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The 300th birthday of Benjamin Franklin, the first and the greatest American

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  • Ram Lau
    A belated happy birthday to my idol of all-time, Dr. Ben Franklin. Ram http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext94/bfaut11.txt THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 21, 2006
      A belated happy birthday to my idol of all-time, Dr. Ben Franklin.





      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 toward the crisis of the Revolution.
      In 1767 he crossed to France, where he was received with honor; but
      before his return home in 1775 he lost his position as postmaster
      through his share in divulging to Massachusetts the famous letter of
      Hutchinson and Oliver. On his arrival in Philadelphia he was chosen
      a member of the Continental Congress and in 1777 he was despatched
      to France as commissioner for the United States. Here he remained
      till 1785, the favorite of French society; and with such success did
      he conduct the affairs of his country that when he finally returned
      he received a place only second to that of Washington as the champion
      of American independence. He died on April 17, 1790.

      The first five chapters of the Autobiography were composed in
      England in 1771, continued in 1784-5, and again in 1788, at which
      date he brought it down to 1757. After a most extraordinary series
      of adventures, the original form of the manuscript was finally printed
      by Mr. John Bigelow, and is here reproduced in recognition of its
      value as a picture of one of the most notable personalities of Colonial
      times, and of its acknowledged rank as one of the great autobiographies
      of the world.

      (Full text available on www.gutenberg.org)
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