Benjamin Franklin Biography
"Dr. Benjamin Franklin (Pennsylvania) is well known to be the greatest phylosopher of the present age;--all the operations of nature he seems to understand,--the very heavens obey him, and the Clouds yield up their Lightning to be imprisoned in his rod. But what claim he has to the politician, posterity must determine. It is certain that he does not shine much in public Council,--he is no Speaker, nor does he seem to let politics engage his attention. He is, however, a most extraordinary Man, and tells a story in a style more engaging than anything I ever heard. Let his Biographer finish his character. He is 82 years old, and possesses an activity of mind equal to a youth of 25 years of age." -- Character Sketches of Delegates to the Federal Convention by William Pierce (1787)
Benjamin Franklin was born at Boston, on the 17th of January, 1706. His ancestors were from the county of Northampton, in England, where they had for many generations possessed a small freehold estate, near the village of Eaton. During the persecutions in the reign of Charles II., against the puritans, the father of Benjamin, who was of that persuasion, emigrated to America, and settling in Boston, had recourse for a livelihood to the business of a chandler and soap boiler. His mother's name was Folger. She was a native of Boston, and belonged to a respectable family.
At an early age, young Franklin discovered, as his parents thought, a more than ordinary genius; and they resolved to give him an education, with reference to the profession of a clergyman. Accordingly, he was placed at a grammar school, where he soon attained the reputation of a lad of industrious habits, and respectable genius.
His parents, however, at the expiration of a year, found that their slender revenues would not admit of the expense of collegiate instruction. He was, therefore, soon after taken home to prosecute the business of his father. In this occupation he was employed for two years, but it was ill adapted to his constitution, and he felt unwilling to continue cutting wicks for candles, filling moulds, and running of errands. He became uneasy, and at length resolved to embark on a seafaring life. To such a proposition, however, his parents strongly objected, as they had already lost a son at sea. He was permitted, however, to change his business, and allowed to choose an occupation which was more congenial to his inclinations.
His fondness for books had, from an early age, been singularly great. He read every thing within his reach. His father's library was itself scanty, being confined to a few such works as Defoe's Essay upon Projects, Mather's Essay on doing Good, and the Lives of Plutarch. These he perused with great attention, and they appear to have exercised a favorable influence on his mind. His love of books was frequently noticed by his father, who, at length, proposed to bind him as an apprentice to an elder brother, who was at that time a printer of a newspaper in Boston. He was accordingly thus situated, in the year 1717, when he was scarcely twelve years of age. He soon became a proficient in the mechanical part of the business, and seized every opportunity for reading books that he could borrow from his acquaintance, in which employment he spent the greater part of his nights. He soon began to indulge himself in writing ballads and other poetical pieces; but, it is said, that his father speedily satisfied him that this was not the species of composition in which he could excel. His next efforts were directed to prose composition, in which his success is well known, and duly appreciated. With a passion for reading and writing, he imbibed a kindred one for disputation; and adopting the Socratic method, he became dexterous in confuting and confounding an antagonist, by a series of questions. This course gave him a skeptical turn with regard to religion, and while he was young he took every opportunity of propagating his tenets, and with the ordinary zeal of a new convert. He was, however, soon convinced, by the effect produced on some of his companions, that it was extremely dangerous to loosen the ties of religion, without the probability of substituting other principles equally efficacious. The doubts which subsisted in his own mind, he was never able to remove; but he was not deficient in fortifying himself with such moral principles as directed him to the most valuable ends, by honorable means. By habits of self-denial, early formed, he obtained a complete dominion over his appetites, so that, at the age of sixteen, he readily discarded animal food, from the conviction produced in his mind by perusing a work on the subject, that he should enjoy a more vigorous state of health without it. He now offered his brother to maintain himself, for half the sum paid for his board; and even with this he was able to make savings to purchase what books he wanted. In his brother, he found a harsh master, and Benjamin felt indignant at the treatment which he experienced from him in the way of business. His brother had established a newspaper, in which the apprentice contrived to insert some papers and essays anonymously. These were read and highly commended by people of the best judgment and taste in the town. The young man began now to feel his importance, which was still more impressed on him by having the paper published in his own name, that of his brother, for some political offence, having been interdicted by the state.
