Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father, Man of Charity

Portrait by Joseph Siffred Duplessis

Benjamin Franklin, a printer, librarian, inventor, writer, and statesman, was "the only President of the United States who was never President of the United States."

Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706, in Boston, Massachusetts. The fifteenth child of his father, Josiah, Franklin was the youngest son. Leaving school at the young age of ten, Ben Franklin worked as an apprentice when he was 12 years old, for his brother James, who was a printer.

When he was 15, his brother founded the first independent newspaper in the colonies, called The New-England Courant. At the age of 17, Franklin ran away to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Five years later, he opened up his own printing shop. His newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette was very popular and proved profitable for him. A few years later, Ben Franklin published Poor Richard's Almanac, where many of Franklin's famous quotes appeared, known as "Poor Richard's Proverbs".

One famous quote, "A penny saved is a penny earned" originally read, "A penny saved is twopence dear". Using humor, a "Fish and visitors stink in three days" also appeared in Poor Richard's Almanac.

People memorized Franklin's quotes and used them often, in many different social situations. Poor Richard's Almanacs were so popular approximately ten thousand copies sold each year, equivalent to almost three million today.


Ben Franklin became the official printer of Pennsylvania. His duties included printing money, laws, and documents for the colony. Soon after, he also became the public printer for Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey. He also assisted in establishing newspapers in Connecticut and New York, as well as in two islands in the West Indies.

Because books were so expensive at the time, Franklin and fellow printers started a 'lending' library of books, open to everyone. They put their own money together to buy books anyone could 'borrow'. This became the first Free Library of Philadelphia. People unable to afford books, could now read books at no cost to them.

political cartoon by Franklin


Benjamin Franklin invented, among other things, bifocals, swim fins, bifocals, a glass armonica, watertight bulkheads for ships, the lightning rod, an odometer, and the Franklin 'wood' stove.

While experimenting with lightning, Franklin discovered that it was electricity.

Ben's Guide to US Government uses these words to describe what Franklin said about inventing electricity:

"I attached a pointed metal piece on the top of my kite and a metal key to the base of the string. Lightning struck the kite and traveled down the kite string to the key. When I touched the key with my knuckle, there was a spark! It's a good thing I didn't electrocute myself (although I was knocked unconscious twice before when experimenting with electricity, so don't try this at home!), but I did prove that lightning is electricity! Afterwards, I invented the lightning rod to protect buildings and ships from lightning damage."

Charitable Statesman

Benjamin Franklin was a man of charity. Although he received recognition for his numerous inventions, he gave them away to the world to use freely. He did not profit from any of his inventions. This made Benjamin Franklin a man people wanted to represent them. Trouble brewed between the thirteen colonies and England, after England imposed the Stamp, Townshend, and Intolerable Acts, which angered the colonists, and they rebelled against England.

On April 19, 1775, they went to war with England to gain, and win their freedom. This prompted Benjamin Franklin to travel to Europe to represent the thirteen original colonies.

Franklin was instrumental in securing guns, ammunition, and other provisions for the army, from the French to help the colonists. In 1778, the colonists signed the Treaty of Alliance with France.

Problems between England and the thirteen colonies developed following the French and Indian War. The imposition of the Stamp, Townshend, and Intolerable Acts angered the colonists to rebel against Mother England. On April 19, 1775, the colonists went to war for their freedom.

After the colonies won their independence from England, Benjamin Franklin, in 1781, helped negotiate peace with England and signed the "Treaty of Peace with Great Britain", in 1782.

Founding Father

Benjamin Franklin, at the age of 81, was the oldest delegate at the Constitutional Convention, where they discussed what kind of government they wanted to establish for the now independent colonies.

John Trumbull's painting, Declaration of Independence, depicting the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence

Franklin signed the Constitution on September 17, 1787. He is the only Founding Father to sign all five documents declaring American independence: the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Amity, and Commerce with France, the Treaty of Alliance with France, the Treaty of Peace with Great Britain, and the Constitution of the United States of America.

At the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson told the delegates that they "must all hang together". Franklin took it a step further and said,

"Yes, we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.

Benjamin Franklin died on April 17, 1790, at age 84. Approximately 20,000 people attended his funeral, at the Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia.

In his final will, he specified he wanted his grave to read simply, "Benjamin and Deborah Franklin.", which it does.

Franklin's Grave in Philadelphia

A man of courage, strength, and virtue, Benjamin Franklin is the Founding Father that represents Charity.

Man of Virtue

In addition to his political influence, Benjamin Franklin also became a 'founding father' of American values and character. Keeping with the Puritans' values, Franklin strongly believed in thrift, hard work, education, and community spirit.

At the young age of twenty, Benjamin Franklin planned to cultivate his character with Thirteen Virtues:

Temperance - "Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation."

Silence -"Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation."

Order - "Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time."

Resolution - "Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve."

Frugality - "Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing."

Industry - "Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions."

Sincerity - "Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly."

Justice - "Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty."

Moderation - "Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve." Cleanliness - "Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation."

Tranquility - "Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable."

Chastity - "Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation."

Humility - "Imitate Jesus and Socrates."


Franklin's Other Firsts

Established the first volunteer firefighting companies in America

Established Pennsylvania Hospital, the first hospital in what became the United States of America.

Established The Academy and College of Philadelphia, that later merged with the University of the State of Pennsylvania to become the University of Pennsylvania.

Benjamin Franklin Namesakes

  • At least 16 Counties in US States
  • Major landmarks in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Franklin's long time home
  • Franklin and Marshall College in nearby Lancaster
  • Franklin Field, a football field once home to the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League and the home field of the University of Pennsylvania Quakers since 1895
  • The Benjamin Franklin Bridge across the Delaware River between Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey
  • The Franklin Institute, a science museum in Philadelphia, which presents the Benjamin Franklin Medal

Benjamin Franklin Likenesses

American $100 bills

The city of Philadelphia contains around 5,000 likenesses of Benjamin Franklin, half of them located on the University of Pennsylvania campus.

Also in Philadelphia:

Benjamin Franklin Parkway (a major thoroughfare)

Benjamin Franklin Bridge, the first major bridge to connect Philadelphia with New Jersey.

During the Bicentennial in 1976, Congress dedicated a 20-foot (6 m) marble statue in Philadelphia's Franklin Institute as the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial.

Benjamin Franklin National Memorial

In Psychology Findings: The Benjamin Franklin Effect

"He that has once done you a Kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged."

Also visit:  

600 Proverbs from Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac