A Complete Biography of Benjamin Franklin and his Life

Benjamin Franklin Life
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(Boston, 1706 – Philadelphia, 1790) American politician, scientist and inventor. A student of electricity and everything that attracted his interest, inventor of the lightning rod and other useful devices, an honest and efficient public man and a prominent architect of the independence of the United States, Benjamin Franklin was perhaps the most beloved character of his time in his country. and the only American from the British colonial era to achieve fame and notoriety in Europe.


Benjamin Franklin

Only from admiration is it possible to approach his figure, and at the same time, it is difficult to think of Franklin without experiencing a sensation of human warmth. His appearance was so simple, his personality was so likable, and his sense of humor came out so spontaneously that it was easy for people to love and respect him. Large gray eyes and a mouth prone to smile adorned the face of this paragon of virtues, who was able to excel in whatever fields he set out to do.

“Will, talent, genius and grace came together in him as if nature when forming him had felt wasteful and happy,” said one of his biographers. Beyond these gifts, Franklin has always firmly believed that negative aspects of a character can be altered through gentle and consistent discipline. In his youth, he always carried with him a list of qualities worthy of admiration, which later became a little book where each page was devoted to virtue. Franklin devoted a week of attention to each one, which he reread as soon as he got the chance, and started over when he reached the end.

Biography

The fifteenth brother out of seventeen, Benjamin Franklin attended only elementary studies, which he dropped out at the age of ten; The vast encyclopedic scholarship that he would exhibit in his maturity was the result of an insatiable curiosity and a self-taught effort that he would always combine with his professional activities. At the age of twelve he began working as a printer in a company owned by John Franklin, one of his brothers.

In 1723, after a dispute with his brother, he fled to Philadelphia, where, penniless in his pocket, he found work at a typesetter. After having carried out the same activity for two years in England, where he had been sent with worthless recommendations, he returned to Philadelphia and worked on his own as a typographer and editor. In 1727 he was responsible for the issuance of paper money in the British colonies of America. Later he founded the newspaper La Gaceta de Pensilvania, which he published between the years 1728 and 1748, and in 1732 he undertook the edition of Poor Richard’s Almanac (1732-1757).


Benjamin Franklin

With the publication of the Almanac, a type of miscellaneous yearbook frequent at the time that included the saints, horoscopes, medical advice and weather forecasts, a period of prosperity opened in his life. Franklin himself served as editor, editor and director, although he attributed the authorship of it to a fictional character who would end up being extremely famous: the extravagant Richard Saunders, from which the title of Poor Richard’s Almanac comes from.

This Richard is an old country “Yankee” of variable humor, a rustic philosopher with his tips and trims of misogynism, who, to the great despair of his wife Bridget, spends his time among dusty books and astrological calculations, instead of winning. money to support your family; He decides to edit the almanac, precisely, to be able to reconcile his hobbies with that need.

Along with the usual sections, Franklin had the wisdom to also include all kinds of maxims, proverbs, sentences and famous phrases, drawn from various sources; sometimes, applying his genius and experience to human behavior, he came to invent them himself, with such fortune that they ended up passing into the popular heritage. After twenty-five years of uninterrupted publication, with runs that reached 10,000 copies (an impressive number for the time), Benjamin Franklin had built up a considerable estate that allowed him to abandon print.

Statesman

Benjamin Franklin’s period of most intense political activity began in 1757, after that long period as a printer was over. The most important thing about it was his work as an inspiring and active independence handyman. The original idea of ​​a United States as a single nation and not as a group of separate colonies can be attributed to him, since two decades before the American War of Independence he conceived a system of state governments united under a single federal authority.

Previously, already one of the most important public figures in Philadelphia, he had been elected a member of the Legislative Assembly; he carried out the treaty with the rebellious Indians, found a rational system for cleaning the streets, and promoted numerous initiatives and improvements. His active and multifaceted temperament would drive him to participate in local issues, for example, in the creation of institutions such as the Philadelphia Fire Department, the Public Library and the University of Pennsylvania, as well as the American Philosophical Society. As general manager of the Philadelphia Post Office, first of the importance of the many public positions that he would fulfill with brilliant efficiency, Franklin achieved a series of resounding successes in improving service,

When in 1757 he was sent to London to defend the interests of the American colonies before the metropolis, Benjamin Franklin began an intense political effort that would end up bearing the desired fruits. On a famous occasion, he was in the House of Commons all day, skillfully answering questions posed by members of such an honorable institution about the resistance of the colonies to the much-hated English tax law, which was nefarious. for the interests of the American colonists. The result was that Parliament repealed the law (1766) and the war was delayed for ten years, giving the independentistas enough time to prepare.