On the release of his brother, who had for some time been imprisoned for the above political offence, Franklin was treated by him with so much severity, that at length he determined to leave him. His indentures having before this been cancelled, he secretly went on board of a vessel, bound to New-York, in which he took passage for that city. After a few days spent in New-York, having sought in vain to procure business, he proceeded on foot to Philadelphia, where he at length arrived, fatigued and destitute of all means of support. He was now but seventeen years of age, at the distance of four hundred miles from home, nearly penniless, without employment, without a counselor, and unacquainted with a single person in the city.
The day following his arrival he wandered through the streets of Philadelphia with an appearance little short of a beggar. His pockets were distended by his clothes, which were crowded into them; and provided with a roll of bread under each arm, he proceeded through the principal streets of the city. His uncouth appearance attracted the notice of several of the citizens, and among others of a Miss Reed, who afterwards became his wife, and by whom, as he passed along, he was thought to present a very awkward and ridiculous appearance.
There were at this time but two printing offices in Philadelphia. Fortunately, in one of these he found employment as compositor. His conduct was very becoming; he was attentive to business, and economical in his expenses. His fidelity not only commended him to his master, but was noticed by several respectable citizens, who promised him their patronage and support.
Among others, who took much notice of him, was Sir William Keith, at that time governor of the province. The governor having become acquainted with the history of his recent adventures, professed a deep interest in his welfare, and at length proposed that he should commence business on his own account; at the same time, promising to aid him with his influence and that of his friends, and to give him the printing of the government. Moreover, the governor urged him to return to Boston, to solicit the concurrence and assistance of his father. At the same time, he gave him a letter to that gentleman, replete with assurances of affection, and promises of support to the son.
With this object in view, he sailed for Boston, and at length, after an absence of several months, he again entered his father's house. He was affectionately received by the family. To his father he communicated the letter of Governor Keith, which explained the object of his return. His father, however, judiciously advised him, on account of youth and inexperience, to relinquish the project of setting up a printing office, and wrote to this effect to his patron, Governor Keith. Having determined to follow the advice of his father, he returned to Philadelphia, and again entering the employment of his former master, pursued his business with his usual assiduous attention.
Governor Keith, on learning the advice and decision of Franklin's father, offered himself to furnish the necessary materials for a printing establishment, and proposed to Franklin to make a voyage to England to procure them. This proposal Franklin readily accepted, and with gratitude to his generous benefactor he sailed for England in 1725, accompanied by his friend Ralph, one of his literary associates in Philadelphia.
Before his departure, he exchanged promises of fidelity with Miss Reed of Philadelphia, with whose father he had lodged. Upon his arrival in London, Mr. Franklin found that Governor Keith, upon whose letters of credit and recommendation he relied, had entirely deceived him. He was now obliged to work as a journeyman printer, and obtained employment in an office in Bartholomew-close. His friend Ralph did not so readily find the means of subsistence, and was a constant drain upon the earnings of Franklin. In that great city, the morals of the young travelers were not much improved; Ralph forgot, or acted as if he had forgotten, that he had a wife and child across the Atlantic; and Franklin was equally forgetful of his promises and engagements to Miss Reed. About this period he published, A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain, dedicated to Ralph, and intended as an answer to Wollaston's Religion of Nature. This piece gained for him some degree of reputation, and introduced him to the acquaintance of Dr. Mandeville, author of the Fable of the Bees, and some other literary characters. Franklin was always temperate and industrious, and his habits in this respect were eventually the means of securing his morals, as well as of raising his fortune. In the interesting account which he has left of his own life, is a narrative of the method which he took in reforming the sottish habits of his fellow-workmen in the second printing office in which he was engaged in London, and which was situated in the neighborhood of Lincoln's-inn-fields. He tried to persuade them that there was more real sustenance in a penny roll, than in a pint of porter; at first, the plan of economy which he proposed was treated with contempt or ridicule; but in the end he was able to induce several of them to substitute a warm and nourishing breakfast, in the place of stimulating liquors.
