Benjamin Franklin: His Role in Shaping America
This above Video is a Documentary of Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin was a true patriot and a true American. He was a printer, inventor, entrepreneur, businessman, politician, grand postmaster, and a polished diplomat. Benjamin’s story actually started well before his birth, It was the second half of 16th century Europe, where religious superstition and intolerance were the social norm.
Out of the fear of persecution for their beliefs, many men, women, and families were migrating to this newfound land across the Atlantic Ocean. Among them was a 25yr old Josiah Franklin, his wife, Ann Child, and their children. They migrated from England to the northeastern colonies in 1682. Josiah was a hard-working man, a candle and soap maker by profession. He fathered 17 children, seven from his first wife Ann Child, and after her death, ten from his second wife Abiah Folger.
In Massachusetts Bay colony, which we currently known as Boston, on January 17, 1706, Josiah welcomed his 15th child, and the youngest son, Benjamin into this world. Little did he knew that his son would change the world for the better, but for now he was just little Benjamin. Due to the religious inclination of his father, the family wanted to send Benjamin to a religious school. However, due to the large family size and fathers struggling business, Benjamin, otherwise a bright student, was forced to quit his school at the age of 10 to help his father in his business.
Benjamin actually never liked the monotonous work of candle making, he was an avid reader and a student, who aspired to become a sailor one day. The Vastness of the sea was always appealing to curious Benjamin, but he could not get his father’s approval for him to become a sailor. His father, Josiah, was quite apprehensive about the sea after one of his older sons never returned from his sea voyage.
Ultimately young Benjamin has to settle for working at his elder brother, James, newspaper print shop. For this job, he has to sign his first legally binding contract at the age of 12. Life was not easy at his new job, his brother, James frequently mistreated him and made him feel unwanted. However, this did not deter young Franklin from learning the delicate craft of printing, from the inside out.
In addition, his new job at a print shop provided him with the opportunity, to read a lot of good books and Benjamin happily took full advantage of it. In 1722 at the age of 16, he even wrote a series of well-appreciated letters under the pen name of Mrs. Silence Dogood, for his brother’s newspaper, the “New England Courant”. However, his brother found out about this, and could not digest that his younger sibling can outshine him. As a result, young Franklin has to face much harsher behavior and insults on a regular basis.
Enough, thought Benjamin, and finally one day he fled to Boston in 1723, leaving the three remaining years of the legal contract behind. The year, 1723, can also be considered as the turning point in the life of this young bright boy. Fascinated by the newfound freedom, Benjamin started exploring new places from Boston to New York and then finally, Philadelphia.
But he could not resist the calling of his skills, which he has learned through dedication and patience. He soon started working for a reputed printer in Philadelphia, a city where he is going to spend most of his life, however, he was not aware of this yet. The same year, 1723, he fell in love with young Deborah Read, daughter of his landlord Frank Read, his future wife and would-be mother of his children, though he was not aware of this too, yet.
A year later in 1724, on the assurance of, William Keith, then governor of Pennsylvania, Benjamin traveled to London to pursue his dream, to start his own print business. However, the promise of discounted supplies did not materialize, and he was stuck in a new place with very little money.
Young Franklin turned this unwanted situation into an opportunity, he started working in the printing presses of London and learned many new tricks of the print craft. He continued working in London for more than two years, and prudently saved his hard-earned money, before returning to Philadelphia in 1726. Once back, he soon started his family with Deborah Read, as his common-law wife in 1730, and William, his son from his earlier relationship. Their early married life was full of happiness. In the meantime, Benjamin also started his own print business along with his friends. The business picked up fast, and orders from the government to publish official documents, and pamphlets turn out to be comfortably profitable. This helped Benjamin Franklin to purchase the ownership of the “Pennsylvania Gazette” a well-known newspaper of the time.
With his hard work and diligence, Franklin was able to boost the ranking of the newspaper to the top, making it a reliable source of information widely throughout the colonies. His success earned him the title of “official printer of Pennsylvania” in 1730. This not only boosted his image but also turned him into an opinion-maker, whom people admired and respected.
It is believed that Benjamin Franklin in 1731 joined the Freemason, a society considered as enigmatic by many. He eventually became the grand master of the Freemasons chapter of Pennsylvania. Very little is officially known about his participation in this group, though some people claim that his association with Freemasons turns out to be beneficial in the later stages of his life.
