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Benjamin Franklin

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Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin
6th President of Pennsylvania
In office
October 18, 1785 – November 5, 1788
Vice President Charles Biddle
Thomas Mifflin
Preceded by John Dickinson
Succeeded by Thomas Mifflin
United States Minister to Sweden
In office
September 28, 1782 – April 3, 1783
Appointed by Congress of the Confederation
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Jonathan Russell
United States Minister to France
In office
September 14, 1778 – May 17, 1785
Serving with Arthur Lee, Silas Deane, John Adams
Appointed by Continental Congress
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Thomas Jefferson
1st United States Postmaster General
In office
July 26, 1775 – November 7, 1776
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Richard Bache
Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly
In office
May 1764 – October 1764
Preceded by Isaac Norris
Succeeded by Isaac Norris
Personal details
Born (1706-01-17)January 17, 1706
Boston, Massachusetts Bay, British America
Died April 17, 1790(1790-04-17) (aged 84)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Political party Independent
Spouse(s) Deborah Read
Children William

Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 [

  • 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.
  • Franklin and Music
  • "Benjamin Franklin", a poem by Florence Earle Coates

In the arts

  • 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 recording


  • Yale edition of complete works, the standard scholarly 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 Benjamin 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.
  • Benjamin Franklin ... In His Own WordsLibrary of Congress web resource:
  • "A SILENCE DOGOOD SAMPLER" – Selections from Benjamin Franklin's Silence Dogood writings
  • Abridgement of the Book of Common Prayer (1773), by Benjamin Franklin and Francis Dashwood, transcribed by Richard Mammana

Online writings

  • 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
  • .
  • Benjamin Franklin at C-SPAN's American Writers: A Journey Through History
  • , May 19, 2002.Franklin: The Essential Founding Father interview with James Srodes on Booknotes

Biographical and guides

  • 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) at the Internet Movie Database
  • 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.

External links

  • Silence Dogood, The Busy-Body, & Early Writings (J.A. Leo Lemay, ed.) (Library of America, 1987 one-volume, 2005 two-volume) ISBN 978-1-931082-22-8
  • Autobiography, Poor Richard, & Later Writings (J.A. Leo Lemay, ed.) (Library of America, 1987 one-volume, 2005 two-volume) ISBN 978-1-883011-53-6
  • Bailyn, Bernard, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (1992)
  • Benjamin Franklin papers, M. S. Coll. 900, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa. Finding aid
  • 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; is also onlineIndexThe at the Wayback Machine (archived September 28, 2010).
  • "The Way to Wealth." Applewood Books; November 1986. ISBN 0-918222-88-5
  • "Poor Richard's Almanack." Peter Pauper Press; November 1983. ISBN 0-88088-918-7
  • Poor Richard Improved by Benjamin Franklin (1751)
  • "Writings (Franklin)|Writings." ISBN 0-940450-29-1
  • "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 1-58394-079-0
  • "Heroes of America Benjamin Franklin."
  • "Experiments and Observations on Electricity." (1751)

Primary sources

  • Waldstreicher, David, ed. A Companion to Benjamin Franklin(2011), 25 essays by scholars emphasizing how historians have handled Franklin. online edition


  • 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.
  • Olson, Lester C. Benjamin Franklin's Vision of American Community: A Study in Rhetorical Iconology. (2004). 323 pp.
  • 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.
  • Schiff, Stacy. A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America (2005) (UK title Dr Franklin Goes to France)
  • 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. 341–74

Scholarly studies

  • 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 978-0-689-83549-0.

For young readers

  • 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) – scholarly biography excerpt and text search
  • , popular biography
  • 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 excerpt and text search
    • Volume 2: Printer and Publisher, 1730–1747 (2005) 664 pp; excerpt and text search
    • Volume 3: Soldier, Scientist, and Politician, 1748–1757 (2008), 768 pp excerpt and text search
  • Morgan, Edmund S. Benjamin Franklin (2003) short introduction excerpt and text search, interpretation by leading scholar
  • Schiff, Stacy, A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, (2005) Henry Holt
  • Van Doren, Carl. Benjamin Franklin (1938), older biography excerpt and text search
  • Wood, Gordon. The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin (2005), intellectual history by leading historian. excerpt and text search
  • Wright, Esmond. Franklin of Philadelphia (1986) – scholarly study excerpt and text search


