain of partnerships from the Carolinas to New England. Franklin
thereby invented the first newspaper chain. It was more than a business venture, for like
many publishers since, he believed that the press had a public-service duty. When Franklin established himself in Philadelphia,
shortly before 1730, the town boasted two “wretched little” news sheets, Andrew Bradford’s
The American Weekly Mercury, and Samuel Keimer’s Universal Instructor in all Arts and Sciences,
and Pennsylvania Gazette. This instruction in all arts and sciences consisted of weekly
extracts from Chambers’s Universal Dictionary. Franklin quickly did away with all this when
he took over the Instructor and made it The Pennsylvania Gazette. The Gazette soon became
Franklin’s characteristic organ, which he freely used for satire, for the play of his
wit, even for sheer excess of mischief or of fun. From the first, he had a way of adapting
his models to his own uses. The series of essays called “The Busy-Body”, which he wrote
for Bradford’s American Mercury in 1729, followed the general Addisonian form, already modified
to suit homelier conditions. The thrifty Patience, in her busy little shop, complaining of the
useless visitors who waste her valuable time, is related to the ladies who address Mr. Spectator.
The Busy-Body himself is a true Censor Morum, as Isaac Bickerstaff had been in the Tatler.
And a number of the fictitious characters, Ridentius, Eugenius, Cato, and Cretico, represent
traditional 18th-century classicism. Even this Franklin could use for contemporary satire,
since Cretico, the “sowre Philosopher”, is evidently a portrait of Franklin’s rival,
Samuel Keimer.The Pennsylvania Gazette, like most other newspapers of the period, was often
poorly printed. Franklin was busy with a hundred matters outside of his printing office, and
never seriously attempted to raise the mechanical standards of his trade. Nor did he ever properly
edit or collate the chance medley of stale items that passed for news in the Gazette.
His influence on the practical side of journalism was minimal. On the other hand, his advertisements
of books show his very great interest in popularizing secular literature. Undoubtedly his paper
contributed to the broader culture that distinguished Pennsylvania from her neighbors before the
Revolution. Like many publishers, Franklin built up a book shop in his printing office;
he took the opportunity to read new books before selling them.Franklin had mixed success
in his plan to establish an inter-colonial network of newspapers that would produce a
profit for him and disseminate virtue. He began in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1731.
After the second editor died, his widow Elizabeth Timothy took over and made it a success, 1738–46.
She was one of the colonial era’s first woman printers. For three decades Franklin maintained
a close business relationship with her and her son Peter who took over in 1746. The Gazette
had a policy of impartiality in political debates, while creating the opportunity for
public debate, which encouraged others to challenge authority. Editor Peter Timothy
avoided blandness and crude bias, and after 1765 increasingly took a patriotic stand in
the growing crisis with Great Britain. However, Franklin’s Connecticut Gazette (1755–68)
proved unsuccessful.===Freemasonry===
In 1730 or 1731, Franklin was initiated into the local Masonic lodge. He became a Grand
Master in 1734, indicating his rapid rise to prominence in Pennsylvania. The same year,
he edited and published the first Masonic book in the Americas, a reprint of James Anderson’s
Constitutions of the Free-Masons. He was the Secretary of St. John’s Lodge in Philadelphia
from 1735 to 1738. Franklin remained a Freemason for the rest of his life.===Common-law marriage to Deborah Read===At age 17 in 1723, Franklin proposed to 15-year-old
Deborah Read while a boarder in the Read home. At that time, Read’s mother was wary of allowing
her young daughter to marry Franklin, who was on his way to London at Governor Sir William
Keith’s request, and also because of his financial instability. Her own husband had recently
died, and she declined Franklin’s request to marry her daughter.While Franklin was in
London, his trip was extended, and there were problems with Sir William’s promises of support.
Perhaps because of the circumstances of this delay, Deborah married a man named John Rodgers.
This proved to be a regrettable decision. Rodgers shortly avoided his debts and prosecution
by fleeing to Barbados with her dowry, leaving her behind. Rodgers’s fate was unknown, and
because of bigamy laws, Deborah was not free to remarry.
Franklin established a common-law marriage with Deborah Read on September 1, 1730. They
took in Franklin’s recently acknowledged young illegitimate son William and raised him in
their household. They had two children together. Their son, Francis Folger Franklin, was born
in October 1732 and died of smallpox in 1736. Their daughter, Sarah “Sally” Franklin, was
born in 1743 and grew up to marry Richard Bache, have seven children, and look after
her father in his old age. Deborah’s fear of the sea meant that she never
accompanied Franklin on any of his extended trips to Europe, and another possible reason
why they spent so much time apart is that he may have blamed her for preventing their
son Francis from being vaccinated against the disease that subsequently killed him.
Deborah wrote to him in November 1769 saying she was ill due to “dissatisfied distress”
from his prolonged absence, but he did not return until his business was done. Deborah
Read Franklin died of a stroke in 1774, while Franklin was on an extended mission to England;
he returned in 1775.===William Franklin===In 1730, 24-year-old Franklin publicly acknowledged
the existence of his son William, who was deemed “illegitimate,” as he was born out
of wedlock, and raised him in his household. His mother’s identity is unknown. He was educated
in Philadelphia. Beginning at about age 30, William studied law in London in the early
1760s. He fathered an illegitimate son, William Temple Franklin, born February 22, 1762. The
boy’s mother was never identified, and he was placed in foster care. Later in 1762,
William married Elizabeth Downes, daughter of a planter from Barbados. After William
passed the bar, his father helped him gain an appointment in 1763 as the last Royal Governor
of New Jersey. A Loyalist, William and his father eventually
broke relations over their differences about the American Revolutionary War. The elder
Franklin could never accept William’s position. Deposed in 1776 by the revolutionary government
of New Jersey, William was arrested at his home in Perth Amboy at the Proprietary House
and imprisoned for a time. The younger Franklin went to New York in 1782, which was still
occupied by British troops. He became leader of the Board of Associated Loyalists—a quasi-military
organization, headquartered in New York City. They initiated guerrilla forays into New Jersey,
southern Connecticut, and New York counties north of the city. When British troops evacuated
from New York, William Franklin left with them and sailed to England. He settled in
London, never to return to North America. In the preliminary peace talks in 1782 with
Britain, “… Benjamin Franklin insisted that loyalists who had borne arms against the United
States would be excluded from this plea (that they be given a general pardon). He was undoubtedly
thinking of William Franklin.”===Success as an author===In 1733, Franklin began to publish the noted
Poor Richard’s Almanack (with content both original and borrowed) under the pseudonym
Richard Saunders, on which much of his popular reputation is based. Franklin frequently wrote
under pseudonyms. Although it was no secret that Franklin was the author, his Richard
Saunders character repeatedly denied it. “Poor Richard’s Proverbs”, adages from this almanac,
such as “A penny saved is twopence dear” (often misquoted as “A penny saved is a penny earned”)
and “Fish and visitors stink in three days”, remain common quotations in the modern world.
Wisdom in folk society meant the ability to provide an apt adage for any occasion, and
Franklin’s readers became well prepared. He sold about ten thousand copies per year—it
became an institution. In 1741 Franklin began publishing The General Magazine and Historical
Chronicle for all the British Plantations in America, the first such monthly magazine
of this type published in America. In 1758, the year he ceased writing for the
Almanack, he printed Father Abraham’s Sermon, also known as The Way to Wealth. Franklin’s
autobiography, begun in 1771 but published after his death, has become one of the classics
of the genre. Daylight saving time (DST) is often erroneously
attributed to a 1784 satire that Franklin published anonymously. Modern DST was first
proposed by George Vernon Hudson in 1895.==Inventions and scientific inquiries==Franklin was a prodigious inventor. Among
his many creations were the lightning rod, glass harmonica (a glass instrument, not to
be confused with the metal harmonica), Franklin stove, bifocal glasses and the flexible urinary
catheter. Franklin never patented his inventions; in his autobiography 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 and generously.”===
Electricity===Franklin started exploring the phenomenon
of electricity in 1746 when he saw some of Archibald Spencer’s lectures using static
electricity for illustrations. Franklin proposed that “vitreous” and “resinous” electricity
were not different types of “electrical fluid” (as electricity was called then), but the
same “fluid” under different pressures. (The same proposal was made independently that
same year by William Watson.) Franklin was the first to label them as positive and negative
respectively, and he was the first to discover the principle of conservation of charge. In
1748 he constructed a multiple plate capacitor, that he called an “electrical battery” (not
to be confused with Volta’s pile) by placing eleven panes of glass sandwiched between lead
plates, suspended with silk cords and connected by wires.In recognition of his work with electricity,
Franklin received the Royal Society’s Copley Medal in 1753, and in 1756 he became one of
the few 18th-century Americans elected as a Fellow of the Society. He received honorary
degrees from Harvard and Yale universities (his first). The cgs unit of electric charge
has been named after him: one franklin (Fr) is equal to one statcoulomb.
