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MonkeyNotes-The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
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BACKGROUND INFORMATION

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin portrays the life of a very important American. In order for the reader to more fully appreciate the events described in the book, it is important to have an overview of his entire life. Franklin was born in 1706 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in Boston. He was the tenth son of his parents. His father, Josiah Franklin, had hoped that Benjamin would be well educated and become a scholar; unfortunately Josiah could not afford a formal education for his son. At the age of ten, Benjamin began to participate in the tallow and soap business of his family. Benjamin, however, did not like the family business, and as a young man he dreamed of going to sea. His father was against the idea of seamanship. As a result, Benjamin was made to become an apprentice to his older brother James, who owned a printing business.

Franklin's apprenticeship later proved quite advantageous to him in his career development. During his years as his brother's apprentice, he read widely during his leisure time, trained himself to write, and started printing articles under the name of a fictitious widow named "Silence Dogood." His brother James, however, did not meet with success. He was jailed for offending the conservative government through his newspaper, "The New England Courant". Rather than closing down the paper, James continued publishing it in Benjamin Franklin's name. Before long, there was a disagreement between the brothers over the paper. As a result, Franklin left Boston and went to New York. When he could not find work in New York, Franklin at age seventeen, left for Philadelphia where he immediately found a job as a journeyman printer. In 1726, while living in Philadelphia, he wrote and printed "A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain," an essay that earned him a reputation as an author and allowed him the association of writers and scientists.


Over the next few years, Benjamin Franklin proved himself to be a versatile genius. In 1727, he founded the Junto club that helped to improve young minds and helped Franklin perfect his art of persuasion. By 1730, he had successfully established himself as the owner of a flourishing printing business. In 1732, he wrote his famous Poor Richard's Almanac, which became an annual publication. In 1734, he became Grand Master of his Masonic lodge. The Pennsylvania Legislature chose him to be the clerk in 1736, and the first fire company was set up by him during that time. He was appointed the postmaster of Philadelphia in 1737, and between 1743 and 1744, he proposed and established the American Philosophical Society. By 1748, at age forty-two, Franklin was in a comfortable financial position. As a result, he retired from the printing business to devote himself to scientific ventures and politics.

Between 1748 and 1757, Benjamin Franklin devoted himself to politics in and around Philadelphia. In 1757, he was sent to London to settle governmental issues for the colonies, but he returned in 1762 with no effective solution. In 1764, he was once again sent to settle the issue of British rule over the colonies, and because of his statesmanship and political acumen, he became the American spokesman in London. After his return, he held the positions of colonial agent for Georgia in 1768, for New Jersey in 1769, and for Massachusetts in 1770. His greatest accomplishment in this period was his drafting the Declaration of Independence. After the war with England, Franklin held the post of President of the Executive Council of Pennsylvania for three years and was the delegate to the Congressional Convention in 1787. He finally retired from public service in 1788. By this time Franklin suffered from ill health. He died on April 17, 1790 at the age of eighty-four. During his lifetime, Franklin had proven his multifaceted personality as a husband, father, friend, printer, inventor, scientist, writer, educator, diplomat, and politician. Although John Adams, a contemporary of Franklin, disliked him personally, he acknowledged that Benjamin Franklin was an honor to humanity. Adams admitted that "Franklin's fame was universal. His name was familiar to government and people, to kings, courtiers, nobility, clergy, and philosophers, as well as plebeians, to such a degree that there was scarcely a peasant or a citizen, a valet de chambre, ... who did not consider him as a friend to human kind."

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