BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, an eminent American statesman and scientist, was born of poor parentage, January 17, 1706,
in Boston, Massachusetts, He was apprenticed to his brother James to learn the printer's trade to prevent his running
away and going to sea, and also because of the numerous family his parents had to support (there being seventeen
children, Benjamin being the fifteenth). He was a great reader, and soon developed a taste for writing, and prepared
a number of articles and had them published in the paper without his brother's knowledge, and when the authorship
became known it resulted in difficulty for the young apprentice although his articles had been received with favor
by the public. James was afterwards thrown into prison for political reasons, and young Benjamin conducted the
paper alone during the time. In 1823, however, he determined to endure his bonds no longer, and ran away, going
to Philadelphia, where he arrived with only three pence as his store of wealth. With these he purchased three rolls,
and ate them as he walked along the streets, He soon found employment as a journeyman printer. Two years later
he was sent to England by the governor of Pennsylvania, and was promised the public printing, but did not get it.
On his return to Philadelphia he established the "Pennsylvania Gazette," and soon found himself a person
of great popularity in the province, his ability as a writer, philosopher, and politician having reached the neighboring
colonies. He rapidly grew in prominence, founded the Philadelphia Library in 1842, and two years later the American
Philosophical Society and the University of Pennsylvania. He was made Fellow of the Royal Society in London in
1775. His world famous investigations in electricity and lightning began in 1746. He became postmaster general
of the colonies in 1753, having devised an inter colonial postal system. He advocated the rights of the colonies
at all times, and procured the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766. He was elected to the Continental congress of 1775,
and in 1776 was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, being one of the committee appointed to draft that
paper. He represented the new nation in the courts of Europe, especially at Paris, where his simple dignity and
homely wisdom won him the admiration of the court and the favor of the people. He was governor of Pennsylvania
four years; was also a member of the convention in 1787 that drafted the constitution of the United States.
His writings upon political topics, antislavery, finance, and economics, stamp him as one of the greatest statesmen
of his time, while his "Autobiography" and "Poor Richard's Almanac" give him precedence in
the literary field. In early life he was an avowed skeptic in religious matters, but later in life his utterances
on this subject were less extreme, though he never expressed approval of any sect or creed. He died in Philadelphia
April 17, 1790.
A Biographical Record
Of Schuyler County, New York
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
New York and Chicago 1903.
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