Synopses & Reviews
Benjamin Franklin's writings represent a long career of literary, scientific, and political efforts over a lifetime which extended nearly the entire eighteenth century. Franklin's achievements range from inventing the lightning rod to publishing Poor Richard's Almanack to signing the Declaration of Independence. In his own lifetime he knew prominence not only in America but in Britain and France as well. This volume includes Franklin's reflections on such diverse questions as philosophy and religion, social status, electricity, American national characteristics, war, and the status of women. Nearly sixty years separate the earliest writings from the latest, an interval during which Franklin was continually balancing between the puritan values of his upbringing and the modern American world to which his career served as prologue. This edition provides a new text of the Autobiography, established with close reference to Franklin's original manuscript. It also includes a new transcription of the 1726 journal, and several pieces which have recently been identified as Franklin's own work.
Edited with an Introduction by Kenneth A. Silverman
About the Author
Benjamin Franklin, statesman, philosopher, and man of letters, was born in Boston in 1706 of Protestant parents. He entered Boston Grammar School when he was eight and later attended George Brown Ell’s school. When he was twelve his father apprenticed him to his half-brother James as a printer. James was later the publisher of the New England Courant, where Franklin’s first articles, The Dogood Papers, were published before he was seventeen. He went to Philadelphia in 1723 and pursued his trade of printer. He was befriended by William Keith, Governor of Pennsylvania, who offered to help the young man get started in business. Franklin left for England, where he hoped to arrange for the purchase of printing equipment. Arriving in London in 1724, he was soon deserted by Keith, and again turned to printing for a livelihood. His privately printed Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain (1725) introduced him to leading Deists and other intellectuals in London. A year later, he returned to Philadelphia, and by 1730 he had been appointed public printer for Pennsylvania. In 1731 he established the first circulation library in the United States; in 1743-44, The American Philosophical Society. In 1748 he retired from the trade of printer but continued to advise and back his partner and to draw profit from the business. Poor Richard’s Almanack was his most spectacular success as a publisher, having gone through numerous editions and been translated in many languages. During the next thirty-five years he devoted himself largely to politics and diplomacy, but still wrote and engaged in scientific ventures. He resigned as Minister to France in 1785, returned to America, and was elected President of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Still concerned with the rights of the individual, he published papers encouraging the abolition of slavery. He died in Philadelphia in 1790.