Franklin was born in Boston in 1706. He was apprenticed as a printer to his older brother, but disliked his treatment and ran off to Philadelphia. There he worked as a printer and through his industry and frugality prospered. He married Deborah Read and had a daughter. Before the marriage he had already fathered an illegitimate son, William, who was also raised by Deborah.
In 1748 he retired from business to devote himself to scientific and philosophical pursuits. His experiments in electricity had made him famous even outside the United States. He spent some time in England before the Revolution trying to foster a more equitable relation between the crown and the American colony. Eventually he returned to America and became an ardent supporter of the rebellion and taking part in the 1776 Declaration of Independence. He was sent to France as a diplomat to gain French support for the revolutionary forces at which he was very successful. He died in 1790.
This report prepared by Jack Goodstein
Gordon Wood is a history professor at Brown University. He has written a scholarly reevaluation of Benjamin Franklin. He reminds the reader that what Americans most prize about Franklin is that he is a symbol of the self-made American capitalist. Wood explains that that was only a part of Franklin's real personality. Franklin did come from humble beginnings. He was able to make a lot of money through his own hard working and cultivation of important friends. What most people today don't know is that Franklin retired from business at age 42. At that time, he became an aristocratic gentleman, and devoted himself to serving the public good.
Franklin spent much of his middle years living in London, representing the colonies with the British government. He was an extremely devoted follower of the King. It wasn't until a few years before the American Revolution that he broke with England.
During the Revolutionary War, Franklin was the American envoy to France. He successfully secured France's support of the American cause. He was able to convince France to loan America a great deal of money, without which the War probably could not have been won. After the War, Franklin was not popular in America. The American people thought he was too partial to France.
This report prepared by Susanna Marlowe