Further reading

  1. ^ a b
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ H.W. Brands, The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin (2000)
  5. ^ Isaacson 2003, p. 491
  6. ^ Walter Isaacson, Benjamin Franklin (2003), p. 492
  7. ^ H.W. Brands. The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin. (2010). p. 390.
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ Isaacson, (2003) p. 32
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i Carl Van Doren, Benjamin Franklin. (1938).
  11. ^ On the importance of the Junto see Michael D. Mumford, "Social innovation: ten cases from Benjamin Franklin." Creativity research journal (2002) 14#2 pp: 253-266.
  12. ^ David Waldstreicher, ed., A Companion to Benjamin Franklin (2011) p 30
  13. ^ J. A. Leo Lemay, The Life of Benjamin Franklin, Volume 2: Printer and Publisher, 1730-1747 (2005) pp 92-94, 123
  14. ^
  15. ^ Margaret Barton Korty, "Benjamin Franklin and eighteenth-century American libraries." Transactions of the American Philosophical Society (1965): 1-83. in JSTOR
  16. ^
  17. ^ John B. Frantz, "Franklin and the Pennsylvania Germans." Pennsylvania History (1998): 21-34. online
  18. ^ Philip. Gleason, "Trouble in the Colonial Melting Pot." Journal of American Ethnic History (2000) 20#1 pp: 3–17.
  19. ^
  20. ^ Ralph Frasca, Benjamin Franklin's Printing Network: Disseminating Virtue in Early America (2006) excerpt and text search
  21. ^
  22. ^ Ralph Frasca, "'The Partnership at Carolina Having succeeded, was Encourag'd to Engage in Others': The Genesis of Benjamin Franklin's Printing Network", Southern Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of the South (2006), Vol. 13 Issue 1/2, pp 1–23.
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ The History Channel, Mysteries of the Freemasons: America, video documentary, August 1, 2006, written by Noah Nicholas and Molly Bedell
  26. ^
  27. ^ Van Horne, John C. "The History and Collections of the Library Company of Philadelphia," The Magazine Antiques, v. 170. no. 2: 58–65 (1971).
  28. ^ Lemay, J. A. Leo. "Franklin, Benjamin (1706–1790)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: OUP, 2004).
  29. ^ November 1769 Letter from Deborah Read to Ben Franklin,
  30. ^ Skemp SL. William Franklin: Son of a Patriot, Servant of a King, Oxford University Press US, 1990, ISBN 0-19-505745-7, p. 4
  31. ^ Fleming, Thomas, The Perils of Peace: America's Struggle for Survival, (Collins, NY, 2007) p. 30
  32. ^ Fleming, p. 236
  33. ^ Revised English version retrieved on March 11, 2008.
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^ Franklin, Benjamin. "The Pennsylvania Gazette"., October 23, 1729
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^ Isaacson 2003, p. 150
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^ Philip L. Richardson (February 8, 1980), "Benjamin Franklin and Timothy Folger's first printed chart of the Gulf Stream", Science, vol. 207, no. 4431, pp. 643–45.
  46. ^ "How Franklin's chart resurfaced", The Philadelphia Inquirer, posted December 18, 2005, accessed November 26, 2010
  47. ^ John N. Wilford, "Prints of Franklin's chart of Gulf Stream found," New York Times (N.Y., N.Y.), pp. A1, B7 (February 6, 1980).
  48. ^ 1785: Benjamin Franklin's 'Sundry Maritime Observations', The Academy of Natural Sciences, April 1939 m
  49. ^ .1785: Benjamin Franklin's 'Sundry Maritime Observations' NOAA Ocean Explorer.
  50. ^ Source: Explanations and Sailing Directions to Accompany the Wind and Current Charts, 1853, p. 53, by Matthew Fontaine Maury
  51. ^ "Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790)", Science World, from Eric Weisstein's World of Scientific Biography.
  52. ^ Conservation of Charge at the Wayback Machine (archived February 18, 2008). Archived February 18, 2008.
  53. ^ Steven Johnson (2008) in The Invention of Air, p. 39, notes that Franklin published a description of the kite experiment in The Pennsylvania Gazette without claiming he had performed the experiment himself, a fact he shared with Priestley 15 years later.
  54. ^ Franklin's Kite, Museum of Science, Boston.
  55. ^ Wolf, A., History of Science, Technology, and Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century. New York, 1939. p. 232
  56. ^ Krider, E. Philip. Benjamin Franklin and Lightning Rods at the Wayback Machine (archived January 10, 2006). Physics Today. January 2006. Archived January 10, 2006.
  57. ^ Jogn Gribbin, "In search of Schrödinger's cat", Black Swan, p. 12
  58. ^ Heidorn, Keith C. Heidorn, PhD. .Eclipsed By Storm The Weather Doctor. October 1, 2003.
  59. ^
  60. ^
  61. ^
  62. ^
  63. ^
  64. ^
  65. ^
  66. ^ a b
  67. ^ *W. Gratzer, Eurekas and Euphorias, pgs 80,81
  68. ^ Bloch, Thomas. .The Glassharmonica GFI Scientific.
  69. ^ a b c John McCrary, Chess and Benjamin Franklin-His Pioneering Contributions (PDF). Retrieved on April 26, 2009.
  70. ^ David Hooper and Kenneth Whyld, The Oxford Companion to Chess, Oxford University Press (2nd ed. 1992), p. 145. ISBN 0-19-866164-9.
  71. ^ The essay appears in Marcello Truzzi (ed.), Chess in Literature, Avon Books, 1974, pp. 14–15. ISBN 0-380-00164-0.
  72. ^ The essay appears in a book by the felicitously named Norman Knight, Chess Pieces, CHESS magazine, Sutton Coldfield, England (2nd ed. 1968), pp. 5–6. ISBN 0-380-00164-0.
  73. ^ Franklin's essay is also reproduced at the U.S. Chess Center Museum and Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C. Retrieved December 3, 2008.
  74. ^ William Temple Franklin, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin, reprinted in Knight, Chess Pieces, pp. 136–37.
  75. ^ John Kenneth Galbraith. (1975). Money: Where It Came, Whence It Went, pp. 54–54. Houghton Mifflin Company.
  76. ^
  77. ^ James N. Green, "English Books and Printing in the Age of Franklin," in The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World (2002), 257.
  78. ^ Olsen, Neil C., Pursuing Happiness: The Organizational Culture of the Continental Congress, Nonagram Publications, ISBN 978-1-4800-6550-5 ISBN 1-4800-6550-1, 2013, p. 174
