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Quick Biography of Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston on January 17, 1706. He was the tenth son of soap maker, Josiah Franklin. Benjamin's mother was Abiah Folger, the second wife of Josiah. In all, Josiah would father 17 children.

Josiah intended for Benjamin to enter into the clergy. However, Josiah could only afford to send his son to school for one year and clergymen needed years of schooling. But, as young Benjamin loved to read he had him apprenticed to his brother James, who was a printer. After helping James compose pamphlets and set type which was grueling work, 12-year-old Benjamin would sell their products in the streets.

When Benjamin was 15 his brother started The New England Courant the first "newspaper" in Boston. Though there were two papers in the city before James's Courant, they only reprinted news from abroad. James's paper carried articles, opinion pieces written by James's friends, advertisements, and news of ship schedules.

Benjamin wanted to write for the paper too, but he knew that James would never let him. After all, Benjamin was just a lowly apprentice. So Ben began writing letters at night and signing them with the name of a fictional widow, Silence Dogood. Dogood was filled with advice and very critical of the world around her, particularly concerning the issue of how women were treated. Ben would sneak the letters under the print shop door at night so no one knew who was writing the pieces. They were a smash hit, and everyone wanted to know who was the real "Silence Dogood."

After 16 letters, Ben confessed that he had been writing the letters all along. While James's friends thought Ben was quite precocious and funny, James scolded his brother and was very jealous of the attention paid to him.

Before long the Franklins found themselves at odds with Boston's powerful Puritan preachers, the Mathers. Smallpox was a deadly disease in those times, and the Mathers supported inoculation; the Franklins' believed inoculation only made people sicker. And while most Bostonians agreed with the Franklins, they did not like the way James made fun of the clergy, during the debate. Ultimately, James was thrown in jail for his views, and Benjamin was left to run the paper for several issues.

Upon release from jail, James was not grateful to Ben for keeping the paper going. Instead he kept harassing his younger brother and administering beatings from time to time. Ben could not take it and decided to run away in 1723.

Running away was illegal. In early America, people all had to have a place in society and runaways did not fit in anywhere. Regardless Ben took a boat to New York where he hoped to find work as a printer. He didn't, and walked across New Jersey, finally arriving in Philadelphia via a boat ride. After debarking, he used the last of his money to buy some rolls. He was wet, disheveled, and messy when his future wife, Deborah Read, saw him on that day, October, 6, 1723. She thought him odd-looking, never dreaming that seven years later they would be married.

Franklin found work as an apprentice printer. He did so well that the governor of Pennsylvania promised to set him up in business for himself if young Franklin would just go to London to buy fonts and printing equipment. Franklin did go to London, but the governor reneged on his promise and Benjamin was forced to spend several months in England doing print work.

Benjamin had been living with the Read family before he left for London. Deborah Read, the very same girl who had seen young Benjamin arrive in Philadelphia, started talking marriage, with the young printer. But Ben did not think he was ready. While he was gone, she married another man.

Upon returning to Philadelphia, Franklin tried his hand at helping to run a shop, but soon went back to being a printer's helper. Franklin was a better printer than the man he was working for, so he borrowed some money and set himself up in the printing business. Franklin seemed to work all the time, and the citizens of Philadelphia began to notice the diligent young businessman. Soon he began getting the contract to do government jobs and started thriving in business.

In 1728, Benjamin fathered a child named William. The mother of William is not known. However, in 1730 Benjamin married his childhood sweetheart, Deborah Read. Deborah's husband had run off, and now she was able to marry.

In addition to running a print shop, the Franklins also ran their own store at this time, with Deborah selling everything from soap to fabric. Ben also ran a book store. They were quite enterprising.

In 1729, Benjamin Franklin bought a newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette. Franklin not only printed the paper, but often contributed pieces to the paper under aliases. His newspaper soon became the most successful in the colonies. This newspaper, among other firsts, would print the first political cartoon, authored by Ben himself.

During the 1720s and 1730s, the side of Franklin devoted to public good started to show itself. He organized the Junto, a young working-man's group dedicated to self- and-civic improvement. He joined the Masons. He was a very busy man socially.

But Franklin thrived on work. In 1733 he started publishing Poor Richard's Almanack. Almanacs of the era were printed annually, and contained things like weather reports, recipes, predictions and homilies. Franklin published his almanac under the guise of a man named Richard Saunders, a poor man who needed money to take care of his carping wife. What distinguished Franklin's almanac were his witty aphorisms and lively writing. Many of the famous phrases associated with Franklin, such as, "A penny saved is a penny earned" come from Poor Richard.

Franklin continued his civic contributions during the 1730s and 1740s. He helped launch projects to pave, clean and light Philadelphia's streets. He started agitating for environmental clean up. Among the chief accomplishments of Franklin in this era was helping to launch the Library Company in 1731. During this time books were scarce and expensive. Franklin recognized that by pooling together resources, members could afford to buy books from England. Thus was born the nation's first subscription library. In 1743, he helped to launch the American Philosophical Society, the first learned society in America. Recognizing that the city needed better help in treating the sick, Franklin brought together a group who formed the Pennsylvania Hospital in 1751. The Library Company, Philosophical Society, and Pennsylvania Hospital are all in existence today.

Fires were very dangerous threat to Philadelphians, so Franklin set about trying to remedy the situation. In 1736, he organized Philadelphia's Union Fire Company, the first in the city. His famous saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," was actually fire-fighting advice.

Those who suffered fire damage to their homes often suffered irreversible economic loss. So, in 1752, Franklin helped to found the Philadelphia Contribution for Insurance Against Loss by Fire. Those with insurance policies were not wiped out financially. The Contributionship is still in business today.

Franklin's printing business was thriving in this 1730s and 1740s. He also started setting up franchise printing partnerships in other cities. By 1749 he retired from business and started concentrating on science, experiments, and inventions. This was nothing new to Franklin. In 1743, he had already invented a heat-efficient stove — called the Franklin stove — to help warm houses efficiently. As the stove was invented to help improve society, he refused to take out a patent.

Among Franklin's other inventions are swim fins, the glass armonica (a musical instrument) and bifocals.

In the early 1750's he turned to the study of electricity. His observations, including his kite experiment which verified the nature of electricity and lightning brought Franklin international fame.


Politics became more of an active interest for Franklin in the 1750s. In 1757, he went to England to represent Pennsylvania in its fight with the descendants of the Penn family over who should represent the Colony. He remained in England to 1775, as a Colonial representative not only of Pennsylvania, but of Georgia, New Jersey and Massachusetts as well.

Early in his time abroad, Franklin considered himself a loyal Englishman. England had many of the amenities that America lacked. The country also had fine thinkers, theater, witty conversation — things in short supply in America. He kept asking Deborah to come visit him in England. He had thoughts of staying there permanently, but she was afraid of traveling by ship.

In 1765, Franklin was caught by surprise by America's overwhelming opposition to the Stamp Act. His testimony before Parliament helped persuade the members to repeal the law. He started wondering if America should break free of England. Franklin, though he had many friends in England, was growing sick of the corruption he saw all around him in politics and royal circles. Franklin, who had proposed a plan for united colonies in 1754, now would earnestly start working toward that goal.

Franklin's big break with England occurred in the "Hutchinson Affair." Thomas Hutchinson was an English-appointed governor of Massachusetts. Although he pretended to take the side of the people of Massachusetts in their complaints against England, he was actually still working for the King. Franklin got a hold of some letters in which Hutchinson called for "an abridgment of what are called English Liberties" in America. He sent the letters to America where much of the population was outraged. After leaking the letters Franklin was called to Whitehall, the English Foreign Ministry, where he was condemned in public.

Franklin came home.

He started working actively for Independence. He naturally thought his son William, now the Royal governor of New Jersey, would agree with his views. William did not. William remained a Loyal Englishman. This caused a rift between father and son which was never healed.

Franklin was elected to the Second Continental Congress and worked on a committee of five that helped to draft the Declaration of Independence. Though much of the writing is Thomas Jefferson's, much of the contribution is Franklin's. In 1776 Franklin signed the Declaration, and afterward sailed to France as an ambassador to the Court of Louis XVI.

The French loved Franklin. He was the man who had tamed lightning, the humble American who dressed like a backwoodsman but was a match for any wit in the world. He spoke French, though stutteringly. He was a favorite of the ladies. Several years earlier his wife Deborah had died, and Benjamin was now a notorious flirt.

In part via Franklin's popularity, the government of France signed a Treaty of Alliance with the Americans in 1778. Franklin also helped secure loans and persuade the French they were doing the right thing. Franklin was on hand to sign the Treaty of Paris in 1783, after the Americans had won the Revolution.

Now a man in his late seventies, Franklin returned to America. He became President of the Executive Council of Pennsylvania. He served as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and signed the Constitution. One of his last public acts was writing an anti-slavery treatise in 1789.

Franklin died on April 17, 1790 at the age of 84. 20,000 people attended the funeral of the man who was called, "the harmonious human multitude."
 


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Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
Benjamin Franklin

All wars are follies, very expensive and very mischievous ones.
Benjamin Franklin

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As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.
Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin Quotes (Author of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin)

Benjamin Franklin - Wikiquote

  1. Government is not established merely by Power; there must be maintained
    a general Opinion of its Wisdom and Justice, to make it firm and
    durable.
    -- Benjamin Franklin
  2. A countryman between two lawyers is like a fish between two cats.
  3. A good conscience is a continual Christmas.
  4. A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.
  5. All human situations have their inconveniences. We feel those of the present but neither see nor feel those of the future; and hence we often make troublesome changes without amendment, and frequently for the worse.
  6. All would live long, but none would be old.
  7. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest. Anger is never without Reason, but seldom with a good One. At 20 years of age the will reigns, at 30 the wit, at 40 the judgment.
  8. Be civil to all; sociable to many; familiar with few; friend to one; enemy to none.
  9. Be slow in choosing a friend, slower in changing.
  10. Beware of the young doctor and the old barber.
  11. I am in the prime of senility.
  12. Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.
  13. Drive thy business or it will drive thee.
  14. Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
  15. Educate your children to self-control, to the habit of holding passion and prejudice and evil tendencies subject to an upright and reasoning will, and you have done much to abolish misery from their future and crimes from society.
  16. Employ thy time well, if thou meanest to get leisure.
  17. Energy and persistence conquer all things.
  18. Genius without education is like silver in the mine.
  19. Glass, china and reputation are easily cracked, and never well mended.
  20. God heals, and the doctor takes the fees.
  21. Having been poor is no shame, but being ashamed of it, is.
  22. He is ill clothed that is bare of virtue.
  23. He that blows the coals in quarrels that he has nothing to do with, has no right to complain if the sparks fly in his face.
  24. He that can have patience can have what he will.
  25. He that falls in love with himself will have no rivals.
  26. He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.
  27. He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.
  28. He that lives upon hope will die fasting.
  29. He that would live in peace and at ease, must not speak all he knows nor judge all he sees.
  30. Hide not your talents, they for use were made. What's a sun-dial in the shade?
  31. How many observe Christ's birthday! How few, his precepts! O! 'tis easier to keep Holidays than Commandments.
  32. If you know how to spend less than you get, you have the philosopher's stone.
  33. If you would be wealthy, think of saving as well as getting.
  34. If you would know the value of money, go try to borrow some; for he that goes a-borrowing goes a-sorrowing.
  35. If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect.
  36. If you wouldst live long, live well, for folly and wickedness shorten life.
  37. If your head is wax, don't walk in the sun.
  38. Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.
  39. Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
  40. Search others for their virtues, thyself for thy vices.
  41. Sloth makes all things difficult, but industry, all things easy. He that rises late must trot all day, and shall scarce overtake his business at night, while laziness travels so slowly that poverty soon overtakes him.
  42. So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.
  43. There is no kind of dishonesty into which otherwise good people more easily and frequently fall than that of defrauding the government.
  44. Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.
  45. Well done is better than well said.
  46. Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody.
  47. You may delay, but time will not.
  48. Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that's the stuff life is made of. 'Poor Richard's Almanack,' June 1746
  49. They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759
  50. But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. Letter to Jean Baptiste Le Roy (1789)
  51. Fish and visitors smell in three days. Poor Richard's Almanack, 1736
  52. To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals. Poor Richard's Almanack, 1737
  53. Wish not so much to live long as to live well. Poor Richard's Almanack, 1738
  54. Creditors have better memories than debtors. Poor Richard’s Almanac (1758)

Results from Cole's Quotables:

  1. They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
  2. If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are rotten,
    either write things worth reading or do things worth the writing.
  3. The first mistake in public business is the going into it.
  4. You may delay, but time will not.
  5. God grant that not only the love of liberty but a thorough knowledge of the rights of man may pervade all the nations of the earth, so that a philosopher may set his foot anywhere on its surface and say: "This is my country." Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790), letter to David Hartley, December 4, 1789
  6. To the generous mind the heaviest debt is that of gratitude, when it is not in our power to repay it.
  7. Necessity never made a good bargain.
  8. Experience is a dear teacher, but fools will learn at no other.

