Benjamin Franklin was born on the 17th January 1706 in Boston, Massachusetts, son of Josiah Franklin soap maker, and his mother Abiah Folger.
It was his parents wish, that Benjamin should enter the church as his career in life. However restraints on family finances, saw him attend Boson Latin School for only two years, which meant he could not graduate.
Aged 12, Benjamin undertook the post of an apprentice to his brother James who ran a printing business, and founder of the New-England Courant Newspaper.
Benjamin wanted to write for the paper, but James said no. So Benjamin did it anyway in defiant of his brother, by taking a pseudonym; Mrs Silence Dogood … they became a hit amongst the readers. When he admitted to his brother it was he writing the letters, James became very jealous of the attention he had received.
James got thrown into jail for taking on the established Puritan Preachers on the controversial subject of smallpox, leaving Benjamin to run the paper.
Instead of thanking his brother for keeping the paper going whilst he was in prison, James made Benjamin’s life a living hell, until 1723 when he walked out.
Aged just 17, Benjamin went to Philadelphia, and worked in the printing industry, but it was Governor Sir William Keith of Pennsylvania who suggested he should go to London, where he worked as a typesetter. Aged 20, he returned to Philadelphia with the help of Thomas Denham, a merchant who employed him.
The Junto group was formed in 1727 by Benjamin Franklin, consisting of artisans and tradesman intending to improve their community.
Reading and discussions were their main aim. As books were expensive, so the subscription library came into force. This led to the founding of the “Library Company of Philadelphia” in 1731 by Franklin. In 1739, books were housed at the State House of Pennsylvania … now we refer to it as Independence Hall. All that changed in 1791 when a building was specially built for the purpose, containing rare books, pamphlets, 160,000 manuscripts and some 75,000 graphical items.
In 1728, Franklin set up a printing business with Hugh Meredith; The Pennsylvania Gazette, it was a forum by which he could comment on local reforms. Over a period of time, he gained the respect of his local community.
In 1731, Benjamin Franklin was initiated into the Masonic Lodge. In 1732 went on to publish the first German language newspaper, and in 1734 was appointed Grand Master of Pennsylvania’s Masonic Lodge, and that same year published the “Masonic Book in the America’s.”
Aged just 17 in 1723 Benjamin Franklin proposed to 15-year-old Deborah Read, but the offer of marriage was declined by her mother. Deborah went on to marry John Rodgers, who accrued debts, and fled to Barbados to avoid prosecution, and being flung into jail.
In 1728 Benjamin Franklin fathered a child named William … mother not known.
Due to bigamy laws at that time, Deborah was not free to take Benjamin Franklin as her husband. So it was that Franklin went on to establish what was known as a common-law marriage on 1st September 1730.
They had three children; “William, Franklin’s illegitimate son, Francis Folger Franklin born October 1732, who died aged four of smallpox. Sarah Franklin born in 1743, who went on to marry Richard Bache, and they had seven children.
Along with running a printing shop, they ran a store, selling soap and fabric which Deborah was responsible for, and a book store run by Benjamin.
In 1733 Franklin published “Poor Richards Almanack” under the name of Richard Saunders, containing witty aphorisms and lively writings.
In 1736, he organised Philadelphia’s Union Fire Company, the first of its kind in the city. Then in 1752 he helped to found the Philadelphia Contribution for Insurance Against Loss by Fire.
For it was in 1743 Franklin invented a heat-efficient stove, and named it the Franklin Stove, to warm houses more efficiently. He never took out a patent on its design, claiming it was for the people, to help improve society. Then in 1749, Franklin retired from printing and concentrated his efforts on science and innovations, which led him down the route of electricity in the early 1950’s.
Politics introduced Franklin into new areas, and in 1757 went to England to represent Pennsylvania, over who should represent the Colony and its descendants.
William Franklin Benjamin’s illegitimate son studied law in the early part of the 1760’s. He like his father before him also fathered an illegitimate son; William Temple Franklin born 22nd February 1762, who went into care. Later that year he married Elizabeth Downes, upon passing the bar, and was appointed Royal Governor of New Jersey in 1763.
Benjamin Franklin’s wife died in 1774 of a stroke, whilst he was in England, he had often begged her to come to England, but she feared sea travel. Franklin went on to stay in England as a Colonial representative until 1775.
America opposed the Stamp Act in 1765, had it not been for his testimony to Parliament which persuaded members to cancel the said act.
Franklin had many friends in England, but his loyalty to America, and the corruption in English politics, made him question, whether America should break their connection with England. Then it came to his attention that one Thomas Hutchinson, thought to be working for the American people as an English-appointed Governor of Massachusetts, but in truth still worked for King George III of England.
Shortly after his return to America, Franklin was elected to the Second Continental Congress, and was involved in drafting the Declaration of Independence, which was signed by 56 representatives including himself on 4th July 1776.
July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring
Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its
Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
56 signatures signed the Declaration.
After signing the Declaration of Independence Franklin sailed off to France, to become the American Ambassador to the Court of King Louis XVI.
The French Government signed a Treaty of Alliance in 1778 with the American’s, and Franklin went on to sign the Treaty of Paris in 1783.
Upon his return home, Franklin was honoured for his works; he became President of the Executive Council of Pennsylvania, a delegate of the Constitutional Convention, signing the Constitution.
One of his final acts he will go down in history for; the anti-slavery treaty of 1789.
Benjamin Franklin, a loyal subject to his country, fought for what he believed in, and died aged 84 on the 17th April 1790. It is said 20,000 people attended his funeral. His legacy still lives on…