Faced with the new fiscal and political pressures exerted by the metropolis, Benjamin Franklin left London; He returned to Philadelphia in 1775 and firmly adhered to the independence movement. That same year he was appointed deputy for Pennsylvania before the II Continental Congress, in which the representatives of the thirteen North American colonies decided to form an army to fight against England. The following year he wrote, together with Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the historic Declaration of Independence (1776).

Due to his prestige, he was chosen in December of that year to make a tour of Europe (1776-1785) in search of support for the independence cause. It was essential to enlist the help of France, without which the contest could go on indefinitely and even be lost. George Washington had given himself over to organizing an American army, but the metropolis had all the power, the weapons, and important allies. It was necessary to counteract this power by obtaining the aid of France. Not only did Franklin convince the reluctant French monarch, Louis XVI, to secretly send supplies to General Washington, but a year later (1778) managed to get him openly to enter the war as an ally after signing a treaty of friendship.


Benjamin Franklin (portrait of David Martin, 1767)

After the war ended and effective independence achieved, Benjamin Franklin was a participant in the talks to conclude the peace treaty that would end the conflict (1783). After his return to Philadelphia, he was appointed a member of the convention in charge of drafting the American Constitution (1787). Franklin also managed to solve a problem that threatened to seriously hamper the formation of the new country: the small states wanted to have the same representation in Congress as the large ones and, in turn, the latter wanted the number of delegates to be chosen according to the population of each. Condition.

Franklin resolved the difficulty by accepting the first proposal as the basis for the Senate and the second for the House of Representatives; Later, when the Constitution was ready, he personally took care of its ratification by the different States, a task for which he had to put all his persuasive skills and his skills as a masterful reasoner into play: none of his interlocutors resisted his arguments. . Returning to Philadelphia, old and weary, and hoping for a well-deserved rest, he was immediately burdened with new public responsibilities, once again carrying out the entrusted missions in his perfect and admirable style.

The scientist

Benjamin Franklin’s interest in science began in the middle of the century and roughly coincided with that period of intense political activity. During a stay in France, in 1752, he carried out the famous kite experiment, which allowed him to show that clouds are charged with electricity and that lightning is therefore essentially electric-type discharges.

To carry out the experiment, not without risk, he used a kite equipped with a metal wire attached to a silk thread that, according to his assumption, had to be charged with the electricity captured by the wire. During the storm, he reached up to a key that hung from the silk thread, and observed that, as in the experiments with Leyden bottles that he had carried out previously, sparks flew, demonstrating the presence of electricity.


The kite experiment (oil painting by B. West)

This discovery allowed him to invent the lightning rod, whose effectiveness led to the installation of 400 of these devices in the city of Philadelphia in 1782. His work on electricity led him to formulate concepts such as negative and positive electricity (from observing the behavior of amber rods) or electrical conductors, among others. He also expounded a theory about electricity in which he considered that this was a subtle fluid that could present an excess or a defect, he discovered the power of metal tips by observing that a body with electrical charge discharges much faster if it ends in tip and stated the principle of conservation of electric charge.

Benjamin Franklin also invented the so-called Franklin stove (1742), a higher efficiency and lower consumption iron stove, and bifocal lenses. His great curiosity about natural phenomena led him to study, among others, the course of storms that form on the American continent, and he was the first to analyze the warm current that flows through the North Atlantic and that today It is known as the Gulf Stream.

An expert musician and instrumentalist, he also wrote about the problems of musical composition, in particular those relating to the adaptation of music to the lyrics so that the latter could be intelligible. A detailed account of his findings would be endless and exhausting, for his creative capacity and sense of anticipation were absolutely extraordinary.

Benjamin Franklin passed away in Philadelphia at the age of 84. He had been active most of his life; only two years earlier he had decided to retire from public life and complete his Autobiography (begun around 1771), which would see the light posthumously. One of the reasons that led him to longevity was his deep understanding of health issues. He took long walks whenever he had the chance, was an example of moderation at the table and, contrary to many prejudices held by his contemporaries, had habits that were unusual for the average American, such as the custom, considered extravagant and pernicious, of sleeping with windows wide open.