The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin HTML version

Introductory Note
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN was born in Milk Street, Boston, on January 6, 1706. His
father, Josiah Franklin, was a tallow chandler who married twice, and of his seventeen
children Benjamin was the youngest son. His schooling ended at ten, and at twelve he
was bound apprentice to his brother James, a printer, who published the "New England
Courant." To this journal he became a contributor, and later was for a time its nominal
editor. But the brothers quarreled, and Benjamin ran away, going first to New York, and
thence to Philadelphia, where he arrived in October, 1723. He soon obtained work as a
printer, but after a few months he was induced by Governor Keith to go to London,
where, finding Keith's promises empty, he again worked as a compositor till he was
brought back to Philadelphia by a merchant named Denman, who gave him a position in
his business. On Denman's death he returned to his former trade, and shortly set up a
printing house of his own from which he published "The Pennsylvania Gazette," to which
he contributed many essays, and which he made a medium for agitating a variety of local
reforms. In 1732 he began to issue his famous "Poor Richard's Almanac" for the
enrichment of which he borrowed or composed those pithy utterances of worldly wisdom
which are the basis of a large part of his popular reputation. In 1758, the year in which he
ceases writing for the Almanac, he printed in it "Father Abraham's Sermon," now
regarded as the most famous piece of literature produced in Colonial America.
Meantime Franklin was concerning himself more and more with public affairs. He set
forth a scheme for an Academy, which was taken up later and finally developed into the
University of Pennsylvania; and he founded an "American Philosophical Society" for the
purpose of enabling scientific men to communicate their discoveries to one another. He
himself had already begun his electrical researches, which, with other scientific inquiries,
he called on in the intervals of money-making and politics to the end of his life. In 1748
he sold his business in order to get leisure for study, having now acquired comparative
wealth; and in a few years he had made discoveries that gave him a reputation with the
learned throughout Europe. In politics he proved very able both as an administrator and
as a controversialist; but his record as an office-holder is stained by the use he made of
his position to advance his relatives. His most notable service in home politics was his
reform of the postal system; but his fame as a statesman rests chiefly on his services in
connection with the relations of the Colonies with Great Britain, and later with France. In
1757 he was sent to England to protest against the influence of the Penns in the
government of the colony, and for five years he remained there, striving to enlighten the
people and the ministry of England as to Colonial conditions. On his return to America he
played an honorable part in the Paxton affair, through which he lost his seat in the
Assembly; but in 1764 he was again despatched to England as agent for the colony, this
time to petition the King to resume the government from the hands of the proprietors. In
London he actively opposed the proposed Stamp Act, but lost the credit for this and much
of his popularity through his securing for a friend the office of stamp agent in America.
Even his effective work in helping to obtain the repeal of the act left him still a suspect;
but he continued his efforts to present the case for the Colonies as the troubles thickened