In 1732 Benjamin published the first edition of his most famous print work titled “Poor Richard’s Almanack” under the pen name of Richard Saunders. It was continually published for more than two decades, till 1758 to be specific. It is still remembered and widely read for its sayings and aphorisms.
Also in 1732, Deborah and Benjamin were blessed with a baby boy, Francis, but their happiness was short-lived, as they lost their son to smallpox only after four years in 1736. After mastering and practicing the print business for many years, Franklin’s inquisitive mind drove his interest more toward science and its applications.
In fact, his inventions and contributions in the field of knowledge are worth mentioning. He is widely credited for inventions like, the Franklin stove, flexible medical catheter, bifocal glasses, rocking chair, lighting rod, swimming fins, and a musical instrument known as Harmonica, among others. He never patented any of his inventions. and let the general public benefit from them free of cost. His experiments with electricity make him well-known even outside America. In fact, his coined terms like battery, charge, and conductor are still a part of present scientific nomenclature.
In 1743, he founded the very first learned society of the United States, The American Philosophical Society. To the present day, society serves America by promoting useful knowledge through research, fellowships, and public outreach.
In Spite of little formal education background, his contribution to the field of knowledge earned him honorary degrees from esteemed academic institutions like Harvard, Oxford, University of St. Andrews, and Yale, during the different parts of his life.
In the same year of 1743, Benjamin Franklin and Deborah were blessed with a baby daughter, they named her “Sarah”. For the next five years, Benjamin spent quality family life while pursuing his newfound interest in science, in addition to growing his business.
By 1748 Benjamin was getting recognized as one of the richest and most influential persons in the whole state of Pennsylvania. The year 1748 can also be marked as an important year in Benjamin Franklin’s life. In this year, he moved to his new house and bought his first group of enslaved people to work at his home and business. However, he eventually realized his mistake and freed them all within a decade. This experience left a deep mark on his thoughts. In the later stages of his life, he veraciously fought against the slave trade. In the 1790’s he filed many petitions in congress urging a comprehensive ban on slavery.
Benjamin Franklin’s political career was also officially started in the same very year of 1748 when he joined Philadelphia’s city council as a member. Two years later in 1751, he became an elected member of the Pennsylvania Assembly. The post which he was going to hold for the next 13 years continuously.
Even with a humble beginning in politics, Benjamin Franklin soon became a well-known figure in all the colonies at that time. Though he could not succeed, in 1754 he put forward a bold plan for all the colonies to come together and put up a joint defense mechanism, especially in light of the newly started French and Indian War, that was taking its hold in America fast.
He even used his newspaper “Pennsylvania Gazette” to publish a picture titled “Join or Die”, it showed a dramatized view of a snake chopped in many pieces. A symbolic representation of what could happen if the colonies remain divided.
Three years later, in 1757, Benjamin Franklin started his career in international politics, when the Pennsylvania assembly appointed him as a colony’s agent in Britain, a modern-day equivalent to the post of Ambassador.
In Britain, his British roots and demeanor helped him greatly in developing friendships with influential people, which in turn helped him in getting access to the corridors of power. Within a decade due to his excellent diplomacy, he found himself representing not only Pennsylvania’s but also the interests of Georgia, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.
In his, almost two-decade-long diplomatic career in England, he facilitated a lot of official tasks, but the highlight of his tenure was surely the stamp act of 1765. Though not yet, this act was going to define British-American relations, some historians even consider it as a spark that lit the American Revolutionary War.
There was widespread anger in the colonies against this act. As it put a tax on most of the print material. Though Initially hesitant, a printer himself, Benjamin Franklin, could gauge the American public’s anger, and clearly opposed it, as evident from his testimony in the British parliament.
This act was repealed in 1766, but Benjamin was not happy due to the insensitive British behavior, this event did light the patriot cause in him. After the death of his wife “Deborah” in 1774 due to her poor health and stroke at the age of 66, Franklin finally returned to America in 1775.
On his return, he joined the continental congress, A body that was serving as a unified government of all the colonies, in part this body also represented the growing frustration of American people with the increasingly invasive British laws. On July 4th, 1776, the second continental congress adopted the “United States Declaration of Independence” to which Benjamin Franklin was a signatory and one of the draft makers.