Franklin advised Harvard University in its acquisition of new electrical laboratory apparatus
after the complete loss of its original collection, in a fire which destroyed the original Harvard
Hall in 1764. The collection he assembled would later become part of the Harvard Collection
of Historical Scientific Instruments, now on public display in its Science Center.Franklin
briefly investigated electrotherapy, including the use of the electric bath. This work led
to the field becoming widely known.====Kite experiment and lightning rod====In 1750, he published a proposal for an experiment
to prove that lightning is electricity by flying a kite in a storm that appeared capable
of becoming a lightning storm. On May 10, 1752, Thomas-François Dalibard of France
conducted Franklin’s experiment using a 40-foot-tall (12 m) iron rod instead of a kite, and he
extracted electrical sparks from a cloud. On June 15 Franklin may possibly have conducted
his well-known kite experiment in Philadelphia, successfully extracting sparks from a cloud.
Franklin described the experiment in the Pennsylvania Gazette on October 19, 1752, without mentioning
that he himself had performed it. This account was read to the Royal Society on December
21 and printed as such in the Philosophical Transactions. Joseph Priestley published an
account with additional details in his 1767 History and Present Status of Electricity.
Franklin was careful to stand on an insulator, keeping dry under a roof to avoid the danger
of electric shock. Others, such as Prof. Georg Wilhelm Richmann in Russia, were indeed electrocuted
in performing lightning experiments during the months immediately following Franklin’s
experiment. In his writings, Franklin indicates that he
was aware of the dangers and offered alternative ways to demonstrate that lightning was electrical,
as shown by his use of the concept of electrical ground. Franklin did not perform this experiment
in the way that is often pictured in popular literature, flying the kite and waiting to
be struck by lightning, as it would have been dangerous. Instead he used the kite to collect
some electric charge from a storm cloud, showing that lightning was electrical. On October
19 in a letter to England with directions for repeating the experiment, Franklin wrote: When rain has wet the kite twine so that it
can conduct the electric fire freely, you will find it streams out plentifully from
the key at the approach of your knuckle, and with this key a phial, or Leyden jar, may
be charged: and from electric fire thus obtained spirits may be kindled, and all other electric
experiments [may be] performed which are usually done by the help of a rubber glass globe or
tube; and therefore the sameness of the electrical matter with that of lightening completely
demonstrated. Franklin’s electrical experiments led to his
invention of the lightning rod. He said that conductors with a sharp rather than a smooth
point could discharge silently, and at a far greater distance. He surmised that this could
help protect buildings from lightning by attaching “upright Rods of Iron, made sharp as a Needle
and gilt to prevent Rusting, and from the Foot of those Rods a Wire down the outside
of the Building into the Ground; … Would not these pointed Rods probably draw the Electrical
Fire silently out of a Cloud before it came nigh enough to strike, and thereby secure
us from that most sudden and terrible Mischief!” Following a series of experiments on Franklin’s
own house, lightning rods were installed on the Academy of Philadelphia (later the University
of Pennsylvania) and the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall) in 1752.===Population studies===
Franklin had a major influence on the emerging science of demography, or population studies.
Thomas Malthus is noted for his rule of population growth and credited Franklin for discovering
it. Kammen (1990) and Drake (2011) say Franklin’s “Observations on the Increase of Mankind”
(1755) stands alongside Ezra Stiles’ “Discourse on Christian Union” (1760) as the leading
works of eighteenth-century Anglo-American demography; Drake credits Franklin’s “wide
readership and prophetic insight.”In the 1730s and 1740s, Franklin began taking notes on
population growth, finding that the American population had the fastest growth rate on
earth. Emphasizing that population growth depended on food supplies—a line of thought
later developed by Thomas Malthus—Franklin emphasized the abundance of food and available
farmland in America. He calculated that America’s population was doubling every twenty years
and would surpass that of England in a century. In 1751, he drafted “Observations concerning
the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, &c.” Four years later, it was anonymously
printed in Boston, and it was quickly reproduced in Britain, where it influenced the economist
Adam Smith and later the demographer Thomas Malthus. Franklin’s predictions alarmed British
leaders who did not want to be surpassed by the colonies, so they became more willing
to impose restrictions on the colonial economy.Franklin was also a pioneer in the study of slave demography,
as shown in his 1755 essay.===Atlantic Ocean currents===
As deputy postmaster, Franklin became interested in the North Atlantic Ocean circulation patterns.
While in England in 1768, he heard a complaint from the Colonial Board of Customs: Why did
it take British packet ships carrying mail several weeks longer to reach New York than
it took an average merchant ship to reach Newport, Rhode Island? The merchantmen had
a longer and more complex voyage because they left from London, while the packets left from
Falmouth in Cornwall. Franklin put the question to his cousin Timothy
Folger, a Nantucket whaler captain, who told him that merchant ships routinely avoided
a strong eastbound mid-ocean current. The mail packet captains sailed dead into it,
thus fighting an adverse current of 3 miles per hour (5 km/h). Franklin worked with Folger
and other experienced ship captains, learning enough to chart the current and name it the
Gulf Stream, by which it is still known today. Franklin published his Gulf Stream chart in
1770 in England, where it was completely ignored. Subsequent versions were printed in France
in 1778 and the U.S. in 1786. The British edition of the chart, which was the original,
was so thoroughly ignored that everyone assumed it was lost forever until Phil Richardson,
a Woods Hole oceanographer and Gulf Stream expert, discovered it in the Bibliothèque
Nationale in Paris in 1980. This find received front-page coverage in The New York Times.It
took many years for British sea captains to adopt Franklin’s advice on navigating the
current; once they did, they were able to trim two weeks from their sailing time. In
1853, the oceanographer and cartographer Matthew Fontaine Maury noted that while Franklin charted
and codified the Gulf Stream, he did not discover it: Though it was Dr. Franklin and Captain Tim
Folger, who first turned the Gulf Stream to nautical account, the discovery that there
was a Gulf Stream cannot be said to belong to either of them, for its existence was known
to Peter Martyr d’Anghiera, and to Sir Humphrey Gilbert, in the 16th century.===Wave theory of light===
Franklin was, along with his contemporary Leonhard Euler, the only major scientist who
supported Christiaan Huygens’s wave theory of light, which was basically ignored by the
rest of the scientific community. In the 18th century Newton’s corpuscular theory was held
to be true; only after Young’s well-known slit experiment in 1803 were most scientists
persuaded to believe Huygens’s theory.===Meteorology===
On October 21, 1743, according to popular myth, a storm moving from the southwest denied
Franklin the opportunity of witnessing a lunar eclipse. Franklin was said to have noted that
the prevailing winds were actually from the northeast, contrary to what he had expected.
In correspondence with his brother, Franklin learned that the same storm had not reached
Boston until after the eclipse, despite the fact that Boston is to the northeast of Philadelphia.
He deduced that storms do not always travel in the direction of the prevailing wind, a
concept that greatly influenced meteorology.After the Icelandic volcanic eruption of Laki in
1783, and the subsequent harsh European winter of 1784, Franklin made observations connecting
the causal nature of these two separate events. He wrote about them in a lecture series.===Traction kiting===
Though Benjamin Franklin has been most noted kite-wise with his lightning experiments,
he has also been noted by many for his using kites to pull humans and ships across waterways.
