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Ben Franklin: Early Life

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Ben Franklin: Early Life

In his many careers as a printer, moralist, essayist, civic leader, scientist, inventor, statesman, diplomat, and philosopher, for later generations of Americans he became both a spokesman and a model for the national character. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts on Jan. 17, 1706, into a religious Puritan household. His father, Josiah, was a candlemaker and a skillful mechanic. His mother, Abiah Ben’s parents raised thirteen children--the survivors of Josiah’s seventeen children by two wives (#1).

Printer & Writer

Franklin left school at ten years old when he was pressed into his father's trade. At twelve Ben was apprenticed to his half brother James, a printer of The New England Courant. He generally absorbed the values and philosophy of the English Enlightenment. At the age of 16, Franklin wrote some pieces for the Courant signed "Silence Dogood," in which he parodied the Boston authorities and society (#3). At one point James Franklin was imprisoned for his liberal statements, and Benjamin carried on the paper himself. Having thus learned to resist oppression, Benjamin refused to suffer his brother's own domineering qualities and in 1723 ran away to Philadelphia (#1).

Soon Franklin found a job as a printer. After a year he went to England, where he became a master printer, sowed some wild oats, amazed the locals with his swimming feats, and lived among inspiring writers of London. By 1726 Franklin was tiring of London (#1). He considered becoming an itinerant teacher of swimming, but when a Quaker merchant by the name of Thomas Denham offered him a clerkship in his store in Philadelphia, he decided to return home (#5).

Returning to Philadelphia in 1726, he soon owned a newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, and began to print Poor Richard's Almanac. In the Pennsylvania Gazette, a citizen asked editor Franklin the following question: "If A found out that his neighbor B was sleeping with his wife, was he justified in telling B's wife, and persuading her to seek a little revenge with A?" The editor's response: "If an ass kicks me, should I kick him again? (#4)" His business expanded further when he contracted to do the public printing of the province, and established partnerships with printers in other colonies. He also operated a bookshop and became clerk of the Pennsylvania Assembly and postmaster of Philadelp...

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...eek. These virtues include temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquillity, chastity, and humility. The Autobiography is not the full story of Franklin’s life. It terminates approximately in his fifty-third year, before he became America’s greatest diplomat.

Poor Richard was an uneducated but experienced homespun philosopher, created and edited by Ben Franklin from 1732-1757. Although Poor Richard of the early almanacs was a dim-witted and foolish astronomer, a round character soon replaced him who was a rich source of prudent and clever aphorisms on the value of economy, hard work, and the simple life.

WORKS CITED

1. “Benjamin Franklin.” Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. 1998 ed. CD-ROM. Danbury:

Grolier Interactive Inc., 1998.

2. Franklin, Benjamin The Autobiography and other writings of Benjamin Franklin.

Donovan, Frank, ed. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1963.

3. Ketcham, Ralph “Benjamin Franklin.” Lexicon Universal Encyclopedia. Vol.8. New York:

Lexicon Publications Inc., 1989. 282-284.

4. http://library.advanced.org/22254/home.htm

5. http://www-lj.eb.com/
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