Acknowledging Benjamin’s diplomatic credentials, the continental congress appointed him as a “commissioner” to France in the second half of 1776. We can very well say that Benjamin Franklin was America’s first ambassador to France. Continental Congress wanted him to gather French support for the cause of independent America. Once in France, his fame and delicate diplomatic skills facilitated his entry into the high places, including the courtroom of the king of France, Louis the 16th.
With his dedicated efforts, he was able to bring France and America closer. Within two years of arrival in France, he played an important role in the “treaty of alliance” with France in 1778, and later the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783. A treaty between The United States and England, effectively ending the war and the American Revolution.
Encouraged by the humbling defeat at the hands of Americans in the “Battle of Yorktown”, in this treaty, Britain recognized the United States as a sovereign nation and provided much favorable terms. In 1785, after finishing his tenure, Franklin sailed back to his independent motherland, a long cherished dream of his.
Once back in America, Franklin was asked to represent Pennsylvania at the constitutional convention. This convention met in the Pennsylvania state house in Philadelphia from 25th May to 17th September 1787, with the intention of drafting and ratifying the United States Constitution.
Again, his diplomatic skills were instrumental in getting many delegates to ratify the Constitution. At the time of the convention, he was not in good health, he was so infirm that he had to be carried to many sessions in a chair. However, his spirit was high, and he became one of the signatories of the first draft of the US Constitution.
In fact, he was the only founding father who signed all four important documents of American history like Declaration of Independence in 1776, the Treaty of Alliance with France in 1778, the Treaty of Paris establishing peace with Britain in 1783, and the US. Constitution in 1787.
A true gentleman and a true patriot, after serving his nation with honor and dignity, and after realizing his dream of independent America, he finally rested at the age of 84 on 17th April 1790 in Philadelphia, where he was buried next to his late wife.
Because of his services to the nation, he is, and always will be, remembered as a founding father of America. The country has honored him by naming several buildings, towns after his name. His image on the 100$ bill is a symbol of affection and respect so that future generations can be inspired by him.
Time Period : October 1785- November 1788
Vice President : Charles Biddle, Peter Muhlenberg, David Redick
Political Affiliation : Independent
Predecessor : John Dickinson
Successor : Thomas Mifflin
Time Period : September 1782- April 1783
Appointed By : Confederation Congress
Successor : Jonathan Russel
Time Period : July 1775- November 1776
Successor : Richard Bache
Time Period : May 1775- October 1776
Time Period : August 1753- January 1774
Successor : Post Vacant Back Then
Time Period : May 1764- October 1764
Predecessor : Isaac Norris
Successor : Isaac Norris
Time Period : 1749- 1754
Predecessor : George Whitefield
Successor : William Smith
|Academic references on Benjamin Franklin|
|1. “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin”: Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography is a valuable primary source that offers insights into his life and accomplishments.|
|2. “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life” by Walter Isaacson: This biography provides a comprehensive and well-researched study of Benjamin Franklin’s life and his significant contributions to American history.|
|3. “The Papers of Benjamin Franklin”: This project, based at Yale University, publishes Benjamin Franklin’s papers and correspondence, providing a wealth of information on his thoughts and actions.|
|4. “Benjamin Franklin: A Rising People” by David Freeman Hawke: This book examines Benjamin Franklin’s role in shaping early American society and culture.|
|5. “Benjamin Franklin and the Politics of Improvement” by Alan Houston: This academic work explores Benjamin Franklin’s views on education, science, and society.|
|6. “The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin” by Gordon S. Wood: This scholarly book analyzes Benjamin Franklin’s transformation from a British colonist to an American patriot.|
|7. “Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World”: This comprehensive collection of essays edited by Page Talbott and others offers diverse perspectives on Benjamin Franklin’s life and legacy.|
|Quotes By Benjamin Franklin|
|“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”|
|“You may delay, but time will not.”|
|“A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned”|
|“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”|
|“Well done is better than well said “|
This Article will answer your questions like:
- Who was Benjamin Franklin?
- What was Benjamin Franklin famous for?
- Who is on the $100 bill of America?
- What did Benjamin Franklin discover?
- When did Benjamin Franklin die?