  79. ^ Smith, Horace Wemyss, The Life and Correspondence of the Rev. Wm. Smith, D.D., Philadelphia, 1880, Volume 1: pp. 566–67.
  80. ^ Samuel Johnson, Elementa philosophica: containing chiefly, Noetica, or things relating to the mind or understanding: and Ethica, or things relating to the moral behaviour. Philadelphia, Printed by B. Franklin and D. Hall, at the new-printing-office, near the market, 1752
  81. ^ Olsen, pp. 163–274
  82. ^ Olsen, p. 163
  83. ^ Olsen, p. 308
  84. ^ Honorary Degrees Harvard University. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
  85. ^ Honorary Degrees Yale University. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
  86. ^ .Benjamin Franklin resume In Search of a Better World. Benjamin Franklin Exhibit. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
  87. ^ Buchan, James. Crowded with Genius: The Scottish Enlightenment: Edinburgh's Moment of the Mind. HarperCollins Publishers. 2003. p. 2
  88. ^
  89. ^ a b J. A. Leo Lematy, "Franklin, Benjamin". American National Biography Online, February 2000.
  90. ^ Peter Charles Hoffer, Benjamin Franklin Explains the Stamp Act Protests to Parliament, 1766 (2015)
  91. ^ Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. Simon & Schuster. 2003.
  92. ^ .Benjamin Franklin's Phonetic Alphabet
  93. ^ a b Sparks, Jared. .Life of Benjamin Franklin US
  94. ^
  95. ^ .Benjamin Franklin
  96. ^
  97. ^
  98. ^
  99. ^ Sheila L. Skemp, The Making of a Patriot: Benjamin Franklin at the Cockpit (Oxford University Press; 2012)
  100. ^ Franklin, Benjamin. "A Narrative of the Late Massacres ..." reprinted on The History Carper.
  101. ^
  102. ^ Key to Declaration American
  103. ^ Isaacson, pp. 311–12
  104. ^
  105. ^ "1753 Benjamin Franklin", Stéphanie Ouellet, in A Chronology of Canadian Postal History, National Museum of History, Ottawa.
  106. ^ "1760–1840 Planting the Imperial Postal System in British North America", A Chronology of Canadian Postal History, National Museum of History, Ottawa.
  107. ^ Walter Isaacson. Benjamin Franklin: an American life, pp. 206–09, 301
  108. ^
  109. ^ "The Book in the Painting: De la Caisse d'Escompte." Accessed February 1, 2013.
  110. ^ Considerations sur l'ordre de Cincinnatus, December 2011.
  111. ^ Van Doren, Carl. Benjamin Franklin (The Viking Press: New York). 1938. pp. 709–10.
  112. ^ Schwartz, Stephan A. "Franklin's Forgotten Triumph: Scientific Testing" American Heritage, October 2004.
  113. ^
  114. ^ "Edict of Versailles (1787)", Encyclopedia of the Age of Political Ideals, downloaded January 29, 2012
  115. ^ a b
  116. ^
  117. ^
  118. ^
  119. ^ Citizen Ben, Abolitionist, PBS
  120. ^
  121. ^ Myra Jehlen, Michael Warner, editors, The English Literatures of America, 1500–1800, Psychology Press, p. 891 1997, ISBN 0415919037
  122. ^ Brands, The First American, pp 654-55, 694
  123. ^ Franklin, Autobiography, ed. Lemay, p. 65
  124. ^ Isaacson, 2003, p. 354
  125. ^ Isaacson, 2003, pp. 5–18
  126. ^
  127. ^ "If I have been," Franklin wrote to Cotton Mather's son seventy years later, "a useful citizen, the public owes the advantage of it to that book." in Isaacson, 2003, p. 26
  128. ^ Isaacson, 2003, p. 102
  129. ^
  130. ^
  131. ^
  132. ^ Isaacson, 2003, p. 486
  133. ^
  134. ^ Rossiter, Clinton. 1787. The Grand Convention (1966), pp. 184–85
  135. ^ Isaacson, 2003, pp. 107–13
  136. ^ a b Franklin Benjamin "Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography". Section 2 reprinted on
  137. ^
  138. ^ Isaacson, p. 485
  139. ^ Isaacson, 2003, p.149
  140. ^ Bailyn, 1992, pp. 273–74, 299–300
  141. ^ a b Bailyn, 1992, p. 303
  142. ^ Isaacson, 2003, pp. 10, 102, 489
  143. ^ Weber, Max The Protestant Ethic and the "Spirit of Capitalism", (Penguin Books, 2002), translated by Peter Baehr and Gordon C. Wells, pp. 9–11
  144. ^ a b Isaacson,2003 pp. 93ff
  145. ^ Bailyn, 1992, p. 248
  146. ^ Bailyn, 1992, p. 249
  147. ^ Isaacson, 2003, p. 112
  148. ^
  149. ^
  150. ^ Isaacson, 2003, p. 46
  151. ^ Franklin, Benjamin. .Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography Chapter IV. reprinted on
  152. ^
  153. ^ a b
  154. ^ Isaacson, 2003, pp. 46, 486
  155. ^
  156. ^
  157. ^
  158. ^ Morgan, David T. "Benjamin Franklin: Champion of Generic Religion". The Historian. 62#4 2000. pp. 722+
  159. ^ Benjamin Franklin to Richard Price, October 9, 1780 Writings 8:153–54
  160. ^ "The Great Seal of the United States" (July 2003). Bureau of Public Affairs, United States Department of State.
  161. ^ "1782: Original Design of the Great Seal of the United States," Our Documents: 100 Milestone Documents from the National Archives. National Archives (Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 18–19.
  162. ^ Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin page 38 forward by Benjamin Franklin
  163. ^
  164. ^ Hoffer (2011), pp. 30–31
  165. ^ Waldstreicher (2004), p. xii, xiii
  166. ^
  167. ^ .Benjamin Franklin: In His Own Words Library of Congress.
  168. ^ .The Last Will and Testament of Benjamin Franklin The Franklin Institute Science Museum.
  169. ^ The Doctor Will Freeze You Now from
  170. ^ Engines of Creation
  171. ^ Sparks, pp. 529–30.
  172. ^ Firesign Theater quote, meant humorously but poignantly.
  173. ^
  174. ^ The Craven Street Gazette (PDF), Newsletter of the Friends of Benjamin Franklin House, Issue 2, Autumn 1998
  175. ^ Measuring Worth Select $4,400 and 1790 and 2011 in online calculator
  176. ^ Richard Price. Observations on the Importance of the American Revolution, and the Means of Making it a Benefit to the World. To which is added, a Letter from M. Turgot, late Comptroller-General of the Finances of France: with an Appendix, containing a Translation of the Will of M. Fortuné Ricard, lately published in France. London: T. Cadell, 1785.
  177. ^
  178. ^
  179. ^ a b Scotts Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps
  180. ^
  181. ^ Isaacson 2003, p. 14
  182. ^ a b
  183. ^