Having resided about a year and a half in London, he concerted a scheme with an acquaintance, to make the tour of Europe. At this juncture, however, he fell in company with a mercantile friend, who was about returning home to Philadelphia, and who now persuaded Franklin to abandon his project of an eastern tour, and to enter his service in the capacity of a clerk. On the 22nd of July, 1726, they set sail for Philadelphia, where they arrived the 11th of October.
The prospects of Franklin were now brighter. He had attached to his new adopted profession, and by his assiduous attention to business gained the confidence of his employer so much, that he was about to be commissioned as supercargo to the West Indies, when of a sudden his patron died, by which, not only his fair prospects were blighted, but he was once more thrown out of all employment.
He had, however, one resource, and that was a return to the business of printing, in the service of his former master. At length, he became superintendent of the printing office where he worked, and finding himself able to manage the concern with some skill and profit, he resolved to embark in business for himself. He entered into partnership with a fellow-workman, named Meredith, whose friends were enabled to furnish a supply of money sufficient for the concern, which was no doubt very small; for Franklin has recorded the high degree of pleasure, which he experienced from a payment of five shillings only, the first fruits of their earnings. "The recollection," says this noble spirited man, "of what I felt on this occasion, has rendered me more disposed, than perhaps I might otherwise have been, to encourage young beginners in trade." His habitual industry and undeviating punctuality, obtained him the notice and business of the principal people in the place. He instituted a club under the name of "the Junto," for the purpose of the discussion of political and philosophical questions, which proved an excellent school for the mutual improvement of its several members. The test proposed to every candidate, before his admission, was this;
"Do you sincerely declare that you love mankind in general, of what profession or religion soever? Do you think any person ought to be harmed in his body, name, or goods, for mere speculative opinions, or his external way of worship? Do you love truth for truth's sake; and will you endeavor impartially to find and receive it yourself, and communicate it to others."
Mr. Franklin and his partner ventured to set up a new public paper, which his own efforts as writer and printer caused to succeed, and they obtained likewise the printing of the votes and laws of the assembly. In process of time, Meredith withdrew from the partnership, and Franklin met with friends, who enabled him to undertake the whole concern in his own name, and add to it the business of a stationer.
In 1730, he married the lady to whom he was engaged before his departure for England. During his absence he forgot his promises to her, and on his return to America, he found her the wife of another man. Although a woman of many virtues, she suffered from the unkindness of her husband, who, fortunately for her, lived but a short time. Not long after his death, Franklin again visited her, soon after which they were married, and for many years lived in the full enjoyment of connubial peace and harmony.
In 1732, he began to publish "Poor Richard's Almanac," a work which was continued for twenty-five years, and which, besides answering the purposes of a calendar, contained many excellent prudential maxims, which were of great utility to that class of the community, who by their poverty or laborious occupations, were deprived of the advantages of education. Ten thousand copies of this almanac are said to have been published every year, in America. The maxims contained in it, were from time to time republished both in Great Britain, and on the continent.
The political course of Franklin began in the year 1736, when he was appointed clerk to the general assembly of Pennsylvania; an office which he held for several years, until he was, at length, elected a representative. During the same year, he assisted in the establishment of the American Philosophical Society, and of a college, which now exists under the title of the University of Pennsylvania. In the following year he was appointed to the valuable office of post-master of Philadelphia. In 1735 he improved the police of the city, in respect to the dreadful calamity of fire, by forming a society called a fire company, to which was afterwards added an assurance office, against losses by fire.
In 1742 he published his treatise upon the improvement of chimneys, and at the same time contrived a stove, which is in extensive use at the present day.
In the French war of 1744, he proposed a plan of voluntary association for the defense of the country. This was shortly joined by ten thousand persons, who were trained to the use and exercise of arms. Franklin was chosen colonel of the Philadelphia regiment, but he refused the honor in favor of one, whom he supposed to be more competent to the discharge of its duties.
During the same year he was elected a member of the provincial assembly, in which body he soon became very popular, and was annually re-elected by his fellow-citizens for the space of ten years.
About this time, the attention of Mr. Franklin was particularly turned to philosophical subjects. In 1747, he had witnessed at Boston, some experiments on electricity, which excited his curiosity, and which he repeated on his return to Philadelphia, with great success. These experiments led to important discoveries, an account of which was transmitted to England, and attracted great attention throughout all Europe.
In the year 1749 he conceived the idea of explaining the phenomena of thunder gusts, and of the aurora borealis, upon electrical principles; he pointed out many particulars, in which lightning and electricity agreed, and he adduced many facts and reasonings in support of his positions. In the same year, he thought of ascertaining the truth of his doctrine by drawing down the forked lightning, by means of sharp pointed iron rods, raised into the region of the clouds. Admitting the identity of lightning and electricity, and knowing the power of points in conducting away silently the electric fluid, he suggested the idea of securing houses, ships, &c. from the damages to which they were liable from lightning, and hence he applied his discovery to the securing of buildings from the effects of lightning, by erecting pointed iron rods, which should rise some feet above the most elevated part, and descend some feet into the ground or the water. The effect of these, he concluded, would by either to prevent a stroke, by repelling the cloud beyond the striking distance, or by drawing off the electrical fluid, which it contained; or at least, conduct the stroke to the earth without any injury to the building. It was not till the summer of 1752, that Mr. Franklin was enabled to complete his grand experiment. The plan which he proposed was, to erect on some high tower, or elevated place, a sort of hut, from which should rise a pointed iron rod, insulated by being fixed in a cake of resin. Electrified clouds passing over this, would, he conceived, impart to it a portion or their electricity, which might be rendered evident to the senses by sparks being emitted, when the knuckle or other conductor was presented to it. While he was waiting or the erection of a spire, it occurred to him, that he might have a more ready access to the region of clouds by means of a common kite; he accordingly prepared one for the purpose, affixing to the upright stick an iron point. The string was as usual, of hemp, except the lower end, which was silk, and where the hempen part terminated, a key was fastened. With this simple apparatus, on the appearance of a thunderstorm approaching, he went into the fields, accompanied by his son, to whom alone he communicated his intentions, dreading probably the ridicule which frequently awaits unsuccessful attempts in experimental philosophy. For some time no sign of electricity appeared; he was beginning to despair of success, when he suddenly observed the loose fibers of the string to start forward in and erect position, he now presented his knuckle to the key, and received a strong spark. How exquisite must his sensations have been at this moment? On this experiment depended the fate of his theory; repeated sparks were drawn from the key, a phial was charged, a shock given, and all the experiments made, which are usually performed with electricity. He immediately fixed an insulated iron rod upon his house, which drew down the lightning, and gave him an opportunity of examining whether it were positive or negative, and hence he applied his discovery to the securing of buildings from the effects of lightning.
It will be impossible to enumerate all, or even a small part of the experiments which were made by Dr. Franklin, or to give an account of the treatises which he wrote on the branches of science. Justice requires us to say, that he seldom wrote, or discoursed on any subject, upon which he did not throw light. Few men possessed a more penetrating genius, or a happier faculty of discrimination. His investigations attracted the attention, and his discoveries called forth the admiration of the learned in all parts of the world. Jealousy was at length excited in Europe, and attempts were made, not only to detract from his well earned fame, but to rob him of the merit of originality. Others claimed the honor of having first made several of his most brilliant experiments, or attempted to invalidate the truth and reality of those, an account of which he had published to the world. The good sense of Dr. Franklin led him to oppose his adversaries only by silence, leaving the vindication of his merit to the slow, but sure operations of time.
In 1753 he was raised to the important office of deputy post master general of America. Through ill management, this office had been unproductive: but soon after the appointment of Franklin, it became a source of revenue to the British crown. In this station, he rendered important services to General Braddock, in his wild and fatal expedition against fort Du Quesne. When, at length, Braddock was defeated, and the whole frontier was exposed to the incursions of the savages and the French, Franklin raised a company of volunteers, at the head of which he marched to the protection of the frontier.
