Benjamin Franklin Biography
FRANKLIN, Benjamin, statesman, born in Boston, Mass., Jan. 17, 1706; died in Philadelphia, Penn., April 19, 1790. He was the son of a tallow-chandler and soapboiler, was apprenticed. as a printer to his elder brother, and developed much fondness for books and writing. When seventeen years of age, he went to Philadephia, where he arrived with $1.25, and by prudent economy saved sufficient to establish a newspaper in 1729. He was appointed deputy-general of the British colonies in 1753, and the next year served as a member of the Albany convention, in which he proposed an important plan for colonial union. During his leisure he experimented with scientific matters, for which purpose he fitted up a small laboratory, and made discoveries regarding the theory of positive and negative electricity. By the use of a kite he demonstrated that electricity and lightning are identical, and subsequently invented the lightning rod or conductor. His "Poor Richard's Almanac," founded in 1732, was published until 1757, and was the source of some profit. It was a medium of considerable utility in the educational affairs of the colonists. He was the agent of Pennsylvania in England in 1757-62, and again from 1764 till the Revolution. Part of the intervening time he also represented New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Georgia.
While Franklin's early education was limited, he ranked as a versatile reader from early youth, secured a wide fund of knowledge by self-activity, was elected a member of the Royal Society of England and granted academical degrees by Oxford and Edinburgh. In 1774 he presented the first petition of the American congress to the king of England and was elected a member of congress on returning to America. He favored the Declaration of Independence, and in 1776 was sent as commissioner plenipotentiary to France for the purpose of securing an alliance between that country and the United States, in which position he rendered valuable services to the American cause. The benefits accruing from his negotiations included a loan of very large sums of money and later other valuable concessions. After the surrender of Burgoyne, he concluded an alliance with France, subsequently made a treaty with England, and later a commercial treaty with Prussia. On his return from England in 1785, he was chosen president of Pennsylvania. That state sent him as a delegate to the federal convention in 1787 for the purpose of aiding in the formation of the constitution, which, when completed, met his hearty approval. Besides his "Poor Richard's Almanac," he produced numerous papers on scientific subjects and on political economy and antislavery questions, but died before completing his autobiography. He wrote his own epitaph long before his death. It is a famous production, as follows:
Benjamin 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.
Yet the work itself shall not be lost.
For it will (as he believed) appear once more
In a new
And more beautiful Edition.
Corrected and Amended
The Teachers' and Pupils' Cyclopædia, Vol. II. (Kansas City: Bufton Book Co., 1909) 674.