  1. ^ Contemporary records, which used the Julian calendar and the Annunciation Style of enumerating years, recorded his birth as January 6, 1705. The provisions of the British Calendar (New Style) Act 1750, implemented in 1752, altered the official British dating method to the Gregorian calendar with the start of the year on January 1 (it had been March 25). These changes resulted in dates being moved forward 11 days, and for those between January 1 and March 25, an advance of one year. For a further explanation, see: Old Style and New Style dates.
  2. ^ Portraits of Franklin at this time often contained an inscription, the best known being Turgot's acclamation, "Eripuit fulmen coelo sceptrumque tyrannis." (He snatched the lightning from the skies and the scepter from the tyrants.) Historian Friedrich Christoph Schlosser remarked at the time, with ample hyperbole, that "Such was the number of portraits, busts and medallions of him in circulation before he left Paris, that he would have been recognized from them by any adult citizen in any part of the civilized world." –  


See also

Benjamin Franklin's mother, Abiah Folger, was born into a Puritan family among those that fled to Massachusetts to establish a purified Congregationalist Christianity in New England, 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";[181] 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.

Josiah Franklin had 17 children with his two wives. He married his first wife, Anne Child, in about 1677 in Ecton and emigrated with her to Boston in 1683; they had three children before emigrating and four after. After her death, Josiah married Abiah Folger on July 9, 1689, in the Old South Meeting House by Samuel Willard. Benjamin, their eighth child, was Josiah Franklin's 15th child and tenth and last son.

Franklin's father, Josiah Franklin, was a tallow chandler, a soap-maker and a candle-maker. Josiah was born at Ecton, Northamptonshire, England, on December 23, 1657, the son of Thomas Franklin, a blacksmith-farmer, and Jane White. Benjamin's mother, Abiah Folger, was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, on August 15, 1667, to Peter Folger (Governor Thomas Mayhew's assistant), a miller and schoolteacher, and his wife Mary Morrill, a former indentured servant.

Statue of Ben Franklin in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.


As a founding father of the United States, Franklin's name has been attached to many things. Among these are:

Places and things named after Benjamin Franklin

"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.

Benjamin Franklin (seated) in the National Constitution Center, Philadelphia


"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.[180]

Bawdy Ben

Issue of 1918
[179]. Some of the finest portrayals of Franklin on record can be found on the engravings inscribed on the face of U.S. postage.commemorative stampsFranklin appeared on the first U.S. postage stamp

[179] 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

Issue of 1895
Issue of 1861

Franklin on U.S. postage

Franklin bequeathed £1,000 (about $4,400 at the time, or about $112,000 in 2011 dollars[175]) 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.[176] 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.[177][178]


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.[174]

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."

In London, his house at 36 Craven Street was first marked with a blue plaque and has since been opened to the public as the Benjamin Franklin House.[173] 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:

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.

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."[172] 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. The city of Philadelphia contains around 5,000 likenesses of Benjamin Franklin, about half of which are located on the University of Pennsylvania campus. 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.

... 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.[171]

His death is described in the book The Life of Benjamin Franklin, quoting from the account of Dr. John Jones:

I should prefer to an ordinary death, being immersed with a few friends in a cask of Madeira, until that time, then to be recalled to life by the solar warmth of my dear country! But in all probability, we live in a century too little advanced, and too near the infancy of science, to see such an art brought in our time to its perfection.[169] (Extended excerpt also online.)[170]

In 1773, when Franklin's work had moved from printing to science and politics, he corresponded with a French scientist, Jacques Barbeu-Dubourg, on the subject of preserving the dead for later revival by more advanced scientific methods, writing:

Franklin's actual grave, however, as he specified in his final will, simply reads "Benjamin and Deborah Franklin".[168]

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.[167]

Benjamin Franklin died from pleuritic attack[166] at his home in Philadelphia on April 17, 1790, at age 84. 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:

Franklin struggled with 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.

Franklin on the Series 2009 hundred dollar bill
Marble memorial statue, Benjamin Franklin National Memorial
The grave of Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Death and legacy

During Franklin's lifetime slaves were numerous in Philadelphia. In 1750, half the persons in Philadelphia who had established probate estates owned slaves. Dock workers in the city consisted of 15% slaves. Franklin owned as many as seven slaves, two males of whom 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. After returning from England in 1762, Franklin became more anti-slavery, in his view believing that the institution promoted black degradation rather than the idea blacks were inherently inferior.[163] 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.[164][165]

Slaves and slavery

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."[162]

  1. "Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation."
  2. "Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation."
  3. "Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time."
  4. "Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve."
  5. "Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing."
  6. "Industry. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions."
  7. "Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly."
  8. "Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty."
  9. "Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve."
  10. "Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation."
  11. "Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable."
  12. "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."
  13. "Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates."

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:

Franklin bust in the Archives Department of Columbia University in New York City

Thirteen Virtues

On July 4, 1776, Congress appointed a three-member committee composed of Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams to design the 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.[160][161]

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.[10]

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:

According to David Morgan,[158] Franklin was a proponent of religion in general. He prayed to "Powerful Goodness" and referred to God as "the infinite". [159]

For without the Belief of a Providence that takes Cognizance of, guards and guides and may favour particular Persons, there is no Motive to Worship a Deity, to fear its Displeasure, or to pray for its Protection ... think how great a Proportion of Mankind consists of weak and ignorant Men and Women, and of inexperienc'd and inconsiderate Youth of both Sexes, who have need of the Motives of Religion to restrain them from Vice, to support their Virtue, and retain them in the Practice of it till it becomes habitual, which is the great Point for its Security; And perhaps you are indebted to her originally that is to your Religious Education, for the Habits of Virtue upon which you now justly value yourself. If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it.[157]

At one point, he wrote to Thomas Paine, criticizing his manuscript, The Age of Reason:

[156][155] Christian.pious, many have contended that in his later life Franklin became a Constitutional Convention of 1787 be said in the prayers Moreover, because of his proposal that [154] Franklin as a young man adopted the Enlightenment religious belief in [8] Although Franklin's parents had intended for him to have a career in the Church,

One of Franklin's notable characteristics was his respect, tolerance and promotion of all churches. Referring to his experience in Philadelphia, he wrote in [146] Whitefield's supporters in Philadelphia, including Franklin, erected "a large, new hall, that ... could provide a pulpit to anyone of any belief."[147] 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."[144] Franklin composed "A Parable Against Persecution", an apocryphal 51st chapter of Genesis in which God teaches Abraham the duty of tolerance.[148] 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.[149]

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."[142] 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.[143]

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.[140] "Puritanism ... and the epidemic evangelism of the mid-eighteenth century, had created challenges to the traditional notions of social stratification"[141] 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.[141] 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 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".[138] These Puritan values included his devotion to egalitarianism, education, industry, thrift, honesty, temperance, charity and community spirit.[139]

... 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.[136][137]

When he stopped attending church, Franklin wrote in his autobiography:

Franklin was an enthusiastic supporter of the evangelical minister 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 boosting the Great Awakening.[135]

However, the motion met with resistance and was never brought to a vote.[134]

... 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.[133]

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:

Franklin formulated a presentation of his beliefs and published it in 1728.[129] It did not mention many of the Puritan ideas as regards belief in salvation, the divinity of Jesus, and indeed most religious dogma. He clarified himself as a deist in his 1771 autobiography,[130] although he still considered himself a Christian.[131] 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.[132]

[128] Franklin's parents were both pious

[124] in Paris and asked this great apostle of the Enlightenment 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."Voltaire When Franklin met [123] Like the other advocates of

Benjamin Frankline by Hiram Powers
Voltaire blessing Franklin's grandson, in the name of God and Liberty, by Pedro Américo
A bust of Franklin by Jean-Antoine Houdon

Virtue, religion, and personal beliefs

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.[122]

Franklin autograph check signed during his Presidency of Pennsylvania

President of Pennsylvania

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.

  • 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)[121]

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:

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 ...
Silence Dogood no. 8, 1722[120]

Franklin strongly supported the right to freedom of speech:

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.

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).

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.

When he returned home in 1785, Franklin occupied a position only second to that of 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.[119]

Franklin's return to Philadelphia, 1785, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

Constitutional Convention

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.[115] 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).[116] This so enthused Franklin that he subscribed financially to the next project to build a manned hydrogen balloon.[117] 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.[115][118]

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.[114]

While in France Franklin designed and commissioned Augustin Dupré to engrave the medallion "Libertas Americana" minted in Paris in 1783.

