Benjamin Franklin: Founding Father

A closeup of Benjamin Franklin.
A closeup of Benjamin Franklin.

Benjamin Franklin was one of the American founding fathers who took part in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. Franklin was a man of diverse interests and talents. As a self-taught individual, Franklin acquired wide knowledge in various areas and earned honorary degrees from Harvard and Yale. Although he pursued printing and publishing in his early life and career, he still set aside time for his other interests in public service, politics, and science.

5. Early Life

Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17th, 1706 to Josiah Franklin and Abiah Folger. He studied for two years after which he worked for his father in a soap and candle making enterprise at ten. In his teenage years, Franklin apprenticed under his brother James in his printing business. He wrote correspondence letters in his brother’s newspaper under the pseudonym Silence Dogood. Due to constant fights with his brother, Franklin escaped to Philadelphia where he worked as a printer. He married Deborah Read under common law and had two children.

4. Career

Franklin worked in the printing and publishing industries first with his brother, in Philadelphia and then in England. He started his first printing shop in Philadelphia and published the Pennsylvania Gazette. His publications included government pamphlets, currency, and books. In the 1740s, Franklin pursued his scientific interests making some important discoveries related to lightning and electricity, ocean currents and refrigeration among others. Franklin also engaged in American public service serving in political positions such as the Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly (1764), the 1st US Postmaster General (1775-1776), the US Minister to France (1778-1785), the US Minister to Sweden (1782-1783), and as the 6th President of Pennsylvania (1785-1788).

3. Major Contributions

Franklin made many contributions in politics, education, and science. In his work, Franklin focused his efforts on public service through writings targeting the political conditions of his time. He helped in developing the diplomatic relations between America and France. He is the only founding father who signed the four documents that led to the establishment of the US including the Treaty of Paris (ending the Revolutionary War), the Treaty of Alliance with France, the US Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence. He made scientific inventions such as the Franklin stove, the bifocal glasses and the lightning rod among others. He contributed majorly to public service through the construction of a city hospital in Philadelphia, founded the Academy of Philadelphia and advocated for the abolition of slavery.

2. Challenges

Early in his career, Franklin faced opposition from his brother James prompting him to write under a pseudonym and to later flee Philadelphia. His attempt to start a German newspaper failed due to competition from other German publications. He was involved in a scandal in 1774 where he leaked letters from the governor of Massachusetts to the Sons of Liberty, leading to the prosecution of three innocent persons.

1. Death and Legacy

Benjamin Franklin died at 84 years on April 17, 1790, in Philadelphia where he was under the care of his daughter, Sarah. He left a major portion of his wealth to Sarah, a little for his son William and donated the rest as scholarships to schools and to museums in Philadelphia and Boston. In his memory, his image is used in coinage and in the 100-dollar bill. Several establishments are also named after him.


More in Society