Benjamin Franklin

"Lost time is never found again."

Benjamin Franklin quote

Benjamin Franklin, one of the most multifaceted and luminous figures in American history, left an incredible mark on the nascent United States through his ventures as a statesman, scientist, inventor, and writer

Born in 1706, his life spanned a period of dramatic political change and groundbreaking scientific discovery, witnessing the transformation of thirteen disparate colonies into a united republic. 

This Benjamin Franklin timeline delves into the pivotal moments and achievements of Franklin's life, illuminating the vast tapestry of his contributions and the era that molded him.

1706-1721 EARLY YEARS

Young Benjamin Franklin
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"I was a boy of tender years, and had never given any signs of extraordinary genius."

—Benjamin Franklin

1706 — Birth

Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706, in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the tenth son of puritan Josiah Franklin, a soap and candle maker, and Abiah Folger.

1714-1715 — Early Education

Benjamin attended Boston Latin School for two years but had to leave due to financial constraints. 

He continued his education informally, voraciously reading books and practicing writing.

1717-1718 — Apprenticeship

At a young age, Franklin was introduced to the family's candle and soap making business. However, not enjoying that work, he was soon apprenticed to his brother James, a printer, around the age of 12. 

This apprenticeship introduced Benjamin to the world of printing and publishing, and he began writing under pseudonyms for his brother's newspaper, The New-England Courant.

During this time, Franklin's love for reading, writing, and knowledge began to manifest. His apprenticeship with James laid the groundwork for his later ventures in publishing, writing, and his endless pursuit of knowledge.

1719 — Silence Dogood

While working at his brother James's printing shop, Franklin began to submit articles and essays under the pseudonym "Mrs. Silence Dogood" to The New-England Courant. 

These letters were a series of witty and satirical essays that commented on various aspects of colonial life, society, and manners. The writings gained significant attention and applause, though no one, including James, knew the true identity of the author.

1721 — The New-England Courant Controversy

As Benjamin's confidence and skills grew, so did the tensions between him and his brother James. This culminated in disagreements and disputes regarding the content and management of the Courant. 

Under James's leadership, The New-England Courant occasionally published content that was critical of the colonial government. This led to James's arrest in 1721 on charges of "a high Affront" to the government's authority. 

During James's imprisonment, Benjamin, despite being an apprentice, took over the publication and management of the paper.


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"I soon began to take delight in composing little pieces of verse and short essays, which I communicated to the papers under fictitious names. In this way I made several acquaintances among the printers and booksellers, who were very liberal in their encouragement of my productions."

—Benjamin Franklin

1722 — Fleeing to Philadelphia 

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In 1722, Benjamin Franklin left Boston and, after a brief stop in New York—settled in Philadelphia—where he found employment in Samuel Keimer's printing shop and got his first taste of colonial politics.

Flight from Boston

The tumultuous relationship with his brother James reached a breaking point in 1722. 

Bound by a legal apprenticeship, Benjamin took a bold step to escape these constraints. He fled Boston, leaving behind his familial ties and his role at The New-England Courant. 

Arrival in Philadelphia

After a brief stop in New York, Franklin arrived in Philadelphia, a city that would become the backdrop for many of his future accomplishments. 

With just a few coins in his pocket, the young Franklin found himself in the bustling streets of this colonial city, searching for employment in his familiar trade of printing.

Employment at Samuel Keimer's Print Shop

Not long after his arrival in Philadelphia, Franklin found work at Samuel Keimer’s printing shop. 

This employment further honed his skills and introduced him to the city's intellectual circles. 

A Glimpse of Statesmanship

Demonstrating his knack for diplomacy early on, Franklin was sent on a mission to the colonial assembly on behalf of Keimer. 

Although the endeavor was ultimately unsuccessful, it provided him with invaluable insights into the workings of colonial politics.

Experimenting with Vegetarianism

Inspired by books on the subject, Franklin briefly embraced vegetarianism both as a means to save money and for moral considerations.

1723 — Off to London

Portrait of William Keith
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In 1723, Benjamin Franklin solidified his role in Philadelphia's printing industry—garnered the fleeting patronage of Governor William Keith—traveled to London where he integrated into its esteemed printing circles.

Establishing Himself in Philadelphia's Printing Industry

While continuing to work for Samuel Keimer, Franklin quickly made himself indispensable. His expertise not only encompassed the mechanics of printing but also involved editorial duties, showcasing his breadth of skills in the trade.

Governor William Keith's Patronage

Perhaps the most significant connection Franklin made this year was with Sir William Keith, then the Governor of Pennsylvania. 

Impressed by the young printer's talents and ambitions, Keith proposed to set Franklin up in his own printing business. 

Return to Boston

Under the pretense of acquiring printing equipment—sponsored by Keith's promises—Franklin made a brief return to Boston. 

This journey allowed him a short reunion with his family and served as an opportunity to mend fences with his brother James, though tensions remained.

Journey to London

Trusting Keith's assurances of financial backing, Franklin set sail for London to purchase printing equipment. 

Upon arrival, he would soon realize that Keith's promises were empty, leaving the young entrepreneur stranded in a foreign land. 

Engagement with London's Printing Circles

Despite the unexpected circumstances, Franklin found employment at London's prestigious Palmer's printing house. 

Here, he not only honed his craft but also fostered relationships with several figures in the city's vibrant world of print and knowledge.

1724 — Watts’ Printing House

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In 1724, Franklin honed his printing expertise at Watts' in London—immersed himself in its intellectual circles—and chose to return to Philadelphia with Thomas Denham's employment offer.

Work at Watts' Printing House

After his initial stint at Palmer's printing house, Franklin moved on to work for John Watts, another renowned printer in London. This new position allowed Franklin to further refine his skills and gain a deeper understanding of the British printing industry.

Intellectual Growth

Living in one of the great metropolises of the world provided Franklin with access to London's rich intellectual environment. 