At length, in 1757, the militia was disbanded by order of the British government, soon after which Franklin was appointed agent to settle the disputes which had arisen between the people of Pennsylvania, and the proprietary government. With this object in view, he left his native country once more for England. On his arrival, he laid the subject before tile privy council. The point in dispute was occasioned by an effort of the proprietors to exempt their private estates from taxation; and because this exemption was not admitted, they refused to make appropriations for the defense of the province, even in times of the greatest danger and necessity. Franklin managed the subject with great ability, and at length brought the proprietary faction to terms. It was agreed, that the proprietary lands should take their share in a tax for the public service, provided that Franklin would engage that the assessment should be fairly proportioned. The measure was accordingly carried into effect, and he remained at the British court as agent for his province. His reputation caused him also to be entrusted with the like commission from Massachusetts, Maryland, and Georgia. The molestation received by the British colonies, from the French in Canada, induced him to write a pamphlet, pointing out the advantages of a conquest of that province by the English; and the subsequent expedition against it, and its retention under the British government, at the peace, were, it is believed, much influenced by the force of his arguments on the subject. About this period, his talents as a philosopher were duly appreciated in various parts of Europe. He was admitted a fellow of the royal society of London, and the degree of doctor of laws was conferred upon him at St. Andrews, Edinburgh, and at Oxford.
In 1762 he returned to America. On his arrival the provincial assembly of Pennsylvania expressed their sense of his meritorious services by a vote of thanks; and as a remuneration for his successful labors in their behalf, they granted him the sum of five thousand dollars. During his absence, he had annually been elected a member of the assembly, in which body he now took his seat. The following year he made a journey of sixteen hundred miles, through the northern colonies, for the purpose of inspecting and regulating the post offices.
In 1764, he was again appointed the agent of Pennsylvania, to manage her concerns in England, in which country he arrived in the month of December. About this period the famous stamp act was exciting violent commotions in America. Against this measure, Dr. Franklin strongly enlisted himself, and on his arrival in England, he presented a petition against it, which, at his suggestion, had been drawn up by the Pennsylvania assembly. At length the tumults in America became so great, that the ministry found it necessary either to modify the act, or to repeal it entirely. Among others, Dr. Franklin was summoned before the house of commons, where he underwent a long examination. "No person was better acquainted with the circumstances and internal concerns of the colonies, the temper and disposition of the colonists towards the parent country, or their feelings in relation to the late measure of parliament, than this gentleman. His answers to the numerous questions put to him in the course of this inquiry, not only show his extensive acquaintance with the internal state of the colonies, but evince his sagacity as a statesmen. To the question, whether the Americans would submit to pay the stamp duty if the act were modified, and the duty reduced to a small amount? He answered, no, they never will submit to it. British statesmen were extremely desirous that the colonial assemblies should acknowledge the right of parliament to tax them, and rescind and erase from their journals their resolutions on this subject. To a question, whether the American assemblies would do this, Dr. Franklin answered, 'they never will do it, unless compelled by force of arms.'"
The whole of this examination on being published was read with deep interest, both in England and America. To the statements of Dr. Franklin, the repeal of the stamp act was, no doubt, in a great-measure, attributable.
In the year 1766, and 1767, he made an excursion to Holland, Germany, and France, where he met with a most flattering and distinguished reception. To the monarch of the latter country, Louis XV., he was introduced, and also to other members of the royal family, by whom as well as by the nobility and gentry at court, he was treated with great hospitality and courtesy. About this time, he was elected a member of the French Academy of Sciences, and received diplomas from several other literary societies in England, and on the continent.
