Franklin, Benjamin (17061790)

Franklin, Benjamin, born in Boston, was the youngest son of a tallow-chandler and one of a family of 17; received a meagre education, and at the age of 12 became apprenticed to his brother, a printer and proprietor of a small newspaper, to whose columns he began to contribute; but subsequently quarrelling with him made his way almost penniless to Philadelphia, where he worked as a printer; in 1724 he came to England under promises of assistance, which were not fulfilled, and for 18 months laboured at his printing trade in London, when he returned to Philadelphia, and there, by steady industry, won a secure position as a printer and proprietor of the Pennsylvania Gazette; in 1732 began to appear his Poor Richard's Almanac, which, with its famous maxims of prudential philosophy, had a phenomenal success; four years later he entered upon a public career, rising through various offices to the position of Deputy Postmaster-General for the Colonies, and sitting in the Assembly; carried through important political missions to England in 1757 and 1764, and was prominent in the deliberations which ended in the declaration of American independence in 1776; he visited France and helped to bring about the French alliance, and made an unavailing effort to bring in Canada, and, as American minister, signed the Treaty of Independence in 1783; was subsequently minister to France, and was twice unanimously elected President of Pennsylvania; his name is also associated with discoveries in natural science, notably the discovery of the identity of electricity and lightning, which he achieved by means of a kite; received degrees from Oxford and Edinburgh Universities, and was elected an F.R.S.; in 1730 he married Deborah Reid, by whom he had two children (17061790).

Definition taken from The Nuttall Encyclopædia, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

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Franklin, Benjamin in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable