Ben Franklin Essay, Research Paper
In my opinion Ben Franklin was the most influential of the founding fathers. He did a lot more than just help found our nation though. He was also a scientist, diplomat, businessman, and philosopher. I can’t think of any person who is more quoted than he is, and he lived 200 years ago!
Benjamin Franklin, born January 17, 1706, was the 10th son of 17 children. He was born and grew up in Boston. Even though he was considered by most to be extremely intelligent, he only attended grammar school for 2 years. When he was just 10 years-old, Ben began to work for his father as a candle maker (Sahlman).
In 1717, he began to regain some of the knowledge that he was deprived when he was pulled out of school to work for his father. Franklin began reading writings from such authors as: Plutarch, Defoe, and Mather (”The Electric Franklin”). This education obviously became very important later in his life to him and our country. It is like he said, “Genius without education is like silver in the mine (Glenn).”
Ben Franklin grew up extremely quickly by today’s standards. At the age of 17, he ran away from his home in Boston and moved to Philadelphia. Franklin slipped a letter, signed “Silence Dogood,” under the door of his brother’s newspaper, the New England Courant. That letter and the next 13 written by Franklin were published anonymously. The essays were widely read and acclaimed for their satire (Sahlman).
Once in Philadelphia he got a job as a printer. He established a friendship with the Pennsylvania governor, Sir William Keith. Franklin took Keith’s suggestion and decided to go into business for himself. Franklin proved himself to be a great businessman (Sahlman). These are Ben Franklin’s “Top 10 Business Maxims:”
1. Your first ambition should be the acquisition of knowledge, pertaining to your business.
2. During business attend to nothing but business, but be prompt in responding to all communications, and never suffer a letter to remain without an answer.
3. Never fail to met a business engagement, however irksome it may be at that moment.
4. Never run down a neighbor’s property or goods and praise up your own. It is a mark of low breeding and will gain you nothing.
5. Never misrepresent, falsify, or deceive; have one rule of moral life, never swerve from it, whatever may be the acts or opinions of others.
6. Be affable, polite and obliging to everybody. Avoid discussions, anger, and pettishness, interfere with no disputes the creation of others.
7. Endeavor to be perfect in the calling in which you are engaged.
8. Make no investments without a full acquaintance with their nature and condition; and select such investments as have intrinsic value.
9. Never form the habit of talking about your neighbors, or repeating things that you hear others say. You will avoid much unpleasantness, and sometimes serious difficulties.
10. Be economical; a gain usually requires expense; what is saved is clear (Herrmann).
Keith offered to arrange letters of credit and introduction for Franklin’s trip to London to purchase equipment. Even though Franklin was a great business man, he wasn’t expecting Keith to be unreliable. Due to the fact that he got to London without anything of real value, Franklin was stranded in Europe. He quickly found employment in two of London’s largest printing houses, however, and after two years, earned enough money to return to America (Kavasery).
By 1730 he was on his feet and owned his own printing company. It was that year in which he married Deborah Read. They had children in each of the next two years. They had William in 1731 and Francis in 1732 (Kavasery).
At this time he began to publish and extremely successful book. It was called Poor Richard’s Almanac. This book was extremely highly thought of. For the most part, it would be equivalent to the modern day Farmer’s Almanac (”The Electric Franklin”).
The Farmer’s Almanac wasn’t the only thing that he wrote. He also wrote an autobiography. In there he included his plan for moral perfection. Number 12 on his list of 13 things was chastity (Franklin 188-189). I don’t think he got that far considering there is proof that he fathered over 30 illegitimate children.
In the 1740s Ben Franklin began to experiment with electricity. Although it was a great idea then, I wouldn’t suggest “experimenting with electricity” today. This obviously led to the invention of the lightning rod. In 1748 he sold his business in order to pursue his interest in science. Shortly after that, in 1752, Franklin pulled off the famous “kite in the storm trick (Sahlman).”
In 1757 Franklin shifted gears. He was no longer a scientist, he was now a diplomat (Kavasery). This was the kind of thing that made him not only an extremely effective founding father, it also made him one of the truly great minds of all time. I can’t think of anyone else who could be a great business man one year, a great scientist the next, and then decide that today is the day I am a diplomat. He was extremely well rounded.
As a diplomat in 1757, he went to England to petition the king for the right to levy taxes. He stayed in England for the next five years and represented colonies (Sahlman).
He returned to England in 1764 as an agent of Pennsylvania, to negotiate a new charter. He was able to repeal the Stamp Act, but Parliament continued to levy taxes on the colonies (Sahlman).
In 1775, with war seemingly unavoidable, Franklin returned to America. Shortly after that, he became a member of the Second Continental Congress. He then signed the Declaration of Independence (”The Electric Franklin”). What a lot of people don’t realize is that if the war didn’t turn out well, they probably signed their death certificate. It is highly unlikely that they would let him live after signing a document of that caliber.
Although Thomas Jefferson is given credit for being the author of the Declaration of Independence, Franklin helped him draft it. Thomas Jefferson said that the only reason Franklin didn’t write the whole Declaration was because he would include too many jokes. Lets add a great sense of humor to the rest of his great qualities (Sahlman).
In 1775 he didn’t just help draft and sign Declaration of Independence, he was also named Postmaster General of the colonies. Busy would hardly begin to describe this man’s schedule (”Benjamin Franklin”).
In December 1776, at the age of 71, he and two other people traveled to France and successfully negotiate a treaty of commerce and defensive alliance. He stayed in France as an ambassador to the Court of Louis XVI for the next nine years. While there, he worked trade treaties. Franklin became very highly thought of among the French (Sahlman).
While he was there, he did some notable things. In 1778 Franklin signed the Treat of Alliance with France and in 1782, he negotiated the preliminary peace treaty with Great Britain. Also helping him negotiate the treaty with Great Britain were John Jay and John Adams (Sahlman).
Of all of the documents and treaties he signed, arguably the most important was signed in 1783 (”The Electric Franklin”). He signed the Treaty of Paris which officially ending the Revolutionary War.
In 1785, at the age of 80, he returned to Philadelphia after the lengthy trip to Europe. Two years later, he became a member of the overly important Constitutional Convention. Although he was 80+ years old, he still helped create and signed the Constitution (”Benjamin Franklin”).
One of the final things that Franklin did in his life was helping petition congress to abolish slavery. Although it wasn’t successful, it really helped set the tone for things to come (Sahlman).
Bedridden at the ripe age of 84, Ben Franklin passed away. Over 20,000 people attended his funeral (”Benjamin Franklin”). Why not? He was and still is one of the greatest people to ever live.
In my mind, there is no other person is history as versatile as he was. Throughout his life he was a diplomat, scientist, “rebel,” business man, an author, and a founder of our country. I don’t know what more you could ask for!