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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 alliance.

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 greatest library.

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.

1777 A.D.

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 away.

1789 A.D.

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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