He frequented coffee houses, which were the social and intellectual hubs of the time, engaging in discussions and debates that expanded his horizons. 

Encounter with Sir Hans Sloane

Among the eminent figures Franklin met in London, one of the most notable was Sir Hans Sloane, a physician and naturalist who later became the president of the Royal Society. 

Decision to Return to Philadelphia

Though London offered myriad opportunities, Franklin's thoughts veered towards Philadelphia. 

Realizing that he would not receive the promised financial support from Governor Keith to start his own printing business, Franklin made arrangements to return to the colonies. 

This decision was facilitated by a merchant named Thomas Denham, who offered him a position as a clerk and bookkeeper in his Philadelphia-based trading and mercantile business.

1725 — Return to America

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In 1725, Franklin penned a philosophical essay in London—returned to Philadelphia to work in trade with Thomas Denham—rejoined the printing world with Samuel Keimer on a short-lived project.

Final Months in London

The early part of 1725 saw Franklin wrapping up his affairs in London. 

It was during this time that he began formulating his philosophical and practical ideas. Inspired by his intellectual surroundings, he drafted an essay titled "A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain", which argued against the concept of free will and was influenced by Deist ideas.

Return to Philadelphia

By mid-1725, Franklin was back in Philadelphia, employed in the trading and mercantile business of merchant Thomas Denham, who had facilitated his return. 

This venture outside the world of printing gave Franklin insights into the broader economic workings of the colonies.

Tragedy and Transition

Unfortunately, soon after their return to America, Thomas Denham fell ill and passed away. 

This left Franklin once again searching for his footing in Philadelphia. Drawing from his experiences in London and his innate resilience, he decided to revert to the printing trade.

Samuel Keimer & The Universal Instructor

Though he initially sought to distance himself from Samuel Keimer, his former employer, circumstances led Franklin back to Keimer's print shop. 

Here, he played a significant role in producing "The Universal Instructor in All Arts and Sciences, and Pennsylvania Gazette," a combination of an encyclopedia and a newspaper. 

However, this ambitious project soon faltered.

Continued Intellectual Pursuits

Franklin's return to Philadelphia did not dim his intellectual spark. Engaging with local scholars and thinkers, he began to establish himself not only as a printer but also as an intellectual force in the colonies.


Benjamin Franklin in his print shop
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"Diligence is the mother of good luck."

—Benjamin Franklin

1726 — The Junto Club

Benjamin Franklin's Junto Club
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In 1726, Benjamin Franklin founded the influential Junto Club—engaged in introspective journaling that led to his famed 13 virtues—and faced tensions with Samuel Keimer.

Founding of the Junto Club

Drawing inspiration from the intellectual milieu of London's coffee houses, Franklin established the Junto Club in 1726

This was a group of like-minded young men who met weekly to discuss philosophical, political, and scientific topics. 

The Junto, also referred to as the Leather Apron Club, became a cornerstone of Philadelphia's intellectual life and played a role in fostering various public projects in the coming years.

The 13 Virtues

Franklin began his practice of keeping a journal during a voyage back to Philadelphia from London. 

In this journal, he contemplated his past errors and mapped out a plan for personal improvement. This later evolved into his famous 13 virtues, a structured method for self-betterment, though the complete list would be finalized in subsequent years.

Collaboration with James Ralph

During his time in London, Franklin had formed a close friendship with James Ralph, an aspiring writer. 

In 1726, their collaboration continued, with Franklin offering critiques and suggestions for Ralph's work. 

Conflict with Samuel Keimer

Despite initially rejoining Keimer's print shop upon his return to Philadelphia, tensions arose between the two. 

Keimer's erratic behavior and Franklin's growing ambitions and capabilities strained their professional relationship. 

This rift further motivated Franklin to contemplate establishing his own printing enterprise.

1727 — Joining the Freemasons

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In 1727, Benjamin Franklin mourned the loss of his brother James—witnessed the end of Keimer's printing business—pioneered the Library Company of Philadelphia—joined the Masonic order, and began laying the foundations for his own printing venture.

Death of James Franklin

Early in the year, Franklin's older brother, James Franklin, passed away. 

James had been instrumental in Benjamin's early training in the printing business in Boston. 

Despite their tumultuous relationship, his passing undoubtedly had an emotional impact on Benjamin.

The Disbanding of Samuel Keimer's Business

Samuel Keimer's print shop, where Franklin had once worked, ceased its operations in 1727. 

This event created a vacuum in Philadelphia's printing scene, paving the way for Franklin to consider establishing his own enterprise.

The First Public Library

One of the Junto Club's first major initiatives, inspired by Franklin's proposition, was the establishment of the Library Company of Philadelphia

This wasn't a public library in the modern sense but a subscription library, allowing members to pool resources to purchase books.

Initiation into Freemasonry

In 1727, Franklin was initiated into the local Masonic lodge, St. John's Lodge in Philadelphia. 

This association not only widened his social network but also reinforced his beliefs in Enlightenment principles, fraternity, and civic duty.

Growing Prominence as a Printer

By the end of the year, Franklin was making concerted efforts to establish his independent printing operation, alongside a few business partners. 

This venture would lay the groundwork for his forthcoming success as a printer and publisher.

1728 — Launching the Print Shop

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In 1728, Benjamin Franklin inaugurated his own printing shop—enhanced the "Pennsylvania Gazette," —was introduced to George Whitefield—devised a phonetic alphabet—and continued fostering intellectual and civic ties through the Junto Club.

Launching His Own Printing Shop

One of the most significant milestones for Franklin this year was the establishment of his own printing shop alongside his partner, Hugh Meredith. 

Despite financial constraints and the challenges of starting a new business, the duo managed to set up a budding enterprise that would soon gain prominence in the colonies.