Allusion has already been made, in our introduction, to the discovery and publication, in 1772, of certain letters of Governor Hutchinson, addressed by that gentleman to his friends in England, and which reflected in the severest manner upon the people of America. These letters had fallen into the hands of Dr. Franklin, and by him had been transmitted to America, where they were at length inserted in the public journals. For a time, no one in England knew through what channel the letters had been conveyed to America. In 1773, Franklin publicly avowed himself to be the person who obtained the letters and transmitted them to America. This occasioned a violent clamor against him, and upon his attending before the privy council, in the following January, to present a petition from the colony of Massachusetts, for the dismission of Mr. Hutchinson, a most violent invective was pronounced against him, by Mr. Weddeburne, afterwards Lord Loughborough. Among other abusive epithets, the honorable member called Franklin a coward, a murderer, and a thief. During the whole of this torrent of abuse, Franklin sat with a composed and unaverted aspect, or, to use his own expression, in relation to himself on another occasion, "as if his countenance had been made of wood." During this personal and public insult, the whole assembly appeared greatly amused, at the expense of Dr. Franklin. The president even laughed aloud. There was a single person present, however, Lord North, who, to his honor be it recorded, expressed great disapprobation of the indecent conduct of the assembly. The intended insult, however, was entirely lost. The dignity and composure of Franklin caused a sad disappointment among his enemies, who were reluctantly compelled to acknowledge the superiority of his character. Their animosity, however, was not to be appeased, but by doing Franklin the greatest injury within their power. They removed him from the office of deputy post master general, interrupted the payment of his salary as agent for the colonies, and finally instituted against him a suit in chancery concerning the letters of Hutchinson.
At length, finding all his efforts to restore harmony between Great Britain and the colonies useless; and perceiving that the controversy had reached a crisis, when his presence in England was no longer necessary, and his continuance personally hazardous, he embarked for America, where he arrived in 1775, just after the commencement of hostilities. He was received with every mark of esteem and affection. He was immediately elected a delegate to the general congress, in which body he did as much, perhaps, as any other man, to accomplish the independence of his country.
In 1776, he was deputed by congress to proceed to Canada, to negotiate with the people of that country, and to persuade them, if possible, to throw off the British yoke; but the inhabitants of Canada had been so much disgusted with the zeal of the people of New-England, who had burnt some of their chapels, that they refused to listen to the proposals made to them by Dr. Franklin and his associates. On the arrival of Lord Howe in America in 1776, he entered upon a correspondence with him on the subject of reconciliation. He was afterwards appointed, with two others, to wait upon the English commissioners, and learn the extent of their powers; but as these only went to the granting of pardon upon submission, he joined his colleagues in considering them as insufficient. Dr. Franklin was decidedly in favor of a declaration of independence; and was appointed president of the convention assembled for the purpose of establishing a new government for the state of Pennsylvania. When it was determined by congress to open a public negotiation with France, he was commissioned to visit that country, with which he negotiated the treaty of alliance, offensive and defensive, which produced an immediate war between England and France. Dr. Franklin was one of the commissioners who, on the part of the United States, signed the provincial articles of peace in 1752, and the definitive treaty in the following year. Before he left Europe, he concluded a treaty with Sweden and Prussia. By the latter, he obtained several most liberal and humane stipulations in favor of the freedom of commerce, and the security of private property during war, in conformity to those principles which he had ever maintained on these subjects. Having seen the accomplishment of his wishes in the independence of his country, he requested to be recalled, and after repeated solicitations, Mr. Jefferson was appointed in his stead. On the arrival of his successor, he repaired to Havre de Grace, and crossing the English channel, landed at Newport in the Isle of Wight, whence, after a favorable passage, he arrived safe at Philadelphia, in September, 1785.
The news of his arrival, was received with great joy by the citizens. A vast multitude flocked from all parts to see him, and amidst the ringing of bells, the discharge of artillery, the acclamations of thousands, conducted him in triumph to his own house. In a few days, he was visited by the members of congress, and the principal inhabitants of Philadelphia. From numerous societies and assemblies he received the most affectionate addresses. All testified their joy at his return, and their veneration of his exalted character.