The George Pocock in the book A TREATISE on The Aeropleustic Art, or Navigation in the
Air, by means of Kites, or Buoyant Sails noted being inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s traction
of his body by kite power across a waterway. In his later years he suggested using the
technique for pulling ships.===Concept of cooling===
Franklin noted a principle of refrigeration by observing that on a very hot day, he stayed
cooler in a wet shirt in a breeze than he did in a dry one. To understand this phenomenon
more clearly Franklin conducted experiments. In 1758 on a warm day in Cambridge, England,
Franklin and fellow scientist John Hadley experimented by continually wetting the ball
of a mercury thermometer with ether and using bellows to evaporate the ether. With each
subsequent evaporation, the thermometer read a lower temperature, eventually reaching 7
°F (−14 °C). Another thermometer showed that the room temperature was constant at
65 °F (18 °C). In his letter Cooling by Evaporation, Franklin noted that, “One may
see the possibility of freezing a man to death on a warm summer’s day.”===Temperature’s effect on electrical conductivity
===According to Michael Faraday, Franklin’s experiments
on the non-conduction of ice are worth mentioning, although the law of the general effect of
liquefaction on electrolytes is not attributed to Franklin. However, as reported in 1836
by Prof. A. D. Bache of the University of Pennsylvania, the law of the effect of heat
on the conduction of bodies otherwise non-conductors, for example, glass, could be attributed to
Franklin. Franklin writes, “… A certain quantity of heat will make some bodies good
conductors, that will not otherwise conduct …” and again, “… And water, though naturally
a good conductor, will not conduct well when frozen into ice.”===Oceanography findings===An aging Franklin accumulated all his oceanographic
findings in Maritime Observations, published by the Philosophical Society’s transactions
in 1786. It contained ideas for sea anchors, catamaran hulls, watertight compartments,
shipboard lightning rods and a soup bowl designed to stay stable in stormy weather.===Decision-making===
In a 1772 letter to Joseph Priestley, Franklin lays out the earliest known description of
the Pro & Con list, a common decision-making technique, now sometimes called a decisional
balance sheet: … my Way is, to divide half a Sheet of Paper
by a Line into two Columns, writing over the one Pro, and over the other Con. Then during
three or four Days Consideration I put down under the different Heads short Hints of the
different Motives that at different Times occur to me for or against the Measure. When
I have thus got them all together in one View, I endeavour to estimate their respective Weights;
and where I find two, one on each side, that seem equal, I strike them both out: If I find
a Reason pro equal to some two Reasons con, I strike out the three. If I judge some two
Reasons con equal to some three Reasons pro, I strike out the five; and thus proceeding
I find at length where the Ballance lies; and if after a Day or two of farther Consideration
nothing new that is of Importance occurs on either side, I come to a Determination accordingly.===Oil on water===
While traveling on a ship, Franklin had observed that the wake of a ship was diminished when
the cooks scuttled their greasy water. He studied the effects on a large pond in Clapham
Common, London. “I fetched out a cruet of oil and dropt a little of it on the water
… though not more than a teaspoon full, produced an instant calm over a space of several
yards square.” He later used the trick to “calm the waters” by carrying “a little oil
in the hollow joint of my cane”.==Musical endeavors==Franklin is known to have played the violin,
the harp, and the guitar. He also composed music, notably a string quartet in early classical
style. While he was in London, he developed a much-improved version of the glass harmonica,
in which the glasses rotate on a shaft, with the player’s fingers held steady, instead
of the other way around. He worked with the London glassblower Charles James to create
it, and instruments based on his mechanical version soon found their way to other parts
of Europe. Joesph Haydn (a fan of Franklin’s enlightened ideas) had a glass harmonica in
his instrument collection. Beethoven wrote a sonata for the glass harmonica.==Chess==
Franklin was an avid chess player. He was playing chess by around 1733, making him the
first chess player known by name in the American colonies. His essay on “The Morals of Chess”
in Columbian magazine in December 1786 is the second known writing on chess in America.
This essay in praise of chess and prescribing a code of behavior for the game has been widely
reprinted and translated. He and a friend also used chess as a means of learning the
Italian language, which both were studying; the winner of each game between them had the
right to assign a task, such as parts of the Italian grammar to be learned by heart, to
be performed by the loser before their next meeting.Franklin was able to play chess more
frequently against stronger opposition during his many years as a civil servant and diplomat
in England, where the game was far better established than in America. He was able to
improve his playing standard by facing more experienced players during this period. He
regularly attended Old Slaughter’s Coffee House in London for chess and socializing,
making many important personal contacts. While in Paris, both as a visitor and later as ambassador,
he visited the famous Café de la Régence, which France’s strongest players made their
regular meeting place. No records of his games have survived, so it is not possible to ascertain
his playing strength in modern terms.Franklin was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame
in 1999. The Franklin Mercantile Chess Club in Philadelphia, the second oldest chess club
in the U.S., is named in his honor.==Public life=====Early steps in Pennsylvania===In 1736, Franklin created the Union Fire Company,
one of the first volunteer firefighting companies in America. In the same year, he printed a
new currency for New Jersey based on innovative anti-counterfeiting techniques he had devised.
Throughout his career, Franklin was an advocate for paper money, publishing A Modest Enquiry
into the Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency in 1729, and his printer printed money. He
was influential in the more restrained and thus successful monetary experiments in the
Middle Colonies, which stopped deflation without causing excessive inflation. In 1766 he made
a case for paper money to the British House of Commons.As he matured, Franklin began to
concern himself more with public affairs. In 1743, he first devised a scheme for The
Academy, Charity School, and College of Philadelphia. However, the person he had in mind to run
the academy, Rev. Richard Peters, refused and Franklin put his ideas away until 1749,
when he printed his own pamphlet, Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pensilvania.
He was appointed president of the Academy on November 13, 1749; the Academy and the
Charity School opened on August 13, 1751. In 1743, Franklin founded the American Philosophical
Society to help scientific men discuss their discoveries and theories. He began the electrical
research that, along with other scientific inquiries, would occupy him for the rest of
his life, in between bouts of politics and moneymaking.In 1747, Franklin (already a very
wealthy man) retired from printing and went into other businesses. He created a partnership
with his foreman, David Hall, which provided Franklin with half of the shop’s profits for
18 years. This lucrative business arrangement provided leisure time for study, and in a
few years he had made discoveries that gave him a reputation with educated persons throughout
Europe and especially in France. Franklin became involved in Philadelphia politics
and rapidly progressed. In October 1748, he was selected as a councilman, in June 1749
he became a Justice of the Peace for Philadelphia, and in 1751 he was elected to the Pennsylvania
Assembly. On August 10, 1753, Franklin was appointed deputy postmaster-general of British
North America, (see below). His most notable service in domestic politics was his reform
of the postal system, with mail sent out every week.In 1751, Franklin and Dr. Thomas Bond
obtained a charter from the Pennsylvania legislature to establish a hospital. Pennsylvania Hospital
was the first hospital in what was to become the United States of America.
In 1752, Franklin organized the Philadelphia Contributionship, the first homeowner’s insurance
company in what would become the United States. Between 1750 and 1753, the “educational triumvirate”
of Dr. Benjamin Franklin, the American Dr. Samuel Johnson of Stratford, Connecticut,
and the immigrant Scottish schoolteacher Dr. William Smith built on Franklin’s initial
scheme and created what Bishop James Madison, president of the College of William & Mary,
called a “new-model” plan or style of American college. Franklin solicited, printed in 1752,
and promoted an American textbook of moral philosophy from the American Dr. Samuel Johnson
titled Elementa Philosophica to be taught in the new colleges to replace courses in
denominational divinity. In June 1753, Johnson, Franklin, and Smith
met in Stratford. They decided the new-model college would focus on the professions, with
classes taught in English instead of Latin, have subject matter experts as professors
instead of one tutor leading a class for four years, and there would be no religious test
for admission. Johnson went on to found King’s College (now Columbia University) in New York
City in 1754, while Franklin hired Smith as Provost of the College of Philadelphia, which
opened in 1755. At its first commencement, on May 17, 1757, seven men graduated; six
with a Bachelor of Arts and one as Master of Arts. It was later merged with the University
of the State of Pennsylvania to become the University of Pennsylvania. The College was
to become influential in guiding the founding documents of the United States: in the Continental
Congress, for example, over one third of the college-affiliated men who contributed the
Declaration of Independence between September 4, 1774, and July 4, 1776, were affiliated
with the College.In 1753, both Harvard and Yale awarded him honorary degrees. In 1754, he headed the Pennsylvania delegation
to the Albany Congress. This meeting of several colonies had been requested by the Board of
Trade in England to improve relations with the Indians and defense against the French.
Franklin proposed a broad Plan of Union for the colonies. While the plan was not adopted,
elements of it found their way into the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution.
In 1756, Franklin received an honorary master of arts degree from the College of William
and Mary. Later in 1756, Franklin organized the Pennsylvania Militia (see “Associated
Regiment of Philadelphia” under heading of Pennsylvania’s 103rd Artillery and 111th Infantry
Regiment at Continental Army). He used Tun Tavern as a gathering place to recruit a regiment
of soldiers to go into battle against the Native American uprisings that beset the American
colonies. Reportedly Franklin was elected “Colonel” of the Associated Regiment but declined
the honor.===Decades in London===
From the mid 1750s to the mid 1770s, Franklin spent much of his time in London. Officially
he was there on a political mission, but he used his time to further his scientific explorations
as well, meeting many notable people. In 1757, he was sent to England by the Pennsylvania
Assembly as a colonial agent to protest against the political influence of the Penn family,
the proprietors of the colony. He remained there for five years, striving to end the
proprietors’ prerogative to overturn legislation from the elected Assembly, and their exemption
from paying taxes on their land. His lack of influential allies in Whitehall led to
the failure of this mission. At this time, many members of the Pennsylvania
Assembly were feuding with William Penn’s heirs, who controlled the colony as proprietors.
