Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706, in Boston. His father, Josiah Franklin, who was a tallow chandler, had seventeen children; Benjamin was the fifteenth child and the tenth son. His mother, Abiah Folger, was his father’s second wife. After he went to grammar school from age eight to ten, Benjamin started working at his father’s business. He didn’t like the work very much, however, and so he began to work for a cutler. When he was just thirteen, he became an apprentice to his brother James, who had just returned from England with a new printing press. Benjamin learned the printing trade, but in his spare time he tried to improve his education. In 1721 his brother James Franklin started the New England Courant, and Benjamin, who was fifteen at the time, kept busy in delivering the newspaper during the day and writing articles for it at night. These articles, published anonymously, were widely noticed and even acclaimed for their observations of the current events. Because of its liberal bias, the New England Courant frequently displeased the local colonial authorities. In 1722, because of one of these articles that was considered particularly offensive to the authorities, James Franklin was imprisoned for a month and forbidden to publish his paper, and for a while it appeared under Benjamin’s name.
As a result of disagreements with James, Benjamin left Boston and made his way to Philadelphia, arriving in October 1723. Once in Philadelphia he kept working at his trade and made many friends, among whom was Sir William Keith, the provincial governor of Pennsylvania. He talked Franklin into going to London to complete his training as printer and to buy the equipment that he needed to start his own printing business in Philadelphia. Franklin took his advice, and arrived in London on December 1724. Unfortunately he didn’t get certain promised letters of introduction and credit from Keith, and so he found himself without work or money in a strange city. He managed, however, to get work at two of the best printing houses in London, Palmer’s and Watt’s. His work soon won him recognition from a number of distinguished figures in the literary and publishing world.
In October 1726, Franklin returned to Philadelphia and resumed his trade there. The next year, he, and a number of fr...
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...1783. During the rest of his stay in France, Franklin received many honorary distinctions for his notable and diversified accomplishments. As a dignitary of one of the most distinguished Freemasons lodges in France, Franklin had the opportunity of meeting and speaking with a number of philosophers and leading figures of the French Revolution (1789-1799), upon whose political thinking he exerted a profound influence. Although in favor of a liberalization of the French government, he opposed change through violent revolution.
In March 1785, Franklin, at his own request, left his duties in France and returned to Philadelphia, where he was immediately chosen president of the Pennsylvania executive council (1785-1787). In 1787 he was elected a delegate to the convention that drew up the U.S. Constitution. Franklin was deeply interested in philanthropic projects, and one of his last public acts was to sign a petition to the U.S. Congress, on February 12, 1790, as president of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, urging the abolition of slavery and the suppression of the slave trade. Two months later on April 17, Franklin died in his Philadelphia home at eight-four years of age.
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