During his stay in France, Benjamin Franklin was active as a freemason, serving as Grand Master of the Lodge Les Neuf Sœurs from 1779 until 1781. His lodge number was 24. He was a Past Grand Master of Pennsylvania. 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.[112] In 1781, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[113]

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.[109] 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.[110] 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.[111]

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).

Franklin, in his fur hat, charmed the French with what they perceived as rustic New World genius.[Note 2]

Ambassador to France: 1776–1785

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.[107] 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.[108]

Eventually, his sympathies for the rebel cause in the American Revolution led to his dismissal on January 31, 1774. [106], 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.Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, Montreal was created among them, and Franklin saw mail service expanded between province of Quebec in 1763, the new British Treaty of Paris were ceded to the British under the New FranceWhen the lands of
    Benjamin Franklin on a Canada Post stamp of 2013, with colonial Quebec City in background

[105] Well known as a printer and publisher, Franklin was appointed postmaster of Philadelphia in 1737, holding the office until 1753, when he and publisher

    Benjamin Franklin
First US postage stamp
Issue of 1847


At the signing, he is quoted as having replied to a comment by Hancock that they must all hang together: "Yes, we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."[104]

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"[103] changes to the draft sent to him by Thomas Jefferson.

About 50 men, most of them seated, are in a large meeting room. Most are focused on the five men standing in the center of the room. The tallest of the five is laying a document on a table.
John Trumbull depicts the Committee of Five presenting their work to the Congress.[102]

Declaration of Independence

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."[101]

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 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?"[100]

Coming of revolution

In June 1773 Franklin obtained private letters of Thomas Hutchinson and Andrew Oliver, governor and lieutenant governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, that proved they were encouraging the Crown to crack down on the rights of Bostonians. Franklin sent them to America, where they escalated the tensions. 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.[99]

Hutchinson letters

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".[98]

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.[96][97]

Defending the American cause

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.[95] In Scotland, he spent five days with Lord Kames near Stirling and stayed for three weeks with David Hume in Edinburgh.

In 1771, Franklin made short journeys through different parts of England, staying with Joseph Priestley at Leeds, Thomas Percival at Manchester and Erasmus Darwin at Lichfield.[93] Franklin belonged to a gentleman's club (which he called "honest Whigs"), which held stated meetings, and included members such as Richard Price and Andrew Kippis. He was also 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. 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."[94] 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.[93]

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. His new alphabet, however, never caught on, and he eventually lost interest.[92]

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.[91]

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.

Franklin in London, 1767, wearing a blue suit with elaborate gold braid and buttons, a far cry from the simple dress he affected at the French court in later years. Painting by David Martin, displayed in the White House.

In London, Franklin opposed the New Jersey, and Massachusetts also appointed him as their agent to the Crown.[89]

Years in Europe

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.[89]

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.

Pennsylvania colonial currency printed by Franklin in 1764

He joined the influential Lunar Society of Birmingham, with whom he regularly corresponded and, on occasion, visited in Birmingham.

In 1762, Oxford University awarded Franklin an honorary doctorate for his scientific accomplishments; from then on he went by "Doctor Franklin". He also managed to secure an appointed post for his illegitimate son, William Franklin, by then an attorney, as Colonial Governor of New Jersey.[10]

In 1759, he visited Edinburgh with his son, and recalled his conversations there as "the densest happiness of my life".[87] In February 1759, the University of St Andrews awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree, and in October of the same year he was granted Freedom of the Borough of St Andrews.[88]

Whilst in London, Franklin became involved in radical politics. He was a member of the Club of Honest Whigs, alongside thinkers such as Richard Price, the minister of Newington Green Unitarian Church who ignited the Revolution Controversy. During his stays at Craven Street between 1757 and 1775, Franklin 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.

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.

After his return to the United States in 1775, Franklin became the Society's Corresponding Member and remained closely connected with the Society. The RSA instituted a Benjamin Franklin Medal in 1956 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Franklin's birth and the 200th anniversary of his membership of the RSA.

Also in 1756, Franklin became 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, whose early meetings took place in coffee shops in London's Covent Garden district, close to Franklin's main residence in Craven Street during his missions to England. The Craven Street residence, 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 on January 17, 2006.

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.

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 1753, both Harvard University[84] and Yale University[85] awarded him honorary degrees.[86]

In June 1753, Johnson, Franklin, and Smith met in Stratford.[81] 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.[82] Johnson went on to found King's College (now Columbia University) in New York City in 1754, while Franklin hired William 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.[83]

Seal of the College of Philadelphia

Between 1750 and 1753, the "educational triumvirate"[78] 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"[79] 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[80] to be taught in the new colleges to replace courses in denominational divinity.

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.

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 joint deputy postmaster-general of British North America, with William Hunter. Franklin's most notable service in domestic politics was his reform of the postal system, with mail sent out every week.[10]

In 1747, he retired from printing and went into other businesses.[77] 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.

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.[10]

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.[76]:30 He was appointed president of the Academy on November 13, 1749; the Academy and the Charity School opened on August 13, 1751.

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.[75]

Sketch of the original Tun Tavern
Join, or Die: This political cartoon by Franklin urged the colonies to join together during the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War).
An illustration from Franklin's paper on "Water-spouts and Whirlwinds"

Public life

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.[69] His essay on "The Morals of Chess" in Columbian magazine in December 1786 is the second known writing on chess in America.[69] This essay in praise of chess and prescribing a code of behavior for the game has been widely reprinted and translated.[70][71][72][73] 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.[74] Franklin was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1999.[69] The Franklin Mercantile Chess Club in Philadelphia, the second oldest chess club in the U.S., is named in his honor.