After his return to the colony, Franklin led the “anti-proprietary party” in the struggle
against the Penn family, and was elected Speaker of the Pennsylvania House in May 1764. His
call for a change from proprietary to royal government was a rare political miscalculation,
however: Pennsylvanians worried that such a move would endanger their political and
religious freedoms. Because of these fears, and because of political attacks on his character,
Franklin lost his seat in the October 1764 Assembly elections. The anti-proprietary party
dispatched Franklin to England again to continue the struggle against the Penn family proprietorship.
During this trip, events drastically changed the nature of his mission.In London, Franklin
opposed the 1765 Stamp Act. Unable to prevent its passage, he made another political miscalculation
and recommended a friend to the post of stamp distributor for Pennsylvania. Pennsylvanians
were outraged, believing that he had supported the measure all along, and threatened to destroy
his home in Philadelphia. Franklin soon learned of the extent of colonial resistance to the
Stamp Act, and he testified during the House of Commons proceedings that led to its repeal. With this, Franklin suddenly emerged as the
leading spokesman for American interests in England. He wrote popular essays on behalf
of the colonies. Georgia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts also appointed him as their
agent to the Crown.Franklin lodged in a house in Craven Street, just off The Strand in central
London. During his stays there, he developed a close friendship with his landlady, Margaret
Stevenson, and her circle of friends and relations, in particular her daughter Mary, who was more
often known as Polly. Their house, which he used on various lengthy missions from 1757
to 1775, is the only one of his residences to survive. It opened to the public as the
Benjamin Franklin House museum in 2006. Whilst in London, Franklin became involved
in radical politics. He belonged to a gentleman’s club (which he called “the honest Whigs”),
which held stated meetings, and included members such as Richard Price, the minister of Newington
Green Unitarian Church who ignited the Revolution Controversy, and Andrew Kippis.In 1756, Franklin
had become a member of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce
(now the Royal Society of Arts or RSA), which had been founded in 1754 and whose early meetings
took place in Covent Garden coffee shops. After his return to the United States in 1775,
Franklin became the Society’s Corresponding Member, continuing a close connection. The
RSA instituted a Benjamin Franklin Medal in 1956 to commemorate the 250th anniversary
of his birth and the 200th anniversary of his membership of the RSA.
The study of natural philosophy (what we would call science) drew him into overlapping circles
of acquaintance. Franklin was, for example, a corresponding member of the Lunar Society
of Birmingham, which included such other scientific and industrial luminaries as Matthew Boulton,
James Watt, Josiah Wedgwood and Erasmus Darwin; on occasion he visited them.
In 1759, the University of St Andrews awarded Franklin an honorary doctorate in recognition
of his accomplishments. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate by Oxford University
in 1762. Because of these honors, Franklin was often addressed as “Dr. Franklin.”Franklin
also managed to secure an appointed post for his illegitimate son, William Franklin, by
then an attorney, as Colonial Governor of New Jersey.While living in London in 1768,
he developed a phonetic alphabet in A Scheme for a new Alphabet and a Reformed Mode of
Spelling. This reformed alphabet discarded six letters Franklin regarded as redundant
(c, j, q, w, x, and y), and substituted six new letters for sounds he felt lacked letters
of their own. This alphabet never caught on, and he eventually lost interest.===Travels around Britain and Ireland===
Franklin used London as a base to travel. In 1771, he made short journeys through different
parts of England, staying with Joseph Priestley at Leeds, Thomas Percival at Manchester and
Erasmus Darwin at Lichfield.In Scotland, he spent five days with Lord Kames near Stirling
and stayed for three weeks with David Hume in Edinburgh. In 1759, he visited Edinburgh
with his son, and recalled his conversations there as “the densest happiness of my life”.
In February 1759, the University of St Andrews awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
From then he was known as “Doctor Franklin”. In October of the same year he was granted
Freedom of the Borough of St Andrews.He had never been to Ireland before, and met and
stayed with Lord Hillsborough, who he believed was especially attentive. Franklin noted of
him that “all the plausible behaviour I have described is meant only, by patting and stroking
the horse, to make him more patient, while the reins are drawn tighter, and the spurs
set deeper into his sides.” In Dublin, Franklin was invited to sit with the members of the
Irish Parliament rather than in the gallery. He was the first American to receive this
honor. While touring Ireland, he was moved by the level of poverty he saw. Ireland’s
economy was affected by the same trade regulations and laws of Britain that governed America.
Franklin feared that America could suffer the same effects should Britain’s “colonial
exploitation” continue.===Visits to Europe===
Franklin spent two months in German lands in 1766, but his connections to the country
stretched across a lifetime. He declared a debt of gratitude to German scientist Otto
von Guericke for his early studies of electricity. Franklin also co-authored the first treaty
of friendship between Prussia and America in 1785.
In September 1767, Franklin visited Paris with his usual traveling partner, Sir John
Pringle. News of his electrical discoveries was widespread in France. His reputation meant
that he was introduced to many influential scientists and politicians, and also to King
Louis XV.===Defending the American cause===
One line of argument in Parliament was that Americans should pay a share of the costs
of the French and Indian War, and that therefore taxes should be levied on them. Franklin became
the American spokesman in highly publicized testimony in Parliament in 1766. He stated
that Americans already contributed heavily to the defense of the Empire. He said local
governments had raised, outfitted and paid 25,000 soldiers to fight France—as many
as Britain itself sent—and spent many millions from American treasuries doing so in the French
and Indian War alone.In 1773, Franklin published two of his most celebrated pro-American satirical
essays: “Rules by Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced to a Small One”, and “An Edict
by the King of Prussia”.===Hutchinson letters leak===In 1772, Franklin obtained private letters
of Thomas Hutchinson and Andrew Oliver, governor and lieutenant governor of the Province of
Massachusetts Bay, proving that they had encouraged the Crown to crack down on Bostonians. Franklin
sent them to America, where they escalated the tensions. The letters were finally leaked
to the public in the Boston Gazette in mid-June 1773, causing a political firestorm in Massachusetts
and raising significant questions in England. The British began to regard him as the fomenter
of serious trouble. Hopes for a peaceful solution ended as he was systematically ridiculed and
humiliated by Solicitor-General Alexander Wedderburn, before the Privy Council on January
29, 1774. He returned to Philadelphia in March 1775, and abandoned his accommodationist stance.===Coming of revolution===
In 1763, soon after Franklin returned to Pennsylvania from England for the first time, the western
frontier was engulfed in a bitter war known as Pontiac’s Rebellion. The Paxton Boys, a
group of settlers convinced that the Pennsylvania government was not doing enough to protect
them from American Indian raids, murdered a group of peaceful Susquehannock Indians
and marched on Philadelphia. Franklin helped to organize a local militia to defend the
capital against the mob. He met with the Paxton leaders and persuaded them to disperse. Franklin
wrote a scathing attack against the racial prejudice of the Paxton Boys. “If an Indian
injures me”, he asked, “does it follow that I may revenge that Injury on all Indians?”He
provided an early response to British surveillance through his own network of counter-surveillance
and manipulation. “He waged a public relations campaign, secured secret aid, played a role
in privateering expeditions, and churned out effective and inflammatory propaganda.”===Declaration of Independence===By the time Franklin arrived in Philadelphia
on May 5, 1775, after his second mission to Great Britain, the American Revolution had
begun—with fighting between colonials and British at Lexington and Concord. The New
England militia had trapped the main British army in Boston. The Pennsylvania Assembly
unanimously chose Franklin as their delegate to the Second Continental Congress. In June
1776, he was appointed a member of the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence.
Although he was temporarily disabled by gout and unable to attend most meetings of the
Committee, Franklin made several “small but important” changes to the draft sent to him
by Thomas Jefferson. At the signing, he is quoted as having replied
to a comment by John Hancock that they must all hang together: “Yes, we must, indeed,
all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”===
Postmaster===Well known as a printer and publisher, Franklin
was appointed postmaster of Philadelphia in 1737, holding the office until 1753, when
he and publisher William Hunter were named deputy postmasters–general of British North
America, the first to hold the office. (Joint appointments were standard at the time, for
political reasons.) Franklin was responsible for the British colonies from Pennsylvania
north and east, as far as the island of Newfoundland. A post office for local and outgoing mail
had been established in Halifax, Nova Scotia, by local stationer Benjamin Leigh, on April
23, 1754, but service was irregular. Franklin opened the first post office to offer regular,
monthly mail in what would later become Canada, at Halifax, on December 9, 1755. Meantime,
Hunter became postal administrator in Williamsburg, Virginia and oversaw areas south of Annapolis,
Maryland. Franklin reorganized the service’s accounting system, then improved speed of
delivery between Philadelphia, New York and Boston. By 1761, efficiencies led to the first
profits for the colonial post office.When the lands of New France were ceded to the
British under the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the new British province of Quebec was created
among them, and Franklin saw mail service expanded between Montreal, Trois-Rivières,
Quebec City, and New York. For the greater part of his appointment, Franklin lived in
England (from 1757 to 1762, and again from 1764 to 1774)—about three-quarters of his
term. Eventually, his sympathies for the rebel cause in the American Revolution led to his
dismissal on January 31, 1774. On July 26, 1775, the Second Continental Congress
established the United States Post Office and named Benjamin Franklin as the first United
States Postmaster General. Franklin had been a postmaster for decades and was a natural
choice for the position. He had just returned from England and was appointed chairman of
a Committee of Investigation to establish a postal system. The report of the Committee,
providing for the appointment of a postmaster general for the 13 American colonies, was
considered by the Continental Congress on July 25 and 26. On July 26, 1775, Franklin
was appointed Postmaster General, the first appointed under the Continental Congress.
