Benjamin Franklin

Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, 1785

OTHER IMAGES

POOR RICHARD'S ALMANACK

Wife from thy Spouse each blemish hide
More than from all the World beside:
Let DECENCY be all thy Pride.

— Benjamin Franklin,1741

 

QUICK FACTS
BORN:
17 January 1706 in Boston, Massachusetts
  DIED:
17 April 1790 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Buried at Christ Church Burial Ground.

  • Though associated with Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin was born and raised in Boston. He did not arrive in Philadelphia until he was 17 (6-Oct-1723).
  • In addition, Franklin also spent some 28 years abroad, in England and France, at various times through his life.
  • Deborah Read, his future wife, saw him on the first day he arrived in Philadelphia with a roll of bread under each Arm, and the eating of the other [third one]. They do not marry until 7 years later (1-Sep-1730).
  • Poor Richard’s Almanack, published each year from 1732 to 1757 made Franklin a very wealthy man. He himself estimates (in his Autobiography) that it sold annually near ten Thousand copies.
  • Besides his printing business, Franklin was also postmaster of Pennsylvania beginning in 1737. In 1753 he became one of two deputy postmasters of North America, a post he held for 20 years.
  • By retiring from the printing business in 1748 (in a lucrative arrangement with his foreman), Franklin had the leisure time to study, experiment, and invent. His subsequent work and publications on electricity made him the most famous man in the North American colonies and a celebrity in Europe.
  • Franklin was always a civic organizer — initiating street paving, lamp lighting, firefighting, book-lending, and more — and was involved in elective politics from 1751 onward. So his involvement in the American Revolution was natural, but not inevitable. But for events he may have chosen to stay in England, which is where he was from 1764 to 1775.
  • Franklin returned to Philadelphia in 1775, was elected to the Second Continental Congress, made small corrections to The Declaration of Independence, signed it, and in December 1776 was sent to France as U.S. Commissioner to plead the American cause. He stayed there throughout the war, extracting much needed money and supplies from the French, despite little American success on the battlefield.
  • John Adams later complained, The history of our Revolution will be one continued lie from one end to the other. The essence of the whole will be that Dr. Franklin’s electrical rod smote the earth and out sprang General Washington. That Franklin electrified him with his rod — and thenceforward these two conducted all the policies, negotiations, legislatures, and war. This is fancifully true. Without Washington’s leadership and Franklin’s diplomacy — together — it is impossible to imagine how the Revolutionary War would have been won.
AUTHOR OF
  • Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1732 - 58
  • Memoirs, 1771 - 90 (first published 1791 in a French translation; now called The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin)
PLACES TO VISIT
LINKS

Portrait to come. See entry in Wikipedia.

Franklin the Celebrity
Franklin the Civic Organizer
Franklin the Diplomat
Franklin the Printer
Franklin the Scientist
Franklin the Writer

What ultimately convinced Americans that they must revolt in 1776 was not that they were naturally and inevitably republican, for if that were truly the case evolution, not revolution, would have been the eventual solution. Rather it was the pervasive fear that they were not predestined to be a virtuous and egalitarian people that in the last analysis drove them into revolution in 1776. It was this fear and not their confidence in the peculiarity of their character that made them so readily and so remarkably responsive to Thomas Paine’s warning that the time for independence was at hand and that delay would be disastrous. By 1776 it had become increasingly evident that if they were to remain the kind of people they wanted to be they must become free of Britain.

Gordon S. Wood
The Creation of the American Republic, 1776—1787 (1969)