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Benjamin Franklin


"Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."

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Attribution: Letter, written Nov. 13, 1789. Complete Works, vol. 10, ed. John Bigelow.

Date: Nov. 13, 1789

Benjamin Franklin


Born in Boston, Franklin is best known as a patriot, statesman, printer, scientist, and writer. Franklin was the son of a tallow chandler and soap maker. He was apprenticed to his half brother James, a printer, but left for Philadelphia in 1723 to work as a printer. In 1729, Franklin became owner and editor of the Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper, which soon became popular. From 1733 until 1757, Franklin published Poor Richard's Almanac. Many of the famous phrases associated with Franklin appeared in the Almanac.

Franklin was a tireless scientist, performing experiments and inventing such things as the Franklin stove, bifocal glasses, glass harmonica, and the lightning rod. He is well-known for his experiments on electricity, including the now-famous experiment of flying a kite in a thunderstorm.

Franklin served as deputy postmaster general of the colonies from 1753-74, making the postal system efficient and profitable.

With the approach of the American Revolution, Franklin's loyalties lay with America. His illegitimate son, William Franklin, who was serving as Royal Governor of New Jersey, remained loyal to England, causing a rift between the two. Franklin was elected to the Second Continental Congress and worked on a committee of five that drafted the Declaration of Independence. Though much of the writing is Thomas Jefferson's, much of the contribution is Franklin's. In 1776 Franklin signed the Declaration, and afterward sailed to France as an ambassador to the Court of Louis XVI. Franklin enjoyed a high reputation in France and helped gain French recognition of the new republic in 1778.

In 1781, Franklin was one of the American diplomats chosen to negotiate peace with Great Britain. Franklin returned to America in 1785 and was made president of the Pennsylvania executive council.

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