It established a postal system that became the United States Post Office, a system that
continues to operate today.===Ambassador to France: 1776–1785===In December 1776, Franklin was dispatched
to France as commissioner for the United States. He took with him as secretary his 16-year-old
grandson, William Temple Franklin. They lived in a home in the Parisian suburb of Passy,
donated by Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont, who supported the United States. Franklin
remained in France until 1785. He conducted the affairs of his country toward the French
nation with great success, which included securing a critical military alliance in 1778
and negotiating the Treaty of Paris (1783). Among his associates in France was Honoré
Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau—a French Revolutionary writer, orator and statesman
who in early 1791 would be elected president of the National Assembly. In July 1784, Franklin
met with Mirabeau and contributed anonymous materials that the Frenchman used in his first
signed work: Considerations sur l’ordre de Cincinnatus. The publication was critical
of the Society of the Cincinnati, established in the United States. Franklin and Mirabeau
thought of it as a “noble order”, inconsistent with the egalitarian ideals of the new republic.During
his stay in France, Benjamin Franklin was active as a Freemason, serving as Venerable
Master of the Lodge Les Neuf Sœurs from 1779 until 1781. He was the 106th member of the
Lodge. In 1784, when Franz Mesmer began to publicize his theory of “animal magnetism”
which was considered offensive by many, Louis XVI appointed a commission to investigate
it. These included the chemist Antoine Lavoisier, the physician Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, the
astronomer Jean Sylvain Bailly, and Benjamin Franklin. In 1781, he was elected a Fellow
of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Franklin’s advocacy for religious tolerance
in France contributed to arguments made by French philosophers and politicians that resulted
in Louis XVI’s signing of the Edict of Versailles in November 1787. This edict effectively nullified
the Edict of Fontainebleau, which had denied non-Catholics civil status and the right to
openly practice their faith.Franklin also served as American minister to Sweden, although
he never visited that country. He negotiated a treaty that was signed in April 1783. On
August 27, 1783, in Paris, Franklin witnessed the world’s first hydrogen balloon flight.
Le Globe, created by professor Jacques Charles and Les Frères Robert, was watched by a vast
crowd as it rose from the Champ de Mars (now the site of the Eiffel Tower). Franklin became
so enthusiastic that he subscribed financially to the next project to build a manned hydrogen
balloon. On December 1, 1783, Franklin was seated in the special enclosure for honoured
guests when La Charlière took off from the Jardin des Tuileries, piloted by Jacques Charles
and Nicolas-Louis Robert.===Constitutional Convention===When he returned home in 1785, Franklin occupied
a position only second to that of George Washington as the champion of American independence.
Le Ray honored him with a commissioned portrait painted by Joseph Duplessis, which now hangs
in the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. After his
return, Franklin became an abolitionist and freed his two slaves. He eventually became
president of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society.In 1787, Franklin served as a delegate to the
Philadelphia Convention. He held an honorary position and seldom engaged in debate. He
is the only Founding Father who is a signatory of all four of the major documents of the
founding of the United States: the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Alliance with
France, the Treaty of Paris and the United States Constitution.
In 1787, a group of prominent ministers in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, proposed the foundation
of a new college named in Franklin’s honor. Franklin donated £200 towards the development
of Franklin College (now called Franklin & Marshall College).
Between 1771 and 1788, he finished his autobiography. While it was at first addressed to his son,
it was later completed for the benefit of mankind at the request of a friend.
Franklin strongly supported the right to freedom of speech: In those wretched countries where a man cannot
call his tongue his own, he can scarce call anything his own. Whoever would overthrow
the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech …
Without freedom of thought there can be no such thing as wisdom, and no such thing as
public liberty without freedom of speech, which is the right of every man …===President of Pennsylvania===Special balloting conducted October 18, 1785,
unanimously elected Franklin the sixth president of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania,
replacing John Dickinson. The office was practically that of governor. Franklin held that office
for slightly over three years, longer than any other, and served the constitutional limit
of three full terms. Shortly after his initial election he was reelected to a full term on
October 29, 1785, and again in the fall of 1786 and on October 31, 1787. In that capacity
he served as host to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia.==Virtue, religion, and personal beliefs
==Like the other advocates of republicanism,
Franklin emphasized that the new republic could survive only if the people were virtuous.
All his life he explored the role of civic and personal virtue, as expressed in Poor
Richard’s aphorisms. Franklin felt that organized religion was necessary to keep men good to
their fellow men, but rarely attended religious services himself. When Franklin met Voltaire
in Paris and asked his fellow member of the Enlightenment vanguard to bless his grandson,
Voltaire said in English, “God and Liberty”, and added, “this is the only appropriate benediction
for the grandson of Monsieur Franklin.” Franklin’s parents were both pious Puritans.
The family attended the Old South Church, the most liberal Puritan congregation in Boston,
where Benjamin Franklin was baptized in 1706. Franklin’s father, a poor chandler, owned
a copy of a book, Bonifacius: Essays to Do Good, by the Puritan preacher and family friend
Cotton Mather, which Franklin often cited as a key influence on his life. Franklin’s
first pen name, Silence Dogood, paid homage both to the book and to a widely known sermon
by Mather. The book preached the importance of forming voluntary associations to benefit
society. Franklin learned about forming do-good associations from Cotton Mather, but his organizational
skills made him the most influential force in making voluntarism an enduring part of
the American ethos.Franklin formulated a presentation of his beliefs and published it in 1728. It
did not mention many of the Puritan ideas regarding salvation, the divinity of Jesus,
or indeed much religious dogma. He clarified himself as a deist in his 1771 autobiography,
although still considered himself a Christian. He retained a strong faith in a God as the
wellspring of morality and goodness in man, and as a Providential actor in history responsible
for American independence. It was Ben Franklin who, at a critical impasse
during the Constitutional Convention in June 1787, attempted to introduce the practice
of daily common prayer with these words: … In the beginning of the contest with G.
Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine
Protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of
us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending
providence in our favor. … And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine
that we no longer need His assistance. I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live,
the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if
a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire
can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that “except the
Lord build they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe
that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than
the Builders of Babel: … I therefore beg leave to move—that henceforth prayers imploring
the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly
every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this
City be requested to officiate in that service. The motion met with resistance and was never
brought to a vote.Franklin was an enthusiastic supporter of the evangelical minister George
Whitefield during the First Great Awakening. Franklin did not subscribe to Whitefield’s
theology, but he admired Whitefield for exhorting people to worship God through good works.
Franklin published all of Whitefield’s sermons and journals, thereby earning a lot of money
and boosting the Great Awakening.When he stopped attending church, Franklin wrote in his autobiography: … Sunday being my studying day, I never
was without some religious principles. I never doubted, for instance, the existence of the
Deity; that He made the world, and governed it by His providence; that the most acceptable
service of God was the doing good to man; that our souls are immortal; and that all
crime will be punished, and virtue rewarded, either here or hereafter.
