American patriot, inventor, and first Postmaster Generalby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
“If you would not be forgotten when you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.” No one embodied this quote more brilliantly than the man who coined it, Mr. Benjamin Franklin. A modest genius, he was born in 1706 in Boston to a tradesman named Josiah. His father expected all his sons to master a trade, so Ben ended up being apprenticed to his brother, James, in a printing press. After many years, Ben decided to leave Boston. His journey took him to Philadelphia with no money. On his second day, he found a job at one of the two printers in Philadelphia, run by a man named Keimer. Benjamin kept busy by working in the printing press and getting to know Deborah Read, his future wife. After meeting Governor Keith, Ben was offered the chance to open his own printing press. Shortly after this, he visited London to study printing abroad.
Once in Europe, he discovered that the Governor had not followed through on his promise of funds. Disappointed, he caroused in London for a couple years (forgetting his fiancée Deborah) until his money ran out, and he was left with few options. The best one was to work as a clerk for a merchant named Denham back in the colonies, so he sailed home and agreed to work for one year. His employer was almost a father to him, and Benjamin worked for him until Denham passed away. Out of work once again, Benjamin begrudgingly agreed to work for Keimer. Arguments ensued, which lead to Ben’s resignation. However, his friend Hugh Meredith and he decided to open a printing shop, which quickly became a success. He also started the Junto club of close friends, which met to discuss issues of the day. These achievements encouraged Franklin, who bought the rights of a failed newspaper, which was owned by his former employer, Keimer. He named it the Pennsylvania Gazette, and the paper took off, thanks to Ben’s wit and talent. Deciding to focus more on his family life, Ben finally married Deborah Read in 1730 to provide a mother for his illegitimate son, William. He never revealed who the true mother was, but Deborah was a faithful wife and mother to both William and her two children.
After settling his family matters, he established his first Almanac, giving it the title “Poor Richard’s Almanac.” He sought to educate the populace through his Gazette and Almanac, and held radical beliefs about education (i.e. that women should be educated). He returned to his estranged brother James, who was dieing, and agreed to educate his son. Not long after this his own son, Francis, died, and Ben was devastated. However, he still continued to live his life as always, and in 1737 was designated as Postmaster General of Philadelphia. In the years that followed, he possessed a myriad of ideas that benefited Pennsylvania; he established orphanages, provided firefighter equipment, served as a soldier, and did many other things. In 1742 he proposed the idea of establishing the Academy of Pennsylvania, today known as the University of Pennsylvania. As the years went by, he worked hard enough so that he could retire early, and in 1748, he retired from printing. His next move was to pursue science and politics. He performed many experiments, including the famed electrical kite experiment, which enabled him to invent lighting rods. These significantly reduced the fire hazard of lightning. Ben won many awards for his discoveries.
Yet most rewarding of all were the results of Ben’s political career. He started by representing Pennsylvania in a meeting of colonial representatives in N.Y. There, Ben proposed that the colonies should form their own government, levy their own taxes, and be their own authority. This was initially rejected, but the idea still remained present. Benjamin assisted the British in their resistance to the French and Indians as much as he could. In 1757, he was sent to Britain to negotiate the release of Pennsylvania. But the British would not negotiate, so Franklin spent his visit in London learning to play musical instruments, and invented his own, the glass armonica. Upon his return to America, he was elected to the Pennsylvania Legislature, and his son was appointed Governor of New Jersey by the British. In 1764, Benjamin set sail again for Europe, visiting London and France for political matters. Meanwhile in America, relations with the British became beleaguered.
A series of events in Boston (the Massacre and Tea Party) as well as new impositions from the British worsened relations. While in Britain, Franklin became involved in the Hutchinson Letters Affair, and was condemned by the British. Coupled with his wife’s death and dismissal as Postmaster General, he returned to the colonies in 1775 and was elected to the Continental Congress. Then, in July of 1776, he signed the Declaration of Independence and attended the Constitutional Convention. Franklin directed to the Continental Congress to pray in light of the disagreements before framing the Constitution of 1787. The American Revolution got off to a poor start, and the Americans needed assistance. Not only did they increasingly turn to God, but Ben Franklin went to France to persuade King Louis XVI to help them. Louis was reluctant at first, but when the War started to miraculously favor the Americans, he decided to help. With divine providence directing French assistance, the American Revolution was victorious. Longing to return to Philadelphia, Franklin signed the Treaty of Paris and returned home, where he was elected President of Pennsylvania. He tried to take a stand against slavery, but, at the age of 84, was too ill to pursue it. He died on April 17, 1790. The inscription on his tombstone (”Benjamin and Deborah Franklin; 1790”) was much like Benjamin Franklin: modest and unassuming, yet describing worthiness.
Benjamin Franklin: An Enlightened American World History. 4 Oct. 2003
“The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin” World History. 4 Oct