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born to him his fifteenth child and youngest son. Taking the new-born in his arms, Josiah Franklin carried him to the church across the street, and had him baptized Benjamin. The day of his birth and baptism was January 17, 1706. At this time Queer Anne sat on the throne of England, Pope was a sickly dwarf of nineteen, Addison had not yet written his Spectator, and the father of George Washington was a Virginia lad of ten.
In his delightful Autobiography, Franklin has told us in the most charming manner the story of his youthful life. When eight years old he was sent to the grammar school, but straitened circumstances compelled his carly withdrawal; and at the age of ten he was em ployed in “cutting wicks for the candles, filling the dipping-mold,” etc. This was so distasteful to Benjamin, that he began to talk of going to sea. To prevent. this, his father bound the lad apprentice to his elder brother James, a printer. During the five years of his apprenticeship with his brother, young Franklin was a diligent reader of all the books he could lay his hands
His method of study, and to what advantage he turned his reading, will be seen in the extract from the Autobiography.
Franklin's brother was a man of sharp temper, and he frequently beat and otherwise harshly treated Benjamin. The result was that after five years his apprenticeship became unendurable, and he determined to run away and seek his fortune. First he went to New York; but, disappointed in getting work there, he continued his travels, afoot and by sloop, to Philadelphia,
where he arrived at nine o'clock on a Sunday morning, a friendless lad, his “whole stock of cash,” as he tells us, “consisting of a Dutch dollar and about a shilling in copper.” Buying three penny rolls, he ate one as he walked up the street, with the others under his arms, and his pockets stuffed with stockings and shirts. “ Thus," says Franklin, “I went up Market Street, passing by the door of Mr. Read, my future wife's father; when she, standing at the door, saw me, and thought I made, as I certainly did, a most awkward, ridiculous appearance.
In Philadelphia, Franklin obtained employment as journeyman in one of the only two printing-offices then in that town. It was not long, however, before he was able to start an office of his own; and he soon enlarged his business by publishing in 1736 a bi-weekly paper, “ The Philadelphia Gazette,” which young Franklin edited with great ability, and which, as he tells us, “soon proved extremely profitable.” In this same year he took to wife his youthful sweetheart Miss Read. She proved to be a sensible woman and a devoted wife, truly a helpmeet to him. Franklin's numerous letters to her during the many years he passed in England showed that his affection ripened with his years.
Franklin soon became a man of mark. His great intelligence and industry, his ingenuity in devising better systems of economy, education, and improvement, —now establishing a circulating library, now publishing a popular pamphlet, and presently also his valuable municipal services, — rapidly won for him
admiration and respect. First he was elected clerk of the Assembly; soon afterward he was appointed postmaster; and as his years increased, so his public occupations grew.
Having by the time he was forty years of age acquired a moderate fortune, Franklin disengaged himself from private business, intending to devote himself to philosophic, scientific, and literary studies and amusements. He became the founder of the University of Pennsylvania, and of the American Philosophical Society; invented the economical stove which bears his name; and — still more important - began that series of experiments that resulted in establishing the sameness of lightning and electricity, and in the invention of the lightning-rod. The accounts of his electrical researches, which were read before the Royal Society of London, procured for him the honor of membership, and won him a European reputation as a scientist.
But Franklin was not long allowed to proceed with his scientific pursuits: the public laid hold of this sage and judicious counselor, and forced him into every kind of public employment, while his own disposition engaged him in all public-spirited projects. With the year 1757 begins Franklin's long residence in Europe. The occasion of his first going to England was his appointment by the people of Pennsylvania as commissioner, to petition the home government for the redress of certain grievances. Meanwhile he had obtained so much reputation that the colonies of Massachusetts, Maryland, and Georgia also made him their agent.
During the five years of his first stay in England, he succeeded in the principal objects of his mission; while at the same time he made acquaintance with the most distinguished men of the time, and received the highest academical degrees that the universities could bestow.
In 1762 Franklin returned to Philadelphia, and received the official thanks of the Assembly. New difficulties, however, arose; and he was again persuaded to represent his fellow-citizens before the British authorities. Accordingly he once more visited London in 1764. The Revolution was then imminent, for soon after his arrival the British Parliament committed the folly of passing the Stamp Act. Franklin was indefatigable in his exertions to prove the unconstitutionality and impolicy of this measure, and it was mainly due to his prompt expositions that the Stamp Act was repealed.
At the time when the difficulties between Great Britain and her colonies became aggravated to a state of open hostility, Franklin was elected a member of the American Congress. After signing the Declaration of Independence, he was appointed minister plenipotentiary to France, where he arrived in December, 1776. His success in enlisting the sympathies and substantial assistance of the French government in behalf of the colonies is well known. Franklin returned to Philadelphia in September, 1785, — at which period he had attained the advanced age of eighty years, -and was received with the enthusiastic acclamations of a grateful nation. Washington wrote him in the warmest terms of congratulation.
Franklin filled the dignified office of President of Pennsylvania from 1785 to 1788, and in 1787 sat with Washington and Hamilton in the Convention which framed the Constitution of the United States. He died of a disease of the lungs, after a short illness, on the 17th of April, 1790, in the eighty-fifth year of his long and honored life. His death was sincerely mourned both in Europe and America; and in the French Assembly the illustrious orator Mirabeau announced that “the genius which had freed America, and poured a flood of light over Europe, had returned to the bosom of the Divinity.”
In person Franklin was strong and well-formed, five feet ten inches high, and of a noble presence. Even in his old age we see in his portraits the image of a venerable, benignant soul, with wisdom irradiating from the luminous gray eye, and with shrewdness, drollery, and humor lurking in the lines of the tell-tale mouth. His manners were extremely winning and affable: yet such was his dignity, that he met great statesmen and great sovereigns on equal terms.
Intellectually, Franklin was a many-sided man. It may almost be said of him, that he was “not one, but all mankind's epitome.” Had he not been a great scientist, he would have stood in the first rank as a moral philosopher; his eminence as a statesman would have distinguished him, had he not been a practical inventor; and his wit would have sufficed to give him renown, even had his diplomacy failed to elicit the envy and applause of courts.
Franklin's ethical doctrines, though perhaps not soar