Printing the 'Pennsylvania Gazette’

By the latter part of the year, Franklin took over the printing of the "Pennsylvania Gazette" from Samuel Keimer, his previous employer. 

Under Franklin's stewardship, the newspaper gained a reputation for its quality content, reflecting Franklin's sharp editorial skills and keen understanding of public sentiment.

George Whitefield's Influence

Though their more significant interactions would occur in later years, 1728 was likely when Franklin first became aware of the evangelical preacher George Whitefield, whose sermons were gaining attention in the colonies. 

Whitefield's influence would play a pivotal role in Franklin's religious views and their subsequent collaborations.

Devising a Phonetic Alphabet

Demonstrating his ever-curious mind and interest in language, Franklin began contemplating a new system of spelling for the English language. 

Though his phonetic alphabet never gained widespread acceptance, it showcased his constant drive for innovation and reform.

Continued Association with the Junto Club

The Junto Club continued its active role in Philadelphia's intellectual and civic scene. 

Through the club, Franklin furthered his relationships with several notable figures, including Thomas Godfrey, a mathematician and inventor, and Dr. Thomas Bond, with whom he would collaborate on several public health projects in later years.

1729 — Advocacy of Paper Money, Education & Religious Toleration

fiat currancy
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In 1729, Benjamin Franklin solidified his media presence through the "Pennsylvania Gazette,"—influenced colonial economic thought with his writings on paper currency—advocated for educational reforms and religious tolerance—engaged with political elites like Governor Patrick Gordon—and mentored emerging printers.

A Modest Enquiry into the Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency

Recognizing the economic challenges of the colonies, particularly the need for a stable paper currency, Franklin wrote and published this influential pamphlet. 

His astute observations on the colonial economy and the argument for issuing paper money not only showcased his economic acumen but also had a significant impact on monetary policy in Pennsylvania and other colonies.

Support for New Educational Initiatives

As the Junto Club continued its advocacy for community betterment, Franklin became involved in initiatives to promote education in Philadelphia

Interaction with Governor Patrick Gordon

Franklin's growing prominence in Philadelphia led to interactions with political figures, most notably with Patrick Gordon, the then Governor of Pennsylvania. 

Their discussions likely revolved around the state's economic and infrastructural needs.

Debate on Religious Toleration

The year 1729 also saw Franklin embroiled in debates surrounding religious freedom and toleration. 

He used the "Pennsylvania Gazette" as a platform to champion the cause of religious diversity, emphasizing the importance of coexistence in the young American colonies.

Mentorship of Young Apprentices

Recognizing the value of mentorship from his own life experiences, Franklin began taking on apprentices in his printing shop. 

One of the most notable among them was James Parker, who would later become a successful printer in his own right and collaborate with Franklin on various ventures.

1730 — Marriage

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In 1730, Benjamin Franklin married Deborah Read—fortified his printing enterprise—led the Junto Club in civic advancements—defended press freedom through "Apology for Printers,"—navigated professional rivalries with peers like Andrew Bradford—and championed public infrastructure projects.

Marriage to Deborah Read

On September 1, 1730, Benjamin Franklin entered into a common-law marriage with Deborah Read

The duo had known each other since Franklin's early days in Philadelphia. 

Their union would produce three children and last until Deborah's death in 1774. 

Their partnership extended beyond family matters—Deborah actively assisted in Franklin's printing business, managing the shop during his many absences.

The Franklin Print Shop Expands

The Franklin printing enterprise began to solidify its reputation. 

With a combination of job printing, books, and the continued success of the "Pennsylvania Gazette," Franklin's shop became a focal point for print media in the colonies.

Civic Involvement with the Junto Club

The Junto Club, under Franklin's leadership, continued to be an influential force in Philadelphia. 

Its members, comprising local artisans, tradesmen, and thinkers, worked collaboratively on proposals to improve infrastructure, education, and public welfare.

Apology for Printers

Franklin, ever the advocate for freedom of the press, penned the "Apology for Printers" in 1730. 

In this piece, he defended the role of printers in society and argued against censorship, emphasizing the importance of diverse viewpoints and the printer's neutrality.

Interactions with Andrew Bradford

As competitors in the printing business, Franklin's relationship with Andrew Bradford was a complex one. 

While they often vied for the same audience, they also shared a mutual respect for each other's work. 

1730 saw continued professional interactions between the two, with Bradford's "American Mercury" newspaper being a key competitor to Franklin's "Pennsylvania Gazette."

Advocacy for Public Projects

Franklin's vision for a better Philadelphia found voice in various public projects this year. 

From improved street lighting to the paving of roads, he frequently used the "Pennsylvania Gazette" to propose and rally support for civic improvements.

William Maugridge

A notable member of the Junto Club and a close associate of Franklin was William Maugridge, a Quaker merchant and thinker. 

Their intellectual camaraderie was evident in the Junto meetings, where they often discussed scientific and philosophical matters.

Fighting Counterfeiters 

Franklin, aware of the rampant counterfeiting issue, began pioneering anti-counterfeiting techniques in his printing of paper currency for New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, introducing intricate mazes of fine leafy patterns to thwart counterfeiters.

1731 — The Library Company of Philadelphia

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In 1731, Franklin spearheaded the establishment of America's pioneering subscription library—fortified his printing empire—deepened intellectual exchanges with figures like Thomas Godfrey—championed Philadelphia's urban enhancements—and initiated collaborations with Louis Timothee.

Founding of the Library Company of Philadelphia

One of the crowning achievements of the year was the formal establishment of the Library Company of Philadelphia. 

The brainchild of Franklin and the Junto Club, it became America's first subscription library, serving as a model for future libraries in the colonies. 

Engagement with Thomas Godfrey

A mathematician and inventor, Thomas Godfrey was a regular at Junto Club meetings. 

