The Life and Importance of Benjamin Franklin (Fall 2012)

Benjamin Franklin is an important iconic figure when we think about the United States and how it has evolved over time. Ben had many jobs throughout the duration of his life and he excelled at each of them. These jobs included being a musician, writer, scientist, inventor, and a politician. His contributions in each area of work greatly impacted our country and other countries as well. He is remembered greatly and was looked up to because of his ability to embody the American Dream in full spirit. To tie into what I have learned throughout the duration of this class, Benjamin Franklin was involved in four forces of History; Arts and New Ideas, Science and Technology, Politics and Government, and the Role of Specific Individuals.

Benjamin was born in 1706 in Boston, Massachusetts, which at the time was a British colony. His parents were named Josiah Franklin and Abiah Folger. Josiah was a candle maker and he had wishes of his son becoming a clergy, but Ben always had dreams of being a sailor. Being the fifteenth of seventeen children, Benjamin grew up with little money. He was passionate about reading and wanted to further his studies in school, but unfortunately his parents couldn’t afford it, so he ended up working with his father until the age of twelve.

At the age of twelve, Benjamin began working for his brother James who was a printer. He would help create handouts and then would work hard selling them on the streets to passersby. After three years had passed, James became the first person to publish a newspaper in the Boston area. It was called The New England Courant. It consisted of the writings of James and his friends, but never Ben. James would not allow Ben to write or contribute to the newspaper at all. Ben desperately wished to write so he began writing by himself at night. James soon found out that Benjamin had been writing on his own and was not pleased. The two brothers endlessly fought with ruthless heckling and abuse involved. That was the ultimate factor that pushed Ben to move away in 1723 to Philadelphia.

Upon arriving in Philadelphia, Benjamin’s aspirations of opening up his own print shop grew stronger. After working as an apprentice for some time, he finally did it and began writing and producing his first newspaper called The Pennsylvania Gazette. It was the most successful newspaper of all of the colonies because it speculated change that was occurring. Other than being the most popular and best around, Ben illustrated and wrote the first political cartoon that was debuted in the newspaper.

Continuing his writing career, Ben wrote a book titled Poor Richard’s Almanac. It was an extremely successful book because it provided people with little puzzles, hints for inside and outside their household, cooking recipes, forecasts of upcoming weather for all of the seasons, and just overall entertainment. After being so successful in writing, Benjamin developed an interest for scientific-like things. He wanted to help make living better for societies and individual people.

Probably one of the most important contributions Benjamin Franklin made would be the complex understanding and new discoveries about electricity. It was not previously believed that lightening was indeed classified as electricity, but Ben proved that theory wrong with a simple experiment. It involved a kite, a key, and a stormy day. Ben went out in the thunder and lightening storm and flew a kite with a key attached. After waiting a while, the key sparked. Because of this occurrence, he proved that lightening was electricity because the metal key conducted the spark that was seen on contact when lightening struck. This provided Ben with a base for helping others and house fires, since it was a common occurrence during this time. He invented a metal rod now called a lightening rod, which protects houses from getting struck by lightening.

Franklin invented many other helpful tools that were available for people living during this time. He created the Franklin stove, which heated houses better and allowed the owners to cut down on their wood use. He invented double-sided glasses called bifocals for people who suffer from presbyopia. It allows you to see distance and it also gives you the ability to read up close with just one pair of glasses, not two. He also invented swimming fins and a flexible urinary catheter. Aside from his fame from his inventions and such, Benjamin Franklin did an amazing job bringing forward new ideas of change for our country that still stands today. His scientific findings proved that new technology has a strong influence on politics and government.

Ben’s first governmental dispute had to do with the new Stamp Act of 1765 that was put in place and passed by the British Parliament. The extra money being made was going towards paying the taxes from the 10,000 troops protecting the frontier of the Appalachian Mountains. The British wanted every single colonist to pay extra money on items such as playing cards, licenses, newspapers, and anything else that was to be printed. This sparked much controversy from the people because it was a ridiculous law. Previous taxes were set on colonial trade in order to balance out the economy, but the Stamp Act was put in place to raise money, so it was extremely opposed in everyone’s eyes. Franklin testified before Parliament and was able to persuade them into appeasing the law.

Only a short time after, Ben began wondering why America was still being diligently controlled by England. He knew that change had to occur in order to progress as a country in the future. He yearned to unite the colonies and become one. His first step was an incident called the Hutchison Affair. It had to do with the British governor of Massachusetts who lied about his loyalty to the colony because he was secretly working on side of the King. All of America was outraged and Benjamin was looked down upon from England.

After joining Continental Congress, Ben Franklin helped write the Declaration of Independence along with John Adams, Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman, and Thomas Jefferson. It officially would announce full independence of America. Franklin would then sail over to Paris, France to persuade the French to sign an Alliance Treaty with America in the year 1778 in order to help them both win the American Revolution. His trip over there was intended to be positive and that is exactly what happened. Not only did he get the French to sign the Treaty of Alliance, he worked to secure money and give the French people feedback about how they are doing everything right and to continue down that path.

The colonists won the war and Benjamin Franklin became the President for the executive council of Pennsylvania. This was an important job that he yet again excelled at. He then assisted in the writing of the Constitution of the United States. That was a document that laid down the new laws for the United States and a solid base for which it would grow and prosper. Although his life ended soon after, Benjamin Franklin was surely a name that would never be forgotten.

Politics and government is one out of the nine forces of history. The political systems have a huge impact on the way society works and how well we can get along with other nations worldwide. Benjamin Franklin had a lot to do with the influence of the government and the stability of the United States. He handled the war properly and maintained a positive relationship with other countries such as France. He impacted history and our future from his events.

Franklin’s passion for arts and new ideas permitted his thoughts to spread rapidly throughout the colonies. Everybody soon knew about Benjamin Franklin and his abilities to make a difference in the lives of the people. From his print shop to his writing of Poor Richard’s Almanac, Ben was influencing everyone around him and literally changing and impacting the future. Along with arts and new ideas, another force that impacts history is the development of science and technology, which Benjamin excelled at greatly. From defining that lightening was electricity to creating better ways for people to live their lives with newer stoves and better catheters, these inventions and discoveries have significantly influenced history and how developed we are today.

World history was shaped because of Benjamin Franklin. He signed multiple important documents that are extremely valuable and much needed in the United States. The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are the documents that started our country. These are all contributing reasons that Benjamin Franklin is considered to be a founding father of the United States.

Ben is one specific individual that is considered to be one of the nine forces that act upon history. History has been shaped and formed in so many ways all because of Ben Franklin. His actions, thoughts, and even mindset was the vivid description of a true American. His intentions were always set out to make life better for American citizens and his goals were completely attainable. He set standards and shaped the political, cultural, and educational life. Without Benjamin, many things we have today would not be possible. Ben Franklin was an outstanding person and looking more into depth about his life and accomplishments, I have a greater ability to understand how these forces act upon history and how history is shaped.


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