Print Friendly, PDF & Email

(1706 – 1790) American statesman, printer, scientist, and writer. The only American of the colonial period to earn a European reputation as a natural philosopher, he is best remembered in the United States as a patriot and diplomat.

Benjamin Franklin was the son of a tallow chandler and soapmaker, Franklin left school at 10 years of age to help his father. He later (1723) went to Philadelphia to work as a printer. His industry knowledge and thrift qualities helped him to better himself. His common sense philosophy and his neatly turned phrases won public attention in the Gazette, in the later General Magazine, and especially in his Poor Richards Almanack, which he published from 1732 to 1757. Many sayings of Poor Richard, praising prudence, common sense, and honesty, became standard American proverbs.

Franklin had steadily extended his own knowledge by study of foreign languages, philosophy, and science. He repeated the experiments of other scientists and showed his usual practical bent by inventing such diverse things as the Franklin stove, bifocal eyeglasses, and a glass harmonica. The phenomenon of electricity interested him deeply, and in 1748 he turned his printing business over to his foreman, intending to devote his life to science. His spectacular experiment of flying a kite in a thunderstorm, which proved that lightning is an electrical discharge, and his invention of the lightning rod were among a series of investigations that won him recognition from the leading scientists in England and on the Continent.

Franklin held local public offices and served as deputy postmaster general of the colonies. As such he reorganized the postal system, making it both efficient and profitable. His status as a public figure grew steadily. He worked for the British cause in the French and Indian War. Franklins deep love for his native land and his devotion to individual freedom. In 1776, he was appointed to the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence, which he signed. In 1785 Benjamin Franklin was made president of the Pennsylvania executive council. The last great service rendered to his country by this wisest American, as he is sometimes called, was his part in the Federal Constitutional Convention of 1787. Although his proposal of a single-chamber congress was rejected, he helped to direct the compromise that brought the Constitution of the United States into being. Though not completely satisfied with the finished product, he worked earnestly for its ratification.

“Think of these things, whence you came, where you are going, and to whom you must account.”

“Never confuse motion with action.”

“I wish it (Christianity) were more productive of good works … I mean real good works … hot holy-day keeping, sermon-hearing … or making long prayers, filled with flatteries and compliments despised by wise men, and much less capable of pleasing the Deity.”

“If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect.”

“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.”

“Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade.”

“Well done is better than well said.”

“A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.”

Share