In 1731, discussions between Godfrey and Franklin, particularly concerning scientific and mathematical subjects, reached new depths, reflecting the intellectual vigor of the age.

Continued Advocacy for Public Works

Franklin's passion for Philadelphia's urban development persisted. 

His articles and proposals advocating for cleaner streets, improved public sanitation, and efficient street lighting became regular features in the "Pennsylvania Gazette."

Expansion of the Printing Business

Recognizing the potential of expanding his reach, Franklin began exploring partnerships and opportunities beyond Pennsylvania. 

While the significant fruits of these explorations would manifest in later years, 1731 marked the beginning of his ambition to establish a network of print shops throughout the colonies.

Collaboration with Louis Timothee

A printer by trade, Louis Timothee would in later years become a crucial business partner for Franklin. 

Their initial interactions, likely in 1731, laid the groundwork for future ventures, particularly the establishment of print shops in other parts of colonial America.

1732 — Poor Richard’s Almanac 

Poor Richard's Almanac
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In 1732, Franklin launched the widely acclaimed "Poor Richard's Almanack,"—expanded his printing influence to the southern colonies with Louis Timothee—championed public health initiatives—and engaged in intellectual discourse with James Logan.

Inception of "Poor Richard's Almanack"

Perhaps the most defining achievement of the year, Franklin began publishing "Poor Richard's Almanack" under the pseudonym Richard Saunders. 

The almanac, a blend of weather forecasts, proverbs, poems, and astronomical and astrological information, became exceedingly popular. 

Its witty aphorisms and practical advice cemented Franklin's reputation as both a publisher and a sage.

Collaboration with Louis Timothee

Building on their initial interactions from the previous year, Franklin entered into a partnership with Louis Timothee in South Carolina. 

This collaboration led to the establishment of the South Carolina Gazette, expanding Franklin's printing empire and influence to the southern colonies.

Public Health Advocacy

Recognizing the importance of public health and hygiene, Franklin penned several articles in 1732, advocating for cleaner streets and better waste management. 

This was a precursor to his later and more expansive civic projects, laying the groundwork for Philadelphia's evolution into a modern city.

James Logan

An influential figure in Pennsylvania politics and a noted intellectual, Logan was among Franklin's acquaintances. 

Their interactions in 1732 revolved around scientific discourse, politics, and the shared vision of improving Philadelphia's stature in the colonies.

1733 — Freedom of the Press Backlash

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In 1733, Franklin's "Poor Richard's Almanack" affirmed its popularity with a second edition—he faced journalistic controversies emphasizing the value of press freedom—advocated for Philadelphia's urban enhancements—and initiated his relationship with the influential preacher George Whitefield.

Second Edition of "Poor Richard's Almanack"

Following the success of the initial publication, Franklin released the second edition of "Poor Richard's Almanack." 

Embodying the Protestant work ethic, Benjamin Franklin emphasized industry, frugality, and diligence as virtues for personal and societal prosperity.

Publication Controversies

The freedom of the press, a value Franklin held dear, was tested this year. 

He faced backlash for some of the content in the "Pennsylvania Gazette," reinforcing his commitment to journalistic integrity and the importance of free expression in the burgeoning democratic ethos of the colonies.

Civic Projects in Philadelphia

Ever the public servant, Franklin continued his advocacy for urban development. 

He was instrumental in promoting various infrastructural projects, including street paving and the introduction of better street lighting.

Collaboration with George Whitefield

Although their significant interactions would peak in the coming years, 1733 marked the beginning of Franklin's acquaintance with George Whitefield, an influential evangelist of the Great Awakening

This relationship would eventually lead to publishing partnerships and philosophical exchanges on religion and morality.

1734 — Grandmaster 

Benjamin Franklin as a Grandmaster
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In 1734, Franklin deepened ties with the Freemasons—culminating in his election as Grandmaster and the printing of America's first Masonic book—expanded his printing empire— and fostered collaborations with George Whitefield.

The Masonic Lodge

Franklin, already initiated into the Freemasons a few years prior, became more actively involved in the St. John's Masonic Lodge in Philadelphia. 

By the end of 1734, he was elected as the Grandmaster, reflecting his prominence within the fraternal order.

Printing of Masonic Book

Leveraging his role in the Freemasons and his printing prowess, Franklin published "The Constitutions of the Free-Masons," making it the first Masonic book printed in America. 

Expansion of Printing Operations

Demonstrating his characteristic ambition and foresight, Franklin further extended his printing operations. 

His reputation as a premier printer in the colonies attracted partnerships, further cementing the Franklin printing brand's reach.

Printing Sermons

The relationship between Franklin and the charismatic preacher George Whitefield deepened. 

While their spiritual views diverged, a mutual respect led to collaborative efforts, particularly with Franklin printing some of Whitefield's sermons and journals.

1735 — Health Challenges

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In 1735, Franklin grappled with personal health challenges—was moved by the precedent-setting Zenger trial defending press freedom—and expanded his multifaceted printing operations.


1735 was a year when Franklin, typically in robust health, faced bouts of illness. 

It was during this year that he contracted pleurisy, an ailment that would occasionally recur in his later life. 

This episode prompted reflections on health and self-care, themes that would appear in his writings and personal letters.

Defense of Peter Zenger

While not directly involved, Franklin was certainly influenced by the trial of John Peter Zenger, a New York-based printer. 

Zenger was acquitted of seditious libel against the colonial governor, setting a precedent for freedom of the press, a cause Franklin championed throughout his life.

Printing Ventures and Business Growth

Franklin's reputation as one of the premier printers in the colonies grew stronger. 

The breadth of works emerging from his press varied from religious tracts to government announcements, showcasing the versatility and reach of his operations.

1736 — The Union Fire Company

Benjamin Franklin, Union Fire Company
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In 1736, Franklin's multifaceted contributions to Philadelphia included founding America's inaugural volunteer firefighting unit—grappling with the profound grief of losing his young son— and advancing his political and civic roles in the Pennsylvania Assembly.

