Benjamin Franklin : biography
On the 17th of January in an American town Boston a boy Benjamin, who was going to have a great destiny, was born. He was fated to become one of the leaders in the American War of Independence. His father, Joshua Franklin, escaped from England and went to America because of religious persecution. The family of Joshua and his wife Abia had seventeen children, and father hardly managed to earn money to keep such a big family. He produced candles and soap, and there was no money for children to study. Joshua wanted Ben to become a priest, and when the boy was seven, his father sent him to school, but two years later he had to help his father in a workshop.
Books were always a relaxation for Ben. His father was a respectful person in Boston, and friends of his always gave Ben books from their carefully kept libraries, which had been taken from England. Finally, Joshua made him an apprentice for this first son James, who was working in a print shop. When Ben was working in this print shop, he started to write ballads, which became very popular and were sold quickly. But father interfered in it too, he thought, that a poet could become only a beggar or a tramp. When Ben was sixteen, he started to compose letters and signed them with a name of an invented widow. In the mornings he slipped them under the print shop’s door. The letters were full of caustic satire on society’s morals and caused considerable delight in readers. Ben was flattered and confessed to his brother that he had written all these letters, but James became furious and turned him out of the print shop.
Ben didn’t see sense in further living in his native town and decided to escape. At that time such a flight was considered as a crime – only criminals and guilty servants escaped form towns. A young man saved money for a ship from New York, and then reached Philadelphia on a fragile boat. When he was walking along the main city street on the first day of his staying in Philadelphia, he saw his future wife Debora Reed, but they were acquainted later – when Ben had already found work in a print shop.
In Philadelphia Benjamin Franklin immediately earned a reputation of a gifted and educated young man – in the first place because he asked everybody to give him books. Speculations about a talented boy reached William Cate’s ears, who was a Pennsylvanian governor, and William had a talk with Ben, promised him recommendations, money for a print shop and sent to England for print equipment. But Ben got neither recommendations, nor money, even when he arrived in England. Governor’s promises turned out to be lies.
An eighteen-year-old Ben stayed in London, found a good work in a modern print shop and made friends. He liked living in London – the capital had many theatres, bars and jolly public houses with girls, but what was more important, there were a lot of books, which were rare in America. Besides all these, Ben sincerely admired English journalism, which was very well-developed in comparison with a just born American press. He settled in a modest house of a widow, who lived with her unmarried daughter. Naturally, the daughter was interested in a handsome man, and they became lovers. Ben wrote his American bride Debora only one letter and told her that he didn’t know when he would return. But soon a merchant Danham, who was his companion on the way to England, suggested Ben a place of a manager in his business, and in 1726 they went to Philadelphia together. But Franklin didn’t manage to become a manager – Danham, who got ill on the way with pneumonia, died, and Ben had to return to his previous work in a Philadelphian print shop.
In 1727 he managed to establish his own business – he opened a print shop. And besides work he made something like an English club with his friends. Ben invited rules, which obliged his friends read and discuss small investigations in politics, morality and philosophy. They did it for “mutual improvement”, but owing to these club meetings Ben decided to publish a newspaper under a simple name “Pennsylvania Gazette”. This publication became successful very quickly and was popular in American colonies. The newspaper was published for nineteen years, on good paper and was very various in content – it had fragments form literature, essays, pamphlets, advertisements. In England Franklin realized that a reader needed not only propagations, but also light reading. In 1732 he widened publisher’s business and started to publish “Poor Richard’s Almanac”, but under the name of a mythic Richard Sanders, who needed money for his ill wife. The newspaper “Poor Richard’s Almanac” had different recipes, everyday advice and other helpful information, and for a quarter of a century it became an inalienable part of many Americans’ lives. Benjamin with its help paid off all his debts, which he had had since opening his own business.
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