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The life of Benjamin Franklin brings to the fore some of the historical events that plagued his times. These events are a part of the memorable history in American Colonial times that cannot be wished away.
America was initially a British colony becoming a victim of the injustices based on the religious practices. This led to the relocation of Benjamin Franklin’s father to England in order to achieve some freedom of worship. Franklin’s father grew in religious family hence typified a person who loved to read Christian sermons. Some of the sermons were found in the Bible. It was illegal to use the Bible in public hence any violation of this law would lead to serious reprisals. Such were some of the challenges faced by Franklin’s family as we are to see his summarized life story.
According to Charles Weliot (1909), Franklin was born on 6th January 1706 at Milk Street in Boston (England). He went through the myriad of misfortunes and fortunes as well. He began on a humble ground staying with his family who ran a small business for survival. Benjamin later started his education by joining language school when he was eight years old.
Interestingly, Benjamin finished his schooling at the age of ten. He then joined the father in managing their family enterprise before his eventual teaming with his elder brother at twelve years. Franklin worked as an apprentice of his brother until his defection initially to New York City then to Philadelphia. He came there in 1723, October. The defection was due to the disagreement with his brother. Franklin also attained wider experience in writing and printing articles such as “The Ballads” and distributed them in the streets while staying with the brother. His short stint with the brother also saw him turn into a vegetarian.
During his stay in Philadelphia, he got a challenge from the governor by then (Mr. Keith) to be independent. He convinced him to relocate to London which turned out to be a hoax, but Franklin came back to America after intervention of a merchant. He later got a job as an enterprise manager working for the merchant before venturing into his own printing firm.
Charles Weliot also depicts Franklin as a man of many hats. He projects him as an entrepreneur, an administrator, a politician, leader, scientist, and a rebel with a cause. The aforesaid qualities are clear in his autobiography by Weliot, who discusses how Benjamin founded a club and printing firm in Philadelphia after coming back from London. Franklin also acted as a proprietor and editor for ‘Pennsylvania Magazine’ (Weliot, 1909).
As an administrator, Franklin was the manager of Keimer’s printing-house (Weliot, 1909) immediately after serving as a stores clerk. He was also engaged in issues afflicting the public (leader). Benjamin got a lot of support to represent common people in the General Assembly showing his commitment to leadership. His objection to draconian laws exposes him as a reformer-cum-rebel with a cause. He did this when he initiated postal reforms and visited London to plead for the repeal of the proposed stamp act. His passion for agitating for changes that benefit the common man tells it all.
According to Weliot, Franklin is a great thinker and inventor. He conceived an academy which became quite successful before being taken up by the state to develop it fully to the present University of Pennsylvania. Benjamin also discovered that lightning is an electrical charge meaning that he was an accomplished scientist. The ‘open or Franklin stove’ was invented by him. He again founded the Philadelphia library, the Union Fire Company, a hospital and the American Philosophical Society. Benjamin also believed in God. He acknowledged this in a letter addressed to his son saying , “.which with the blessing of God so well succeeded”, “and now I speak of thanking God…”
Charles Weliot goes on to embrace Franklin as a distinguished academician by highlighting his knowledge of the six languages. These are English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Latin. He also received degrees in various fields from different universities. The disciplines are LLD (Oxford & Edinburg) and M.A (Harvard & Yale). Finally, Benjamin projects himself as a true nationalist. He served as a colonel in the military to defend his country; he also pledged his personal property for supplies to be raised for the Braddock’s army. He received numerous awards such as the ‘Copley Medal’ for the efforts of diligent service to his country and vindicating this view.
Benjamin’s wealth of experience in life matters saw him secure some of the most illustrious jobs in public offices. Weliot’s episode reveals that he worked as the clerk of the American General Assembly and later deputy post master general. Franklin further served in various commissions such as Peace, Common Council, Indian Trade, Cooperation of Canada, and Independent Committee. He eventually was chosen as the President of Constitutional Committee of Pennsylvania, a minister in various dockets and later the President of Pennsylvania State. Benjamin got re-elected in that capacity and was sent as a delegate to the convention that was making federal constitution.
Benjamin Franklin, however, had some challenges as he climbed to the top of his prime career. He was from a poor family in which, according to the letter addressed to his son, got cognizant of the toll this malady (poverty) took in his life. He says, “Having emerged from poverty and obscurity in which I was born and bred to a state of affluence……….”. Sometimes he faced defeat in elections, for example, he lost his seat to Pennsylvania faction for the Assembly re-election.
After such eventful life, Franklin Benjamin then retired from active politics together with public life in 1788. He had exposed himself as an all-rounded man with rare qualities of an ordinary person. He eventually died on 17th April 1790 (Weliot, 1909).
Benjamin Franklin in a letter to his son considers himself successful in life after numerous struggles. He brings this clearly when he says, “Having emerged from poverty and obscurity in which I was born and bred to a state of affluence……….”- Weliot. In the same letter, he also intimates that he has made it in life due to the blessings and mercy of God; “and now I speak of thanking God, I desire with all humility to acknowledge that I owe the mentioned happiness of my past life to his kind providence….”
Generally, Franklin emerged successful. In his biography, Weliot says, “In 1748, he sold his business in order to get leisure for study, having now acquired comparative wealth”. Benjamin was motivated by hard work and patriotism to his nation.
Benjamin Franklin strikes me as both self-promoter and a genuinely benevolent man desirous of helping others. From his memoirs by Weliot (1909), he combines politics with business. “He called on in the intervals of money-making and politics to the end of his life”. He also says, “…but his record as an office holder is stained by use he made of his position to advance his relatives”. Franklin later writes to one of the governors of counties approving his son to get into contracts with any person in that country.
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