Franklin retained a lifelong commitment to the Puritan virtues and political values he
had grown up with, and through his civic work and publishing, he succeeded in passing these
values into the American culture permanently. He had a “passion for virtue”. These Puritan
values included his devotion to egalitarianism, education, industry, thrift, honesty, temperance,
charity and community spirit.The classical authors read in the Enlightenment period taught
an abstract ideal of republican government based on hierarchical social orders of king,
aristocracy and commoners. It was widely believed that English liberties relied on their balance
of power, but also hierarchal deference to the privileged class. “Puritanism … and
the epidemic evangelism of the mid-eighteenth century, had created challenges to the traditional
notions of social stratification” by preaching that the Bible taught all men are equal, that
the true value of a man lies in his moral behavior, not his class, and that all men
can be saved. Franklin, steeped in Puritanism and an enthusiastic supporter of the evangelical
movement, rejected the salvation dogma, but embraced the radical notion of egalitarian
democracy. Franklin’s commitment to teach these values
was itself something he gained from his Puritan upbringing, with its stress on “inculcating
virtue and character in themselves and their communities.” These Puritan values and the
desire to pass them on, were one of Franklin’s quintessentially American characteristics,
and helped shape the character of the nation. Franklin’s writings on virtue were derided
by some European authors, such as Jackob Fugger in his critical work Portrait of American
Culture. Max Weber considered Franklin’s ethical writings a culmination of the Protestant ethic,
which ethic created the social conditions necessary for the birth of capitalism.One
of Franklin’s notable characteristics was his respect, tolerance and promotion of all
churches. Referring to his experience in Philadelphia, he wrote in his autobiography, “new Places
of worship were continually wanted, and generally erected by voluntary Contribution, my Mite
for such purpose, whatever might be the Sect, was never refused.” “He helped create a new
type of nation that would draw strength from its religious pluralism.” The evangelical
revivalists who were active mid-century, such as Franklin’s friend and preacher, George
Whitefield, were the greatest advocates of religious freedom, “claiming liberty of conscience
to be an ‘inalienable right of every rational creature.'” Whitefield’s supporters in Philadelphia,
including Franklin, erected “a large, new hall, that … could provide a pulpit to anyone
of any belief.” Franklin’s rejection of dogma and doctrine and his stress on the God of
ethics and morality and civic virtue made him the “prophet of tolerance.” Franklin composed
“A Parable Against Persecution”, an apocryphal 51st chapter of Genesis in which God teaches
Abraham the duty of tolerance. While he was living in London in 1774, he was present at
the birth of British Unitarianism, attending the inaugural session of the Essex Street
Chapel, at which Theophilus Lindsey drew together the first avowedly Unitarian congregation
in England; this was somewhat politically risky, and pushed religious tolerance to new
boundaries, as a denial of the doctrine of the Trinity was illegal until the 1813 Act. Although Franklin’s parents had intended for
him to have a career in the Church, Franklin as a young man adopted the Enlightenment religious
belief in deism, that God’s truths can be found entirely through nature and reason.
“I soon became a thorough Deist.” As a young man he rejected Christian dogma in a 1725
pamphlet A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain, which he later saw as an
embarrassment, while simultaneously asserting that God is “all wise, all good, all powerful.”
He defended his rejection of religious dogma with these words: “I think opinions should
be judged by their influences and effects; and if a man holds none that tend to make
him less virtuous or more vicious, it may be concluded that he holds none that are dangerous,
which I hope is the case with me.” After the disillusioning experience of seeing the decay
in his own moral standards, and those of two friends in London whom he had converted to
Deism, Franklin turned back to a belief in the importance of organized religion, on the
pragmatic grounds that without God and organized churches, man will not be good. Moreover,
because of his proposal that prayers be said in the Constitutional Convention of 1787,
many have contended that in his later life Franklin became a pious Christian.According
to David Morgan, Franklin was a proponent of religion in general. He prayed to “Powerful
Goodness” and referred to God as “the infinite”. John Adams noted that Franklin was a mirror
in which people saw their own religion: “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.” Whatever else Franklin was, concludes Morgan,
“he was a true champion of generic religion.” In a letter to Richard Price, Franklin stated
that he believed that religion should support itself without help from the government, claiming,
“When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot
support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig’d
to call for the help of the Civil Power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad
one.”In 1790, just about a month before he died, Franklin wrote a letter to Ezra Stiles,
president of Yale University, who had asked him his views on religion: As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom
you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion, as he left them
to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various
corrupt changes, and I have, with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts
as to his divinity; tho’ it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied
it, and I think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an Opportunity
of knowing the Truth with less Trouble. I see no harm, however, in its being believed,
if that belief has the good consequence, as it probably has, of making his doctrines more
respected and better observed; especially as I do not perceive that the Supreme takes
it amiss, by distinguishing the unbelievers in his government of the world with any particular
marks of his displeasure. On July 4, 1776, Congress appointed a three-member
committee composed of Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams to design the Great Seal of
the United States. Franklin’s proposal (which was not adopted) featured the motto: “Rebellion
to Tyrants is Obedience to God” and a scene from the Book of Exodus, with Moses, the Israelites,
the pillar of fire, and George III depicted as pharaoh. The design that was produced was
never acted upon by Congress, and the Great Seal’s design was not finalized until a third
committee was appointed in 1782.===Thirteen Virtues===Franklin sought to cultivate his character
by a plan of 13 virtues, which he developed at age 20 (in 1726) and continued to practice
in some form for the rest of his life. His autobiography lists his 13 virtues as: “Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not
to elevation.” “Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others
or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.” “Order. Let all your things have their places;
let each part of your business have its time.” “Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought;
perform without fail what you resolve.” “Frugality. Make no expense but to do good
to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.” “Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d
in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.”
“Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”
“Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.”
“Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”
“Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.”
“Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”
“Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness,
or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
“Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”Franklin did not try to work on them all at once. Instead,
he would work on one and only one each week “leaving all others to their ordinary chance.”
While Franklin did not live completely by his virtues, and by his own admission he fell
short of them many times, he believed the attempt made him a better man contributing
greatly to his success and happiness, which is why in his autobiography, he devoted more
pages to this plan than to any other single point; in his autobiography Franklin wrote,
“I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may follow the example and reap the benefit.”==
Slavery==Franklin owned as many as seven slaves, two
males who worked in his household and his shop. Franklin posted paid ads for the sale
of slaves and for the capture of runaway slaves and allowed the sale of slaves in his general
store. Franklin profited from both the international and domestic slave trade, even criticizing
slaves who had run off to join the British Army during the colonial wars of the 1740s
and 1750s. Franklin, however, later became a “cautious abolitionist” and became an outspoken
critic of landed gentry slavery. In 1758, Franklin advocated the opening of a school
for the education of black slaves in Philadelphia. Franklin took two slaves to England with him,
Peter and King, and King left his service there in 1756: by 1758 he was working for
“a lady in Suffolk”. Whether Franklin could have compelled King’s return is open to doubt
in the light of earlier English Common Law decisions and the subsequent case of Shanley
v Harvey, but in fact he did not do so. After returning from England in 1762, Franklin
became more anti-slavery. By 1770, Franklin had freed his slaves and attacked the system
of slavery and the international slave trade. Franklin, however, refused to publicly debate
the issue of slavery at the 1787 Constitutional Convention. Franklin tended to take both sides
of the issue of slavery, never fully divesting himself from the institution.In his later
years, as Congress was forced to deal with the issue of slavery, Franklin wrote several
essays that stressed the importance of the abolition of slavery and of the integration
of blacks into American society. These writings included: An Address to the Public (1789)
A Plan for Improving the Condition of the Free Blacks (1789)
Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim on the Slave Trade (1790)In 1790, Quakers from New York and Pennsylvania
presented their petition for abolition to Congress. Their argument against slavery was
backed by the Pennsylvania Abolitionist Society and its president, Benjamin Franklin.==Death==Franklin suffered from obesity throughout
his middle-aged and later years, which resulted in multiple health problems, particularly
gout, which worsened as he aged. In poor health during the signing of the US Constitution
in 1787, he was rarely seen in public from then until his death.
Benjamin Franklin died from pleuritic attack at his home in Philadelphia on April 17, 1790,
at age 84. His death is described in the book The Life of Benjamin Franklin, quoting from
the account of Dr. John Jones: … when the pain and difficulty of breathing
entirely left him, and his family were flattering themselves with the hopes of his recovery,
when an imposthume, which had formed itself in his lungs, suddenly burst, and discharged
a quantity of matter, which he continued to throw up while he had power; but, as that
failed, the organs of respiration became gradually oppressed; a calm, lethargic state succeeded;
and on the 17th instant (April 1790), about eleven o’clock at night, he quietly expired,
closing a long and useful life of eighty-four years and three months.
Approximately 20,000 people attended his funeral. He was interred in Christ Church Burial Ground
in Philadelphia. In 1728, aged 22, Franklin wrote what he hoped would be his own epitaph: The Body of B. Franklin Printer; Like the
Cover of an old Book, Its Contents torn out, And stript of its Lettering and Gilding, Lies
here, Food for Worms. But the Work shall not be wholly lost: For it will, as he believ’d,
appear once more, In a new & more perfect Edition, Corrected and Amended By the Author.