Establishment of the Union Fire Company

Recognizing the pressing need for organized firefighting in the rapidly growing city of Philadelphia, Franklin played a pivotal role in founding the Union Fire Company

Often dubbed as the "Bucket Brigade," this initiative was America's first volunteer firefighting organization, highlighting Franklin's commitment to community welfare.

Loss of Son, Francis Folger Franklin

On a deeply personal note, 1736 brought profound grief to Franklin with the loss of his four-year-old son, Francis Folger Franklin, often affectionately called "Franky," to smallpox. 

This tragedy would later influence Franklin's strong advocacy for smallpox inoculation.

Leadership in the Pennsylvania Assembly

Franklin's political influence grew as he became the Clerk of the Pennsylvania Assembly. 

This position offered him a platform to drive various initiatives for the common good.

1737 — Postmaster of Philadelphia

Benjamin Franklin delivering the mail
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In 1737, Franklin's dynamic influence in Philadelphia deepened as he became Postmaster—interacted with eminent figures like Cadwallader Colden, and promoted fire safety.

Appointment as Postmaster of Philadelphia

In a significant advancement in Franklin's public career, he was appointed the Postmaster of Philadelphia in 1737. 

This role not only augmented his influence but also facilitated more efficient mail services, laying the groundwork for his later reforms in the colonial postal system.

Engagement with Cadwallader Colden

While George Whitefield and James Logan remained pivotal figures in Franklin's circle, this year also saw deeper engagement with Cadwallader Colden, an eminent physician, botanist, and lieutenant governor of New York. 

Their discussions encompassed a wide array of topics, including natural philosophy and colonial politics.

Fire Safety Initiatives

Building on the momentum of establishing the Union Fire Company the previous year, Franklin continued to champion fire safety. 

He advocated for better construction practices to prevent fires and emphasized the need for more organized firefighting efforts.

1738 — Interest in Science

Benjamin Franklin as a Scientist
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In 1738, Franklin delved deeper into scientific explorations, particularly electricity—maintained the esteemed "Poor Richard's Almanack,"— and innovated postal routes as Postmaster.

Scientific Inquiries

Ever curious, Franklin's scientific pursuits gained momentum. 

His burgeoning interest in electricity, although not yet at its pinnacle, began to manifest through experiments and dialogues with fellow thinkers.

His experiments would lead to future modern invention like the lightbulb and uninterruptible power supply systems.

Publication of "Poor Richard's Almanack" 1738 Edition

The enduring popularity of Franklin's Almanack was evident in the 1738 edition. 

Enriched with its characteristic blend of humor (kind of like a Papa Smurf character), practical advice, and astute observations, it remained a staple in many colonial households.

Expansion of Postal Routes

As Postmaster of Philadelphia, Franklin oversaw the expansion and improvement of mail routes, ensuring more efficient communication between the colonies. 

This initiative was a precursor to his broader reforms in the colonial postal system in the years to come.

1739 — The First Great Awakening

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In 1739, Franklin deepened his ties with evangelist George Whitefield during the First Great Awakening—championed firefighting initiatives—and introduced pioneering postal reforms.

Great Awakening & George Whitefield

Franklin's relationship with the evangelist George Whitefield reached new heights. 

During Whitefield's revival tour in America, Franklin's publishing house printed several of his sermons, and the two men engaged in many philosophical and theological conversations. 

Franklin also wrote about Whitefield's extraordinary ability to address massive crowds, highlighting his speaking prowess.

Expansion of Firefighting Initiatives

Following the creation of the Union Fire Company, Franklin's advocacy for organized firefighting continued to resonate. 

His writings spurred the establishment of more volunteer fire companies, fortifying a community-based approach to fire prevention and control.

Postal Service Improvements

In his role as Postmaster of Philadelphia, Franklin introduced innovative ideas for improving postal routes and services. 

His meticulous attention to efficiency and reliability laid the groundwork for subsequent reforms in the American postal system.

1740 — War of Jenkins’ Ear

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In 1740, amidst the backdrop of the War of Jenkins' Ear, Franklin championed educational initiatives—networked with colonial luminaries—and further expanded his pivotal role in the publishing world.

War of Jenkins' Ear Effects

Though not directly involved, Franklin was undoubtedly affected by the larger geopolitical landscape. 

The War of Jenkins' Ear between Britain and Spain had ramifications in the colonies, influencing trade, politics, and public sentiment.

Proposal for the Academy

One of Franklin's enduring legacies, the seeds for the University of Pennsylvania, began to germinate. 

While the academy's foundation would come a few years later, Franklin's advocacy and groundwork for an institution of higher learning gained traction in 1740.

Notable Personalities

In addition to George Whitefield, Franklin's circle in 1740 encompassed a myriad of luminaries. Continued interactions with Cadwallader Colden, James Logan, and others enriched Franklin's intellectual landscape.

Expanding Publishing Ventures

Franklin's printing business flourished, and his reputation as a leading publisher in the colonies was consolidated. This platform allowed him not only to disseminate ideas but also to shape public discourse.

1741 — The Printing Shop Continues to Expand

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In 1741, amidst the backdrop of the War of Jenkins' Ear—Franklin's prolific printing endeavors—leadership in the Junto Club—and endeavors to refine the postal system underscored his multifaceted contributions to Philadelphia and the broader American colonial tapestry.

The War of Jenkins' Ear & Broader Conflicts

The ongoing war between Britain and Spain continued to cast its shadow on the American colonies. 

As a prominent figure, Franklin was privy to and commented on the wider implications of these geopolitical events, especially how they affected trade and intercolonial relations.

Publication Endeavors

Franklin's printing business was in full stride. Beyond the continuing success of "Poor Richard's Almanack", he printed a variety of works, showcasing his commitment to the dissemination of knowledge and diverse ideas.

