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Ben Franklin

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Early Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston on January 17, 1706. He would be the tenth out of seventeen children that his father, Josiah Franklin, would have. His father had plans for Benjamin to join the clergy when he came of age and was sent to grammar school to prepare. He would excel in reading at a very young age but would find that he could not master math so easy. He would be at the grammar school for less than a year before his father would come to terms with not being able to support a college education for Benjamin and supporting the rest of the large family. Benjamin would then be sent to another school which would teach him basic math and English skills. There, he would surpass the rest of class in English while eventually failing arithmetic yet again causing his father to pull him from school all together. At the age of 10 Benjamin would be taken home to learn the family business. While learning to make soap and candles from his father, Benjamin became restless; he yearned to go to sea much like his brother Josiah. He would go out the lake and play like the other children but Benjamin did not swim as well as the others, so he devised a tool that was made from sticks and cloth to cover his hands and feet to help him tread. Swimming fins would be one of his first inventions. From a young age Benjamin proved to be very different from his father and the rest of his family. His father sensing his child's unhappiness would help him look for a new trade. Unbeknownst to Benjamin, watching the common man work would influence him down the path of inventor he would inevitably take,

"He therefore sometimes took me to me to walk with him, and see joiners, bricklayers, braziers, etc. at their work, that he might observe my inclination, and endeavor to fix it on some trade or other on land, and to construct little machines for my experiments, while the intention of making the experiments was fresh and warm in my mind."(p 12, Benjamin Franklin)

His father would see his son was found of reading so an apprenticeship would be set up for twelve year old Benjamin with his twenty-one year old brother. During his five year apprenticeship Franklin would live under strict guidelines which included taverns being off limits as well as gambling and marriage. Franklin would continue to long for the sea but found that while on land he would indeed prefer ink over the tallow of his father's shop. He would there self educate himself through reading as many books as he could when he wasn't printing. A long time customer of the printing shop would come to ask Franklin if he would like to run a private library. There he fell in a deeper love with knowledge and studied arithmetic, navigation, grammar, and logic. He also was introduced to contemporary free-thinkers like Shaftsbury and Collins. Along with Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Xenophon's Memorabilia one could see that Franklin was influenced by these men and would use their ideas and views to shape his own.

The brothers Franklin would ruffle many feathers once they began to print their own pamphlets and papers against the ruling class. Their satires while appealing the common man, made them enemies in high places. The Franklin's paper "The Courant" would be their biggest success and after the paper published a fake letter that stated there were pirates seen off the coast and that the Massachusetts government would be sending a ship after them the local council arrested James Franklin for contempt of authority. Benjamin would continue the paper in his brother's absence and would continue to voice his anger against his brother's arrest.

"Without freedom of thought there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech; which is the right of every man as far as by it he does not hurt or control the tight of another; and this is the only check it out to suffer and the only bounds it ought to know. . . Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech: a thing terrible to public traitors." (p 28, Benjamin Franklin).

Once James was out of prison, he and his brother continued on the same path which had already brought one of them to prison. On January 14, 1723 a vigorous article lashed out against "hypocritical pretenders to religion" and those "who seem to be more than ordinary religious, but yet are several accounts worse, by far, than those who pretend to no religion at all". The states council would not let this go and immediately took action. They forbade James Franklin to print or publish his newspaper or any other pamphlet of the same nature unless it was first supervised by the Secretary of this Province.

To avoid censure from the council the brothers decided that the paper would be printed in Benjamin's name. "The Courant" would be toned down as to not raise any more negative attention and now with Benjamin at the helm he would use his writing skills to stand for them same ideals the paper had before but would use more tact than his brother. The paper prospered under its more discrete policy and increased both circulation and price however the price of success would split the brothers. At the age of seventeen Benjamin was known for his articles and writing abilities and would soon demand that his brother let him out of his apprenticeship so that they would be equal. His brother would disagree and soon the apprentice would leave the business in search of new work. Even though many would have gladly hired the accomplished publisher he had left an apprenticeship early without his master's approval, this would not sit well with the other Boston printers. James had spoken to them all before Benjamin and convinced them that "Masters must stand together even if brothers could not"(page 32). Due to his rash decision to leave and arrogance he now had no job and little money. He went to New York with no avail and finally wound up in Philadelphia where he would begin a new chapter in his life.

Benjamin Franklin Growing Up

In Philadelphia Benjamin would find work and would feel for the first time true freedom. He would relish knowing that he would no longer have to admonish his father and let his older brother bully him around. He found much success and would freelance to many different printing shops. He then decided in 1724 to start his own printing shop. He would need more capital to start with so he returned to Boston to ask his father for a loan. Unfortunately, his father had not approved of Benjamin's action when he left his brother's apprenticeship. He explained

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