Results from Rand Lindsly's Quotations:

  1. In rivers and bad governments, the lightest things swim at the top.
  2. A countryman between two lawyers is like a fish between two cats.
  3. God heals, and the doctor takes the fee.

Results from Poor Man's College:

  1. It is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man.
  2. Where sense is wanting, everything is wanting,
  3. He who multiplies riches multiplies cares.
  4. Pride breakfasted with plenty, dined with poverty, and supped with infamy.
  5. For the want of a nail, the shoe was lose; for the want of a shoe the horse was lose; and for the want of a horse the rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by the enemy, all for the want of care about a horseshoe nail.
  6. Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. There is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of its filling a vacuum, it makes one. If it satisfies one want, it doubles and trebles that want another way. That was a true proverb of the wise man, rely upon it; "Better is little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure, and trouble therewith."
  7. Five thousand balloons, capable of raising two men each, could not cost more than five ships of the line; and where is the prince who can afford so to cover his country with troops for its defense as that 10,000 men descending from the clouds might not in many places do an infinite deal of mischief before a force could be brought together to repel them?
  8. To lengthen thy Life, lessen thy meals
  9. Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What's a sundial in the shade.
  10. 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.
  11. Whoever feels pain in hearing a good character of his neighbor, will feel a pleasure in the reverse. And those who despair to rise in distinction by their virtues, are happy if others can be depressed to a level of themselves.
  12. Early morning hath gold in its mouth.
  13. Read much, but not many books.
  14. They that will not be counseled, cannot be helped. If you do not hear reason she will rap you on the knuckles.

Results from Contributed Quotations:

  1. Be slow in choosing a friend, slower in changing.
  2. To be proud of virtue is to poison oneself with the antidote. Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790), ?
  3. I believe I shall,in some shape or other,always exist; and, with all the inconveniences human life is liable to, I shall not object to a new edition of mine, hoping, however, that the errata of the last may be corrected.
  4. By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
  5. Passion governs, and she never governs wisely. Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790), In response to the situation of the colonists
  6. Who is rich? He who is content. Who is that? Nobody.
  7. Three people can keep a secret so long as two of them are dead.
  8. Think what you do when you run into debt; you give another power over your liberty.
  9. A penny saved is a penny earned.
  10. If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing.
  11. Lost time is never found again.
  12. He that has done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.
  13. Laws too gentle are seldom obeyed; too severe, seldom executed.
  14. To follow by faith alone is to follow blindly.
  15. It is easier to prevent bad habits than to break them.
  16. Write injuries in dust, benefits in marble.
  17. Distrust and caution are the parents of security.
  18. The absent are never without fault, nor the present without excuse.
  19. The strictest law sometimes becomes the severest injustice.
  20. Be civil to all; sociable to many; familiar with few; friend to one; enemy to none.
  21. Our critics are our friends; they show us our faults.
  22. I cannot conceive otherwise than that He, the Infinite Father, expects or requires no worship or praise from us, but that He is even infinitely above it.
  23. Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.
  24. A democracy is two wolves and a small lamb voting on what to have for dinner. Freedom under a constitutional republic is a well armed lamb contesting the vote.
  25. He is a fool that cannot conceal his wisdom.
  26. A long life may not be good enough, but a good life is long enough.

Quotes by Benjamin Franklin, Pearls of Wisdom, by Jerome Agel and Walter D. Glanze

  1. We must indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall hang separately.
  2. All cats are gray in the dark.
  3. We'll either hang together or we'll hang separately.
  4. When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic. Sell not liberty to purchase power.
  5. Dost thou love life? Than do not squander time, for it is the stuff life is made of.
  6. The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.
  7. Life's tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.
  8. The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.
  9. Rules too soft are seldomly followed; rules too harsh are seldomly executed.
  10. Tell me....And I Forget,
    Teach me.....And I Learn,
    Involve Me.....And I Remember.

    Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790), Card

  11. Laws too gentle are seldom obeyed; too severe, seldom executed.



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