Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790

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Biographical note

American statesman, philosopher, and writer, was one of a numerous family. His father was a soap-boiler at Boston, where Franklin was born. He was apprenticed at the age of 13 to his brother, a printer, who treated him harshly. After various changes, during which he lived in New York, London, and Philadelphia, he at last succeeded in founding a successful business as a printer. He also started a newspaper, The Gazette, which was highly popular, Poor Richard’s Almanac, and the Busybody Papers, in imitation of the Spectator. After holding various minor appointments, he was made deputy Postmaster–General for the American Colonies. In 1757 he went to London on some public business in which he was so successful that various colonies appointed him their English agent. In the midst of his varied avocations he found time for scientific investigation, especially with regard to electricity. For these he became known over the civilised world, and was loaded with honours. In 1762 he returned to America, and took a prominent part in the controversies which led to the Revolutionary War and the independence of the Colonies. In 1776 he was U.S. Minister to France, and in 1782 was a signatory of the treaty which confirmed the independence of the States. He returned home in 1785, and, after holding various political offices, retired in 1788, and died in 1790. His autobiography is his chief contribution to literature, and is of the highest interest.

[From A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature by John W. Cousin, 1910]

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