and Statesman: January
17, 1706, Boston, MA,
An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.
Moderation in all
things -- including moderation.
To be thrown upon
one's own resources, is to be cast into the very lap of fortune; for
our faculties then undergo a development and display an energy of which
they were previously unsusceptible.
Never confuse motion
...in this world
nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.
- Said to have been declared at the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
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 the House they labor in vain
who 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: We shall be divided by our little partial
local interests; our Projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall
become a Reproach and Bye word down to future Ages. - In speech to
the Constitutional Convention (June 28, 1787)
Those who give up
liberty for the sake of security deserve neither liberty nor security.
writing his own
epitaph (which was not used):
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 Lost;
For it will (as he Believ'd)
Appear Once More,
In a New and More Elegant Edition
Revised and Corrected,
By the Author.
Benjamin Franklin is the epitome of the American Renaissance man. Exceptionally
accomplished and pioneering in a multitude of fields, he made significant
advances in science, statesmanship, education, philosophy, commerce,
printing, medicine, public health, agriculture, and music. He may be
most remembered as a patriot and diplomat, scientist and writer; his
image is immortalized on the US$100 note.
Born January 17,
1706, he was the 15th of 17 children and characterized as a physically
robust youth. He learned to read at an early age, yet only attended
grammar school for two years. By the time he was 10, he was working
for his father in soap and candlemaking, and two years later, he began
an apprenticeship to his brother James, a printer. For five years he
worked at the printers' trade and improved his education, reading classics
and developing his writing style. He began authoring, anonymously, editorials
under the name "Silence Dogood". He submitted these to
his brother's newspaper by slipping them anonymously under the door.
Thirteen letters were widely read and acclaimed for their satire.
In 1723, after what
is reportedly a disagreement with his brother, he left Boston to join
the Philadelphia printing industry. He made friends with the governor
of Pennsylvania who encouraged Franklin to go into business for himself,
and arranged letters of credit and introductions to those in the London
printing industry. While the finances promised were not forthcoming,
he found employment in two of London's largest printing houses.
In 1726 Franklin
returned to Philadelphia and married Deborah Read. (They had a son who
died at four years of age, and a daughter, who survived them both.)
By 1730, Franklin opened his own print shop, continued his writing,
and built a publishing and business success. At 26, he initiated his
soon popular "Poor Richard's Almanac". This was also written
under pseudonym, Richard Saunders, and published from 1732 to 1757.
Many sayings of Poor Richard, praising thriftiness, common sense, and
honesty, became standard American proverbs. His autobiography (covering
his early years), is still considered one of the finest autobiographies.
In 1731, Franklin
founded what is considered the first public library, and over the next
several years he was instrumental in establishing the first fire department,
a police force, and the Academy of Philadelphia. He organized a debating
club that developed into the American Philosophical Society.
In the 1740's, Franklin
began experimenting with electricity, which led to the invention of
the lightning rod. By 1748, he retired from the printing business and
dedicated himself to science. His famous electricity experiment, which
included flying a kite during a lightning storm took place in 1752.
However, his uninterrupted enjoyment of science was complicated by a
call to politics five years later. He was elected to the Pennsylvania
assembly and held this post for 14 years. In 1753, he was appointed
deputy postmaster general, and the following year, he became a Pennsylvania
delegate to the intercolonial congress, suggesting uniting the colonies
as a defense against the French. This move to unity was considered premature
In 1757, Franklin
was sent to England to petition the king for the right to levy taxes.
He remained in England for the next five years as representative of
the American colonies. While he secured the repeal of the Stamp Act,
Parliament continued to levy taxes on the colonies. He seriously considered
making his home in England, where his scientific attainments, brilliant
mind, and social wit and urbanity gained him high regard.
Yet, by 1775, with
war seeming inevitable, Franklin returned to America. He was made a
member of the Second Continental Congress and helped draft the Declaration
of Independence. Thomas Jefferson supposed stated that the only reason
Franklin didn't write the entire Declaration was because he would include
too many jokes.
1776, Franklin, age 71, traveled to France to successfully negotiate
a treaty of commerce and defensive alliance. He did much to gain French
recognition of the new republic in 1778 and remained in France for nine
years, working on trade treaties. Franklin became a hero to the French,
enjoying the company of diplomats, nobility, honored by Louis XVI, and
his portrait was popular with the citizenry.
to Philadelphia in 1785 and two years later became member of the Constitutional
Convention. As one of his final public acts, he signed a petition to
the U.S. Congress urging the abolition of slavery, just two months before
his death. Franklin died on April 17, 1790 at the age of 84. Reputedly
20,000 people attending the funeral. He was acclaimed as "the harmonious
significance and comments
to Philadelphia from London; married
beginning of first public library
Poor Richard’s Almanac
electricity Kite experiment
may or may not have done it himself; began investigating electricity
to England to petition King on taxes
5 years in London, enjoying intelligentsia society
uniting the colonies
to be premature
of Constitutional Congress
drafting of Declaration of Independence
popular and royal reception for many years.
of Constitutional Convention; signing petition to abolish slavery.