The United States of America: A History Book 2: Chapter II - Benjamin Franklin
WhiIe Washington's boyhood as being passed on the banks of the Potomac, a
young man, destined to help him in gaining the independence of the country,
was toiling hard in the city of Philadelphia to earn an honest livelihood.
His name was Benjamin Franklin. lie kept a small stationer's shop. He edited
a newspaper. He was a bookbinder. He made ink. He sold rags, soap, and
coffee. He was also a printer, employing a journeyman and an apprentice to
aid him in his labours. Ile was a thriving man; but he was not ashamed to
convey along the streets, in a wheelbarrow, the paper which he bought for
the purposes of his trade. As a boy he had been studious and thoughtful. As
a man lie was prudent, sagacious, trustworthy. His prudence was, however,
somewhat low-toned and earthly. He loved and sought to marry a deserving
young woman, who returned his affection. There was in those days a debt of
one hundred pounds upon his printing-house, lie demanded that the father of
the young lady should pay off this debt. The father was unable to do so.
Whereupon the worldly Benjamin decisively broke off the contemplated
When he had earned a moderate competency he ceased to Labour at his
business. Henceforth he laboured to serve his fellow-men. Philadelphia owes
to Franklin her university, her hospital, her fire-brigade, her first and
1752 A. D.
He earned renown as a man of science. It had long been his thought that
lightning and electricity were the same; but he found no way to prove the
truth of his theory. At length he made a kite fitted suitably for his
experiment. He stole away from his house during a thunder-storm, having told
no one but his son, who accompanied him. The kite was sent up among the
stormy clouds, and the anxious philosopher waited. For a time no response to
his eager questioning was granted, and Franklin's countenance fell. But at
length lhe felt the welcome shock, and his heart thrilled with the high
consciousness that he had added to the sum of human knowledge.
1766 A. D.
When the troubles arose in connection with the Stamp Act, Franklin was sent
to England to defend the rights of the colonists. The vigour of his
intellect, the matured wisdom of his opinions, gained for him a wonderful
supremacy over the men with whom he was brought into contact. He was
examined before Parliament. Edmund Burke said that the scene reminded him of
a master examined by a parcel of school-boys, so conspicuously was the
witness superior to his interrogators.
Franklin was an early advocate of independence, and aided in preparing the
famous Declaration. In all the councils of that eventful time he bore a
leading part. lie was the first American Ambassador to France; and the good
sense and vivacity of the old printer gained for him high favour in the
fashionable world of Paris. Tie lived to aid in in framing the Constitution
under which America has enjoyed prosperity so great. Soon after lie passed
A few months before his death he wrote to Washington:-" I am now finishing
my eighty-fourth year, and probably with it my career in this life; but in
whatever state of existence I am placed hereafter, if I retain any memory of
what has passed here, I shall with it retain the esteem, respect, and
affection with which I have long regarded you."
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