Franklin’s actual grave, however, as he specified in his final will, simply reads “Benjamin
and Deborah Franklin”.==Legacy==A signer of both the Declaration of Independence
and the Constitution, Franklin is considered one of the Founding Fathers of the United
States. His pervasive influence in the early history of the nation has led to his being
jocularly called “the only President of the United States who was never President of the
United States.” Franklin’s likeness is ubiquitous. Since 1928, it has adorned American $100 bills,
which are sometimes referred to in slang as “Benjamins” or “Franklins.” From 1948 to 1963,
Franklin’s portrait was on the half dollar. He has appeared on a $50 bill and on several
varieties of the $100 bill from 1914 and 1918. Franklin appears on the $1,000 Series EE Savings
bond. Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway (a major thoroughfare) and Benjamin Franklin
Bridge (the first major bridge to connect Philadelphia with New Jersey) are named in
his honor. In 1976, as part of a bicentennial celebration,
Congress dedicated a 20-foot (6 m) marble statue in Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute
as the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial. Many of Franklin’s personal possessions are
also on display at the Institute, one of the few national memorials located on private
property. In London, his house at 36 Craven Street,
which is the only surviving former residence of Benjamin Franklin, was first marked with
a blue plaque and has since been opened to the public as the Benjamin Franklin House.
In 1998, workmen restoring the building dug up the remains of six children and four adults
hidden below the home. The Times reported on February 11, 1998: Initial estimates are that the bones are about
200 years old and were buried at the time Franklin was living in the house, which was
his home from 1757 to 1762 and from 1764 to 1775. Most of the bones show signs of having
been dissected, sawn or cut. One skull has been drilled with several holes. Paul Knapman,
the Westminster Coroner, said yesterday: “I cannot totally discount the possibility of
a crime. There is still a possibility that I may have to hold an inquest.
The Friends of Benjamin Franklin House (the organization responsible for the restoration)
note that the bones were likely placed there by William Hewson, who lived in the house
for two years and who had built a small anatomy school at the back of the house. They note
that while Franklin likely knew what Hewson was doing, he probably did not participate
in any dissections because he was much more of a physicist than a medical man.===Bequest===
Franklin bequeathed £1,000 (about $4,400 at the time, or about $112,000 in 2011 dollars)
each to the cities of Boston and Philadelphia, in trust to gather interest for 200 years.
The trust began in 1785 when the French mathematician Charles-Joseph Mathon de la Cour, who admired
Franklin greatly, wrote a friendly parody of Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanack” called
“Fortunate Richard”. The main character leaves a smallish amount of money in his will, five
lots of 100 livres, to collect interest over one, two, three, four or five full centuries,
with the resulting astronomical sums to be spent on impossibly elaborate utopian projects.
Franklin, who was 79 years old at the time, wrote thanking him for a great idea and telling
him that he had decided to leave a bequest of 1,000 pounds each to his native Boston
and his adopted Philadelphia. By 1990, more than $2,000,000 had accumulated in Franklin’s
Philadelphia trust, which had loaned the money to local residents. From 1940 to 1990, the
money was used mostly for mortgage loans. When the trust came due, Philadelphia decided
to spend it on scholarships for local high school students. Franklin’s Boston trust fund
accumulated almost $5,000,000 during that same time; at the end of its first 100 years
a portion was allocated to help establish a trade school that became the Franklin Institute
of Boston, and the whole fund was later dedicated to supporting this institute.===Franklin on U.S. postage===Benjamin Franklin is a prominent figure in
American history comparable to Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln, and as such he has
been honored on U.S. postage stamps many times. The image of Franklin, the first Postmaster
General of the United States, occurs on the face of U.S. postage more than any other notable
American save that of George Washington. Franklin appeared on the first U.S. postage
stamp (displayed above) issued in 1847. From 1908 through 1923 the U.S. Post Office issued
a series of postage stamps commonly referred to as the Washington-Franklin Issues where,
along with George Washington, Franklin was depicted many times over a 14-year period,
the longest run of any one series in U.S. postal history. Along with the regular issue
stamps Franklin however only appears on a few commemorative stamps. Some of the finest
portrayals of Franklin on record can be found on the engravings inscribed on the face of
U.S. postage.===Bawdy Ben===
“Advice to a Friend on Choosing a Mistress” is a letter written by Benjamin Franklin,
dated June 25, 1745, in which Franklin gives advice to a young man about channeling sexual
urges. Due to its licentious nature, the letter was not published in collections of Franklin’s
papers during the nineteenth century. Federal court decisions from the mid-to-late twentieth
century cited the document as a reason for overturning obscenity laws, using it to make
a case against censorship.===Exhibitions===”The Princess and the Patriot: Ekaterina Dashkova,
Benjamin Franklin and the Age of Enlightenment” exhibition opened in Philadelphia in February
2006 and ran through December 2006. Benjamin Franklin and Dashkova met only once, in Paris
in 1781. Franklin was 75, and Dashkova was 37. Franklin invited Dashkova to become the
first woman to join the American Philosophical Society; she was the only woman so honored
for another 80 years. Later, Dashkova reciprocated by making him the first American member of
the Russian Academy of Sciences.===Places and things named after Benjamin
Franklin===As a founding father of the United States,
Franklin’s name has been attached to many things. Among these are: The State of Franklin, a short-lived independent
state formed during the American Revolutionary War
Counties in at least 16 U.S. states The Franklin Institute Awards (presented by
the Franklin Institute) for significant contributions in the fields of science and engineering.
Several major landmarks in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Franklin’s longtime home, including:
Franklin and Marshall College in nearby Lancaster Franklin Field, a football field once home
to the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League and the home field of the
University of Pennsylvania Quakers since 1895 The Benjamin Franklin Bridge across the Delaware
River between Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey
Several US Navy ships have been named the USS Franklin or the USS Bonhomme Richard,
the latter being a French translation of his penname “Poor Richard”. Two aircraft carriers,
USS Franklin (CV-13) and USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31), were simultaneously in commission
and in operation during World War II, and Franklin therefore had the distinction of
having two simultaneously operational US Navy warships named in his honor. The French ship
Franklin (1797) was also named in Franklin’s honor.
CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin, a Chinese-built French owned Explorer-class container ship==See also==
Benjamin Franklin portal==References====Further reading==
Biographies Becker, Carl Lotus. “Benjamin Franklin”, Dictionary
of American Biography (1931) – vol 3, with links online
Brands, H. W. The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin (2000) ISBN
978-0385495400 – scholarly biography; online free
Crane, Vernon W. Benjamin Franklin and a rising people (1954) short biography by a scholar;
online free Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin
Franklin; many editions Gaustad, Edwin S. Benjamin Franklin (2006).
doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195305357.001.0001 online
Isaacson, Walter (2003). Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York: Simon & Schuster.
ISBN 978-0743260848., popular biography; online free
Ketcham, Ralph. Benjamin Franklin (1966) 228 pp online edition, short biography by scholar
Lemay, J. A. Leo. The Life of Benjamin Franklin, scholarly biography, 3 volumes appeared before
the author’s death in 2008
Volume 1: Journalist, 1706–1730 (2005) 568 pp ISBN 978-0812238549
Volume 2: Printer and Publisher, 1730–1747 (2005) 664 pp ISBN 978-0812238556
Volume 3: Soldier, Scientist, and Politician, 1748–1757 (2008), 768 pp ISBN 978-0812241211
Morgan, Edmund S. Benjamin Franklin (2003), interpretation by leading scholar online free
Schiff, Stacy, A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, (2005) Henry
Holt James Srodes, Franklin, The Essential Founding
Father, (2002, softcover 2003, Regnery History) ISBN 978-0895261632 ISBN 978-0895261045
Van Doren, Carl (1938). Benjamin Franklin. Viking. ISBN 978-1931541855., Pulitzer Prize
winning biography; online free Wood, Gordon. The Americanization of Benjamin
Franklin (2005) ISBN 978-0143035282, intellectual history by leading historian.
Wright, Esmond. Franklin of Philadelphia (1986) ISBN 978-0674318106 – scholarly studyFor
young readers Asimov, Isaac. The Kite That Won the Revolution,
a biography for children that focuses on Franklin’s scientific and diplomatic contributions.
Fleming, Candace. Ben Franklin’s Almanac: Being a True Account of the Good Gentleman’s
Life. Atheneum/Anne Schwart, 2003, 128 pp. ISBN 978-0689835490.Scholarly studies Anderson, Douglas. The Radical Enlightenments
of Benjamin Franklin (1997) – fresh look at the intellectual roots of Franklin
Buxbaum, M.H., ed. Critical Essays on Benjamin Franklin (1987)
Chaplin, Joyce. The First Scientific American: Benjamin Franklin and the Pursuit of Genius.
(2007) Cohen, I. Bernard. Benjamin Franklin’s Science
(1990) – Cohen, the leading specialist, has several books on Franklin’s science
Conner, Paul W. Poor Richard’s Politicks (1965) – analyzes Franklin’s ideas in terms of
the Enlightenment and republicanism Dull, Jonathan. Benjamin Franklin and the
American Revolution (2010) Dull, Jonathan. A Diplomatic History of the
American Revolution (1985) Dray, Philip. Stealing God’s Thunder: Benjamin
Franklin’s Lightning Rod and the Invention of America. (2005). 279 pp.