The Junto Club is Flourishing

Under Franklin's influence, the Junto Club remained a vital nexus of intellectual discourse and civic activism in Philadelphia. 

Its engagements this year were diverse, ranging from scientific discussions to societal betterment projects.

Broadening Communication

As Postmaster, Franklin's endeavors to improve the postal system were ongoing. 

Enhancements in routes, efficiency, and reliability were hallmarks of his tenure.

1742 — The Franklin Stove

The Franklin Stove
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In 1742, Franklin invents the Franklin Stove and continues his growing scientific inquiries.

The Pennsylvania Fireplace

This year witnessed one of Franklin's most practical and enduring inventionsthe Franklin stove, also known as the Pennsylvania Fireplace. 

Designed to provide more heat with less smoke, this invention revolutionized home heating, highlighting Franklin's prowess in blending science with practicality.

Scientific Curiosity

Preparations and groundwork for Franklin's imminent investigations into electricity were underway. 

His insatiable quest for knowledge saw him engage with various scientific paradigms and discussions.

1743 — The American Philosophical Society

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In 1743, Franklin's multifaceted endeavors spanned the foundation of the influential American Philosophical Society—writings on education—meteorological insights—literary contributions marked by wit—and rich correspondences with leading thinkers.

The American Philosophical Society is Founded

Franklin's visionary zeal led to the founding of the American Philosophical Society, aiming to promote useful knowledge in the colonies. 

This institution, inspired by the Royal Society of London, would become a pivotal hub for the American Enlightenment, drawing scholars, scientists, and thinkers.

Proposal Concerning the English Tongue

Franklin penned "A Proposal for Promoting Useful Knowledge among the British Plantations in America," underscoring his commitment to education and the dissemination of knowledge.

Meteorological Observations

Demonstrating his wide-ranging scientific curiosity, Franklin began observations on the northeasterly progression of storms, challenging prevailing notions and laying the groundwork for future understandings in meteorology.

"Poor Richard's Almanack" & "The Drinker's Dictionary"

In addition to the anticipated publication of his Almanack, Franklin amusingly compiled "The Drinker's Dictionary" within its pages, listing numerous euphemisms for drunkenness, showcasing his humor and astute observations of society.

Evolving Relationship with George Whitefield

The bond between Franklin and Whitefield continued to strengthen, with the former publishing more of Whitefield's sermons and writings. 

Their exchanges—though rooted in mutual respect—often touched upon the intersections of science, faith, and society.

1744 — Printing Currency 

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In 1744, Benjamin Franklin's multifarious engagements encompassed significant political assignments like the Kingsborough Scheme—deepening explorations into electricity—rich correspondences with eminent thinkers—fervent advocacy for Pennsylvania's defense—and an emerging political stance on colonial taxation.

The Kingsborough Scheme

As tensions brewed between the French and English, Franklin was entrusted with a mission: printing Pennsylvania's paper currency to fund defense measures. 

Continued Electrical Experiments

While his iconic kite experiment was yet to take place, Franklin's fascination with electricity intensified. 

His correspondence with fellow intellectuals brimmed with insights, laying the groundwork for his forthcoming breakthroughs.

Scientists like Otto von Guerick, laid foundational groundwork that would later inspire Benjamin Franklin's own investigations into electricity and atmospheric pressure in the 18th century.

Correspondence with Peter Collinson

A fruitful exchange began between Franklin and the British botanist and Fellow of the Royal Society, Peter Collinson. 

These letters often touched upon scientific inquiries, particularly electrical experiments.

Advocacy for Defense

As geopolitical tensions escalated, Franklin became a vocal advocate for the defense of Pennsylvania. His writings and efforts underscored the urgency of military preparedness.

Debate over Proprietary Tax

Franklin became embroiled in the debate surrounding Pennsylvania's proprietary family's exemption from taxation. 

This issue marked a crucial juncture in Franklin's evolving political views and his eventual advocacy for colonial rights.

1745 — King George’s War

King George's War
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In 1745, amid the backdrop of King George's War, Benjamin Franklin emerged as a forceful advocate for colonial defense—and sustained his commitment to key intellectual institutions in Philadelphia.

Defensive Measures & Military Advocacy

As the broader context of the War of the Austrian Succession played out, with the North American theater known as King George's War, Franklin's emphasis on defense grew more pronounced. 

He proposed methods for fortifying Philadelphia, underscoring the need for colonial preparedness amidst global conflicts.

"Plain Truth" Publication

In response to the threat of French and Spanish privateers on the Delaware River, Franklin penned "Plain Truth," advocating for the establishment of a voluntary militia in Pennsylvania

This pamphlet cemented his position as a leading voice in colonial defense matters.

American Philosophical Society Activities

Franklin's pivotal role in the society persisted, fostering an environment of scholarly collaboration, debate, and discovery in Philadelphia.

1746 — The Electrical Club

Benjamin Franklin experimenting with electricity
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In 1746, Benjamin Franklin's pioneering forays into electrical science reached a watershed moment—underpinned by collaborations with fellow intellectuals and his introduction to the Leyden jar.

The Watershed in Electrical Exploration

1746 stands out as a pivotal year in Franklin's electrical experiments. 

Through a series of trials, he demonstrated the principle of conservation of charge, and the notion that electricity was a "single fluid" with positive and negative charges. 

Introduction to the Leyden Jar

Franklin was introduced to the Leyden jar, a device that could store static electricity. 

His subsequent experiments with it would lead to some of his most famous discoveries in the realm of electricity.

Engagement with Ebenezer Kinnersley

A fellow enthusiast of electrical experiments, Kinnersley and Franklin embarked on collaborative investigations. 

Their shared insights would contribute significantly to the understanding of electricity during this era.