This was a period in his life of which he often spoke with peculiar pleasure. "I am now," said he, "in the bosom of my family, and find four new little prattlers, who cling about the knees of their grandpapa, and afford me great pleasure. I am surrounded by my friends, and have an affectionate good daughter and son-in-law to take care of me. I have got into my niche, a very good house, which I built twenty-four years ago, and out of which I have been ever since kept by foreign employments."
The domestic tranquillity in which he now found himself, he was not permitted long to enjoy, being appointed president of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, an office which he held for three years, and the duties of which he discharged very acceptably to his constituents. Of the federal convention of 1787, for organizing the constitution of the United States, he was elected a delegate, and in the intricate discussions which arose on different parts of that instrument, he bore a distinguished part.
In 1788, he withdrew from public life, his great age rendering retirement desirable, and the infirmities of his body unfitting him for the burdens of public office. On the 17th of April, 1790, in the eighty-fourth year of his age, he expired, in the city of Philadelphia. He was interred on the 21st of April. Congress directed a general mourning for him, throughout the United States, for the space of a month. The national assembly of France testified their sense of the loss which the world sustained, by decreeing that each member should wear mourning for three days. This was an honor perhaps never before paid by the national assembly of one country, to a citizen of another. Dr. Franklin lies buried in the northwest corner of Christ Church yard, in Philadelphia. In his will he directed that no monumental ornaments should be placed upon his tomb. A small marble slab only, therefore, and that, too, on a level with the surface of the earth, bearing the name of himself and wife, and the year of his death, marks the spot in the yard where he lies.
Dr. Franklin had two children, a son and a daughter. The son, under the British government, was appointed governor of New-Jersey. On the occurrence of the revolution, he left America, and took up his residence in England, where he spent the remainder of his life. The daughter was respectably married in Philadelphia, to Mr. William Bache, whose descendants still reside in that city.
In stature, Dr. Franklin was above the middle size. He possessed a healthy constitution, and was remarkable for his strength and activity. His countenance indicated a serene state of mind, great depth of thought, and an inflexible resolution.
In his intercourse with mankind, he was uncommonly agreeable. In conversation, he abounded in curious and interesting anecdote. A vein of good humor marked his conversation, and strongly recommended him to both old and young, to the learned and illiterate.
As a philosopher, he justly ranks high. In his speculations, he seldom lost sight of common sense, or yielded up his understanding either to enthusiasm or authority. He contributed, in no small degree, to the extension of science, and to the improvement of the condition of mankind. He appears to have entertained, at some periods of his life, opinions which were in many respects peculiar, and which probably were not founded upon a sound philosophy.
Few men have exhibited a more worthy conduct than did Dr. Franklin, through his long life. Through every vicissitude of fortune, he seems to have been distinguished for his sobriety and temperance, for his extraordinary perseverance and resolution. He was not less distinguished for his veracity, for the constancy of his friendship, for his candor, and his fidelity to his moral and civil obligations. In the early part of his life, he acknowledged himself to have been skeptical in religion, but he became in mature years, according to the testimony of his Intimate friend, Dr. William Smith, a believer in divine revelation. The following extract from his memoirs, written by himself, deserves to be recorded: "And here let me with all humility acknowledge, that to Divine Providence I am indebted for the felicity I have hitherto enjoyed. It is that power alone Which has furnished me with the means I have employed, and that has crowned them with success My faith in this respect leads me to hope, though I cannot count upon it, that the divine goodness will still be exercised towards me, either by prolonging the duration of my happiness to the close of life, or by giving me fortitude to support any melancholy reverse which may happen to me as well as to many others. My future fortune is unknown but to Him, in whose hand is our destiny, and who can make our very afflictions subservient to our benefit."
We conclude our notice of this distinguished man and profound philosopher, by subjoining the following epitaph, which was written by himself, many years previously to his death:
The body of
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, Printer,
Like the cover of an old book,
its contents torn out,
and stript of its lettering and gilding,
lies here food for worms;
Yet the work itself shall not be lost,
For it will (as he believed) appear once more
in a new and more beautiful edition
Corrected and amended
by the Author.
SOURCE: Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, 1829
by Rev. Charles A. Goodrich