Ford, Paul Leicester. The Many-Sided Franklin (1899) online edition – collection of scholarly
essays “Franklin as Printer and Publisher” in The
Century (April 1899) v. 57 pp. 803–18. “Franklin as Scientist” in The Century (September
1899) v.57 pp. 750–63. By Paul Leicester Ford.
“Franklin as Politician and Diplomatist” in The Century (October 1899) v. 57 pp. 881–99.
By Paul Leicester Ford. Gleason, Philip. “Trouble in the Colonial
Melting Pot.” Journal of American Ethnic History 2000 20(1): 3–17.
Houston, Alan. Benjamin Franklin and the Politics of Improvement (2009)
Lemay, J. A. Leo, ed. Reappraising Benjamin Franklin: A Bicentennial Perspective (1993)
– scholarly essays Mathews, L. K. “Benjamin Franklin’s Plans
for a Colonial Union, 1750–1775.” American Political Science Review 8 (August 1914):
393–412. McCoy, Drew R. (1978). “Benjamin Franklin’s
Vision of a Republican Political Economy for America”. William and Mary Quarterly. 35 (4):
607–28. JSTOR 1923207. Merli, Frank J., and Theodore A. Wilson, eds.
Makers of American diplomacy, from Benjamin Franklin to Henry Kissinger (1974) online
free Newman, Simon P. “Benjamin Franklin and the
Leather-Apron Men: The Politics of Class in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia”, Journal
of American Studies, August 2009, Vol. 43#2 pp. 161–75; Franklin took pride in his working
class origins and his printer’s skills. Olson, Lester C. Benjamin Franklin’s Vision
of American Community: A Study in Rhetorical Iconology. (2004). 323 pp.
Schiffer, Michael Brian. Draw the Lightning Down: Benjamin Franklin and Electrical Technology
in the Age of Enlightenment. (2003). 383 pp. Stuart Sherman “Franklin” 1918 article on
Franklin’s writings. Skemp, Sheila L. Benjamin and William Franklin:
Father and Son, Patriot and Loyalist (1994) – Ben’s son was a leading Loyalist
Sletcher, Michael. ‘Domesticity: The Human Side of Benjamin Franklin’, Magazine of History,
XXI (2006). Waldstreicher, David. Runaway America: Benjamin
Franklin, Slavery, and the American Revolution. Hill and Wang, 2004. 315 pp.
Walters, Kerry S. Benjamin Franklin and His Gods. (1999). 213 pp. Takes position midway
between D H Lawrence’s brutal 1930 denunciation of Franklin’s religion as nothing more than
a bourgeois commercialism tricked out in shallow utilitarian moralisms and Owen Aldridge’s
sympathetic 1967 treatment of the dynamism and protean character of Franklin’s “polytheistic”
religion. York, Neil. “When Words Fail: William Pitt,
Benjamin Franklin and the Imperial Crisis of 1766”, Parliamentary History, October 2009,
Vol. 28#3 pp. 341–74Historiography Waldstreicher, David, ed. A Companion to Benjamin
Franklin (2011), 25 essays by scholars emphasizing how historians have handled Franklin. online
editionPrimary sources Silence Dogood, The Busy-Body, & Early Writings
(J.A. Leo Lemay, ed.) (Library of America, 1987 one-volume, 2005 two-volume) ISBN 978-1931082228
Autobiography, Poor Richard, & Later Writings (J.A. Leo Lemay, ed.) (Library of America,
1987 one-volume, 2005 two-volume) ISBN 978-1883011536 Bailyn, Bernard, The Ideological Origins of
the American Revolution (1992) Benjamin Franklin papers, M. S. Coll. 900,
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa. Finding aid
Bailly, J.-S., “Secret Report on Mesmerism or Animal Magnetism”, International Journal
of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Vol.50, No.4, (October 2002), pp. 364–368. doi:10.1080/00207140208410110
Franklin, B., Majault, M.J., Le Roy, J.B., Sallin, C.L., Bailly, J.-S., d’Arcet, J.,
de Bory, G., Guillotin, J.-I. & Lavoisier, A., “Report of The Commissioners charged by
the King with the Examination of Animal Magnetism”, International Journal of Clinical and Experimental
Hypnosis, Vol. 50, No. 4, (October 2002), pp. 332–363. doi:10.1080/00207140208410109
The Papers of Benjamin Franklin online, Sponsored by The American Philosophical Society and
Yale University Benjamin Franklin Reader edited by Walter
Isaacson (2003) Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography edited by
J. A. Leo Lemay and P. M. Zall, (Norton Critical Editions, 1986); 390 pp. text, contemporary
documents and 20th century analysis Houston, Alan, ed. Franklin: The Autobiography
and other Writings on Politics, Economics, and Virtue. Cambridge University Press, 2004.
371 pp. Ketcham, Ralph, ed. The Political Thought
of Benjamin Franklin. (1965, reprinted 2003). 459 pp.
Leonard Labaree, and others., eds., The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, 39 vols. to date (1959–2008),
definitive edition, through 1783. This massive collection of BF’s writings, and letters to
him, is available in large academic libraries. It is most useful for detailed research on
specific topics. The complete text of all the documents are online and searchable; The
Index is also online at the Wayback Machine (archived September 28, 2010).
“The Way to Wealth.” Applewood Books; November 1986. ISBN 0918222885
“Poor Richard’s Almanack.” Peter Pauper Press; November 1983. ISBN 0880889187
Poor Richard Improved by Benjamin Franklin (1751)
“Writings (Franklin)|Writings.” ISBN 0940450291 “On Marriage.”
“Satires and Bagatelles.” “A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity,
Pleasure and Pain.” “Fart Proudly: Writings of Benjamin Franklin
You Never Read in School.” Carl Japikse, Ed. Frog Ltd.; Reprint ed. 2003. ISBN 1583940790
“Heroes of America Benjamin Franklin.” “Experiments and Observations on Electricity.”
(1751)==External links==Lesson plans for high schools from National
Endowment for the Humanities Benjamin Franklin and Electrostatics experiments
and Franklin’s electrical writings from Wright Center for Science Education
Animated Hero Classics: Benjamin Franklin (1993) on IMDb
Franklin’s impact on medicine – talk by medical historian, Dr. Jim Leavesley celebrating
the 300th anniversary of Franklin’s birth on Okham’s Razor ABC Radio National – December
2006 Benjamin Franklin at Find a Grave
Benjamin Franklin Papers, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts,
University of Pennsylvania.Biographical and guides Special Report: Citizen Ben’s Greatest Virtues
Time Magazine Finding Franklin: A Resource Guide Library
of Congress Guide to Benjamin Franklin By a history professor
at the University of Illinois. Benjamin Franklin: An extraordinary life PBS
Benjamin Franklin: First American Diplomat, 1776–1785 US State Department
The Electric Benjamin Franklin Benjamin Franklin: A Documentary History by
J. A. Leo Lemay Benjamin Franklin 1706–1790 Text of biography
by Rev. Charles A. Goodrich, 1856 Cooperative Hall of Fame testimonial for founding
the Philadelphia Contributionship Online edition of Franklin’s personal library
Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). “Franklin, Benjamin”. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge
University Press. O’Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., “Benjamin
Franklin”, MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews.
“Writings of Benjamin Franklin” from C-SPAN’s American Writers: A Journey Through HistoryOnline
writings Yale edition of complete works, the standard
scholarly edition Founders Online, searchable edition
Works by Benjamin Franklin at Project Gutenberg Works by or about Benjamin Franklin at Internet
Archive Works by Benjamin Franklin at LibriVox (public
domain audiobooks) Online Works by Franklin
“Dialogue Between Franklin and the Gout” Creative Commons audio recording.
American Institute of Physics – Letter IV: Farther Experiments (PDF), and Letter XI:
Observations in electricity (PDF) Franklin’s 13 Virtues Extract of Franklin’s
autobiography, compiled by Paul Ford. Franklin’s Last Will & Testament Transcription.
Library of Congress web resource: Benjamin Franklin … In His Own Words
“A Silence Dogood Sampler” – Selections from Franklin’s Silence Dogood writings
Abridgement of the Book of Common Prayer (1773), by Benjamin Franklin and Francis Dashwood,
transcribed by Richard MammanaAutobiography The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Single
page version, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin from
American Studies at the University of Virginia The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin at
Project Gutenberg The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin LibriVox
recordingIn the arts Benjamin Franklin 300 (1706–2006) Official
web site of the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania Collection
of Benjamin Franklin Papers, including correspondence, government documents, writings and a copy
of his will, are available for research use at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
The Benjamin Franklin House Franklin’s only surviving residence.
Ben Franklin Birthplace A historic site, link provides location and map.
Benjamin Franklin and music “Benjamin Franklin”, a poem by Florence Earle

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