Establishment of an "Electrical Club"

In Philadelphia, Franklin created a group of like-minded individuals keen on exploring the mysteries of electricity. 

Their collective endeavors would further the boundaries of contemporary electrical understanding.

1747 — The Pennsylvania State Militia

Benjamin Franklin's Militia
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In 1747, Franklin's multifaceted endeavors spanned from spearheading defense initiatives, like the Philadelphia militia movement—to deepening electrical research and grounding experiments.

Founding of the Pennsylvania State Militia

Stemming from his efforts in defense advocacy, Franklin was instrumental in creating the Pennsylvania militia. 

This militia would later serve as a precursor to the Pennsylvania National Guard.

Electrical Experiments Intensify

Continuing from the previous year, Franklin's electrical investigations became more advanced. 

Collaborating with the likes of Ebenezer Kinnersley, Franklin began discerning the difference between conductors and insulators.

Experiments with Grounding

This year marked Franklin's observation that a pointed iron rod, when grounded, could draw lightning away from a building—a precursor to his later development of the lightning rod.


Portrait of Benjamin Franklin
© History Oasis

"The great end of science is to serve man."

—Benjamin Franklin

1748 — Semi-Retirement

In a significant personal shift, a 42-year-old Franklin, stepping back from active printing management, channeled his energies into deepening scientific explorations, especially in electricity—while maintaining rich intellectual exchanges—continuing publishing ventures—exploring land speculation—engaging with natural wonders alongside Bartram—and staying attuned to the wider geopolitical shifts heralded by the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.

Partial Retirement

One of the most momentous decisions of Franklin's life transpired this year: his partial retirement from the printing business. 

Aged 42, he transferred the active management of his printing house to his partner, David Hall, allowing him greater leisure for scientific pursuits and public service.

Scientific Explorations Deepen

Freed from the daily demands of his business, Franklin intensified his experiments with electricity, producing results that would eventually earn him international acclaim. 

His observations on grounding and the properties of electrical transmission would form the foundations for many modern electrical theories.

Correspondence with Peter Collinson

The intellectual exchange between Franklin and Collinson continued to flourish. 

Letters from this year primarily revolved around electrical discoveries, but also encompassed broader themes of colonial life and governance.

Publication Ventures

Though partially retired, Franklin's passion for the printed word remained undiminished. 

He continued to oversee the publication of various works, including editions of "Poor Richard's Almanack" and other periodicals.

Land Speculation

This year marked an increase in Franklin's interest in land deals and speculation, particularly in the frontier regions. 

His endeavors in this arena reflected the broader colonial inclination towards westward expansion.

John Bartram & the World of Botany

The perennial bond between these two polymaths persisted, with exchanges revolving around the wonders of the natural world, particularly the diverse flora of the American landscape.

The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle

While Franklin was not a direct signatory or negotiator, the treaty's ramifications were felt across the colonies. 

Its implications, particularly concerning colonial borders and European geopolitics, would inevitably involve Franklin in subsequent diplomatic endeavors.

1749 — Positive & Negative

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In a year marked by educational innovation, Franklin proposed a foundational blueprint for what would become the University of Pennsylvania—further solidified his stature in electrical science by defining "positive" and "negative" charges—and was potentially linked to the publication of the contested "An Historical Review of Pennsylvania."

Proposal for an Academy

Foremost amongst Franklin's achievements this year was his "Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania", a seminal document that would lead to the foundation of the Academy of Philadelphia, the predecessor of the University of Pennsylvania. 

Franklin's vision for a comprehensive education system set the groundwork for future American institutions of higher learning.

Postive & Negative Charges

Franklin's reputation as a pioneering scientist in the field of electricity grew stronger. 

This year, he described the "positive" and "negative" charges, terms we still use today, and continued his exploration into the mysteries of electricity.

Publication of "An Historical Review of Pennsylvania"

While the exact authorship remains a topic of debate among historians, this work, published in 1759, is often associated with Franklin's press and possibly his editorial guidance.

1750 — Proposal for The Lightning Rod

Lightning Rod
© History Oasis

In a pivotal year for electrical science, Franklin envisaged the now-famous kite experiment to demonstrate lightning's electrical essence and introduced the groundbreaking concept of the lightning rod in a letter to Peter Collinson—solidifying his legacy as an innovative mind in the field.

Proposal for the Kite Experiment 

Franklin's foray into the domain of electricity reached new heights. 

He proposed the groundbreaking kite experiment to prove the electrical nature of lightning, an experiment that would be carried out in subsequent years and bolster his reputation as a pioneering scientist.

Letter on the Newly Invented Lightning Rod

His fascination with electricity led him to pen a letter to Peter Collinson detailing the protective uses of the lightning rod, a revolutionary concept for safeguarding buildings from lightning strikes.

1751 — The First Public Hospital in Colonial America

First Hospital in USA
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In a year marked by civic initiatives and intellectual output, Franklin co-founded Pennsylvania's first public hospital—released an influential edition of his work on electricity that garnered European acclaim—delved into groundbreaking demographic studies—and navigated crucial interactions with Thomas Penn, playing an instrumental role in shaping the colony's trajectory.

Founding of Pennsylvania Hospital

Together with Dr. Thomas Bond, Franklin championed the establishment of the Pennsylvania Hospital, the first public hospital in the colonies

It was a testament to his enduring commitment to public service and welfare.

"Experiments and Observations on Electricity"

This year marked the publication of the third edition of this seminal work. 

The volume, which would be circulated extensively in Europe, particularly in England and France, solidified Franklin's reputation as a leading scientific mind of his age.

Advancements in Population Studies

Franklin wrote and published his observations on the increase of mankind and the peopling of countries, providing profound insights into demographic shifts and their implications.

Thomas Penn

The delicate dance of politics and administration often brought Franklin into discussions with Thomas Penn. Their interactions, though sometimes charged, were pivotal in shaping Pennsylvania's direction.