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. 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; this version soon found its way to Europe.[68]

Musical endeavors

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 at Clapham Common, London on a large pond there. "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".[67]

Oil on water

... 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.[66]

In a 1772 letter to Joseph Priestley, Franklin lays out the earliest known description of the Pro & Con list,[66] a common decision-making technique, now sometimes called a decisional balance sheet:

Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Wilson, 1759


An aging Franklin accumulated all his oceanographic findings in Maritime Observations, published by the Philosophical Society's transactions in 1786.[65] It contained ideas for sea anchors, catamaran hulls, watertight compartments, shipboard lightning rods and a soup bowl designed to stay stable in stormy weather.

Oceanography findings

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.[63] 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."[64]

Temperature's effect on electrical conductivity

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.[62] 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."

Concept of cooling

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. [61] The [60] 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.

Traction kiting

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.[59]

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.[58]


Franklin was, along with his contemporary Leonhard Euler, the only major scientist who supported Christiaan Huygens' 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' theory.[57]

Wave theory of light

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. The cgs unit of electric charge has been named after him: one franklin (Fr) is equal to one statcoulomb.

Franklin's electrical experiments led to his invention of the lightning rod. He noted 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.[56]

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.[55]

In 1750, he published a proposal for an experiment to prove that electrical ground. If Franklin did perform this experiment, he may not have done it in the way that is often described—flying the kite and waiting to be struck by lightning—as it would have been dangerous.[54] Instead he used the kite to collect some electric charge from a storm cloud, which implied that lightning was electrical. On October 19 in a letter to England with directions for repeating the experiment, Franklin wrote:

Franklin's discoveries resulted from his investigations of electricity. Franklin proposed that "vitreous" and "resinous" electricity were not different types of "electrical fluid" (as electricity was called then), but the same electrical fluid under different pressures. He was the first to label them as positive and negative respectively,[51] and he was the first to discover the principle of conservation of charge.[52]

Franklin and Electricity vignette engraved by the BEP (c. 1860).
Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky c. 1816 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, by Benjamin West


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.[50]

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.[48][49] In 1853, the oceanographer and cartographer Matthew Fontaine Maury noted that Franklin only charted and codified the Gulf Stream, he did not discover it:

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.[45][46] This find received front page coverage in the New York Times.[47]

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.

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.

Atlantic Ocean currents

Franklin was also a pioneer in the study of slave demography, as shown in his 1755 essay.[44]

In the 1730s and 1740s, Franklin began taking notes on population growth, finding that the American population had the fastest growth rates on earth.[41] 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.[42] 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 economists Adam Smith and later 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.[43]

Franklin had a major influence on the emerging science of demography, or population studies.[37] Thomas Malthus is noted for his rule of population growth and credited Franklin for discovering it.[38] 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."[39][40]

Population studies

His inventions also included social innovations, such as paying forward. Franklin's fascination with innovation could be viewed as altruistic; he wrote that his scientific works were to be used for increasing efficiency and human improvement. One such improvement was his effort to expedite news services through his printing presses.[36]

Franklin was a prodigious inventor. Among his many creations were the lightning rod, glass armonica (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."[35]

Inventions and scientific inquiries


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.

, the first such monthly magazine of this type published in America. The General Magazine and Historical Chronicle for all the British Plantations in America In 1741 Franklin began publishing [10] (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 (a circulation equivalent to nearly three million today).Poor Richard's AlmanackIn 1733, Franklin began to publish the noted
Franklin's The General Magazine and Historical Chronicle (Jan. 1741)

Success as an author

William Temple Franklin, painted by John Trumbull (1790–1791)

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."[32]

A New York City. They initiated guerrilla forays into New Jersey, southern Connecticut, and New York counties north of the city.[31] 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.

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. Franklin later that year 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.

In 1730, at the age of 24, Franklin publicly acknowledged the existence of William, his son, who was deemed 'illegitimate' as he was born out of wedlock, and raised him in his household. His mother's identity is not known.[30] He was educated in Philadelphia.

William Franklin

Deborah's fear of the sea meant that she never accompanied Franklin on any of his extended trips to Europe, despite his repeated requests. She 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.[29] Deborah Read Franklin died of a stroke in 1774, while Franklin was on an extended mission to England; he returned in 1775.

Franklin established a common-law marriage with Deborah Read on September 1, 1730. They took in Franklin's young, recently acknowledged illegitimate son, William, and raised him in their household. In addition, they had two children together. The first, Francis Folger Franklin, born October 1732, died of smallpox in 1736. Their second child, Sarah Franklin, familiarly called Sally, was born in 1743. She eventually married Richard Bache, had seven children, and cared for her father in his old age.

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 Deborah behind. Rodgers's fate was unknown, and because of bigamy laws, Deborah was not free to remarry.

In 1723, at the age of 17, 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 Mrs. Read declined Franklin's request to marry her daughter.[10]

Deborah Read Franklin
(c. 1759). Common-law wife of Benjamin Franklin
Sarah Franklin Bache (1743–1808). Daughter of Benjamin Franklin and Deborah Read

Common-law marriage to Deborah Read

In 1731, Franklin was initiated into the local Masonic Lodge. He became Grand Master in 1734, indicating his rapid rise to prominence in Pennsylvania.[25][26] That same year, he edited and published the first Masonic book in the Americas, a reprint of James Anderson's Constitutions of the Free-Masons. Franklin remained a Freemason for the rest of his life.[27][28]


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.[20] 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.[21] For three decades Franklin maintained a close business relationship with her and her son Peter who took over in 1746.[22] 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.[23] However, Franklin's Connecticut Gazette (1755–68) proved unsuccessful.[24]

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.

As time went on, Franklin depended less on his literary conventions, and more on his own native humor. In this there is a new spirit—not suggested to him by the fine breeding of Addison, or the bitter irony of Swift, or the stinging completeness of Pope. The brilliant little pieces Franklin wrote for his Pennsylvania Gazette have an imperishable place in American literature.

When Franklin established himself in Philadelphia, shortly before 1730, the town boasted two "wretched little" news sheets, 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.

Franklin saw the printing press as a device to instruct colonial Americans in moral virtue. 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.[19]

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.[16] Franklin printed Moravian religious books in German. Franklin often visited Bethlehem staying at the Moravian Sun Inn.[17] 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 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.[18]

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.'[10]

Benjamin Franklin (center) at work on a printing press. Reproduction of a Charles Mills painting by the Detroit Publishing Company.


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.[15]

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.[14]

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:

[13][12] The Junto was modeled after English coffeehouses that Franklin knew well, and which should become the center of the spread of Enlightenment ideas in Britain.[11] In 1727, Benjamin Franklin, then 21, created the

Junto and library

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.[10]


When denied the chance to write a letter to the paper for publication, Franklin adopted the pseudonym of "Mrs. 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."[9] Franklin left his apprenticeship without his brother's permission, and in so doing became a fugitive.[10]

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"[8] 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.

Benjamin Franklin was born on Milk Street, in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 17, 1706,[1][Note 1] 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.

Franklin's birthplace site directly across from Old South Meeting House on Milk Street is commemorated by a bust above the second floor facade of this building.
Franklin's birthplace on Milk Street, Boston, Massachusetts

Early life in Boston


  • Early life in Boston 1
  • Philadelphia 2
    • Junto and library 2.1
    • Newspaperman 2.2
    • Freemason 2.3
    • Common-law marriage to Deborah Read 2.4
    • William Franklin 2.5
    • Success as an author 2.6
  • Inventions and scientific inquiries 3
    • Population studies 3.1
    • Atlantic Ocean currents 3.2
    • Electricity 3.3
    • Wave theory of light 3.4
    • Meteorology 3.5
    • Traction kiting 3.6
    • Concept of cooling 3.7
    • Temperature's effect on electrical conductivity 3.8
    • Oceanography findings 3.9
    • Decision-making 3.10
    • Oil on water 3.11
  • Musical endeavors 4
  • Chess 5
  • Public life 6
    • Years in Europe 6.1
    • Defending the American cause 6.2
    • Hutchinson letters 6.3
    • Coming of revolution 6.4
    • Declaration of Independence 6.5
    • Postmaster 6.6
    • Ambassador to France: 1776–1785 6.7
    • Constitutional Convention 6.8
    • President of Pennsylvania 6.9
  • Virtue, religion, and personal beliefs 7
    • Thirteen Virtues 7.1
  • Slaves and slavery 8
  • Death and legacy 9
    • Bequest 9.1
    • Franklin on U.S. postage 9.2
    • Bawdy Ben 9.3
    • Exhibitions 9.4
    • Places and things named after Benjamin Franklin 9.5
  • Ancestry 10
  • See also 11
  • Notes 12
  • References 13
  • Further reading 14
    • Biographies 14.1
    • Scholarly studies 14.2
    • Historiography 14.3
    • Primary sources 14.4
  • External links 15

His colorful life and legacy of scientific and political achievement, and status as one of America's most influential Founding Fathers, have seen Franklin honored on coinage and the $100 bill; warships; the names of many towns; counties; educational institutions; corporations; and, more than two centuries after his death, countless cultural references.

For many years he was the British postmaster for the colonies, which enabled him to set up the first national communications network. He was active in community affairs, colonial and state politics, as well as national and international affairs. From 1785 to 1788, he served as governor of Pennsylvania. Toward the end of his life, he freed his own slaves and became one of the most prominent abolitionists.

He played a major role in establishing the University of Pennsylvania and was elected the first president of the American Philosophical Society. Franklin became a national hero in America when as agent for several colonies he spearheaded the effort to have Parliament in London 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 to secure support for the American Revolution by shipments of crucial munitions proved vital for the American war effort.

Franklin, always proud of his working class roots, became a successful newspaper editor and printer in Philadelphia, the leading city in the colonies.[7] With two partners he published the Pennsylvania Chronicle, a newspaper that was known for its revolutionary sentiments and criticisms of the British policies. He became wealthy publishing Poor Richard's Almanack and The Pennsylvania Gazette.

Franklin earned the title of "The First American" for his early and indefatigable campaigning for colonial unity, first as an author and spokesman in London for several colonies. As the first United States Ambassador to France, he exemplified the emerging American nation.[4] 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."[5] 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."[6]


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