Population Prediction

Benjamin Franklin pens his famous Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind predicting that the American population would surpass the English in the coming years.

1752 — The Famous Kite Experiment

© History Oasis

In a year of scientific feats and societal shifts—Franklin's landmark kite experiment validated the electrical properties of lightning—leading to the practical development of the lightning rod—while his election to the Pennsylvania Assembly highlighted his rising political stature—and amidst his diverse intellectual endeavors like producing an ephemeris—he wittily commented on the significant transition to the Gregorian calendar. 

Kite Experiment

Most emblematic of this year was Franklin's audacious kite experiment, a venture into the throes of a thunderstorm to demonstrate the electrical nature of lightning. 

With a key and a kite, he not only substantiated his hypothesis but also illuminated pathways for future electrical research.

Lightning Rod Development

Stemming from his electrical experiments, Franklin's design and promotion of the lightning rod as a means to protect structures from lightning strikes gained prominence. 

This innovation represented a confluence of science and practical utility, emblematic of Franklin's approach.

Electoral Victory in Philadelphia

Demonstrating his enduring appeal and influence, Franklin was elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly, signaling a heightening of his political influence.

Ephemeris Production

Demonstrating his ever-diverse interests, Franklin also engaged in producing an ephemeris, marking astronomical events for the year, a testament to his broad scientific inclinations.

Transition to the Gregorian Calendar

It's essential to note that 1752 witnessed a significant temporal shift. 

Under the Calendar Act of 1750, Britain and its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar, effectively losing 11 days in September 1752. 

Franklin, with his knack for wit, remarked on the change, reflecting the broader societal response to this temporal realignment.

Flexible Silver Catheter

Franklin designed a flexible urinary catheter for his older brother John, improving upon the rigid designs of the time and contributing a compassionate invention to the medical field.

1753 — Postmaster General

Benjamin Franklin as Postmaster General
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In a year marked by heightened responsibilities and recognition, Franklin's appointment as joint Postmaster General showcased his expanding administrative role—while his involvement in the territorial disputes over the Ohio River Valley and diplomatic meetings in Carlisle underscored his strategic importance in colonial diplomacy—all against the backdrop of international accolades like the Copley Medal.

Joint Postmaster General Appointment

A significant elevation in Franklin's administrative roles was his appointment alongside William Hunter as joint Postmaster General for the colonies. 

This position would not only enhance the efficiency of postal routes but also further entrench Franklin's influence in colonial affairs.

Franklin & the Ohio River Valley

The year saw increasing tensions over the Ohio River Valley. 

Recognizing the importance of these lands, the British Crown sought Franklin's expertise and connections to assist with diplomatic efforts among the native tribes.

Diplomatic Journey to Carlisle

Franklin, along with other commissioners, met with representatives of the Six Nations in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in efforts to cement alliances and navigate the complexities of territorial disputes.

Awards from the Royal Society

For his groundbreaking experiments on electricity, Franklin was awarded the Copley Medal by the Royal Society in London, solidifying his international reputation as a leading scientist of his time.

The Odometer  

Franklin devised an odometer to assist with his duties in postal route efficiency, marking an early endeavor into measuring distance traveled by a vehicle.

1754 — Join, or Die

In a year pivotal for colonial collaboration and defense, the Albany Congress emerged as a centerpiece of deliberations—where Franklin's leadership was showcased through his iconic "Join, or Die" cartoon and the prescient Albany Plan of Union—meanwhile, his interactions with emerging figures like George Washington and debates with Thomas Penn over Pennsylvania's security highlighted the complexities of colonial governance and defense in an era shadowed by mounting external threats.

Albany Congress

A hallmark of this year, the Albany Congress convened representatives from several colonies to discuss defense and Native American relations. 

Franklin, representing Pennsylvania, was at the heart of these discussions.

"Join, or Die" Cartoon

In a feat of influential visual rhetoric, Franklin's political cartoon titled "Join, or Die" was published, portraying segmented colonies that must unite for survival. 

Originally designed with the Albany Congress in mind, it later became a rallying image for colonial unity against British rule.

Albany Plan of Union

Franklin's visionary proposal, the Albany Plan, aimed to unite the colonies under a single federal council, ensuring collective defense and governance. 

Though not adopted, it presaged ideas that would eventually shape the U.S. Constitution.

Engagements with George Washington

In this year, the young George Washington's military engagements in the Ohio Valley brought him to the attention of leading colonial figures, including Franklin

Their paths would cross multiple times in subsequent years, forging a relationship of mutual respect.

Thomas Penn

As the proprietor of Pennsylvania, Penn's deliberations with Franklin over the colony's governance and defense, especially given the looming French threat, were of paramount significance.

Debate on Colonial Defense

As tensions heightened, Franklin championed the need for a militia for Pennsylvania's defense, clashing with proprietary interests that resisted such a move. 


Franklin championed the idea of the rattlesnake as a symbol of American resistance and vigilance, a notion that would later be incorporated into revolutionary iconography, though the bald eagle would ultimately be chosen as the national emblem.

Later the Gadsden Flag would use the Rattlesnake in it’s design. 

1755 — Braddock’s Expedition

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In a year marked by military challenges, Franklin's multifaceted involvement was evident: from his logistical support during Braddock's doomed Ohio Valley campaign to his instrumental role in the passage of the Pennsylvania Defense Act and the subsequent formation of the Pennsylvania militia.

The Failed Braddock's Expedition

This year witnessed the ill-fated campaign of British General Edward Braddock in the Ohio Valley. 

Franklin, leveraging his logistical acumen, assisted Braddock by procuring wagons and supplies for the expedition, a task that underscored his influence and network within the colonies.

Pennsylvania Defense Act

The escalating threat from French and Native American alliances led to the passage of the Pennsylvania Defense Act. Franklin's fervent advocacy for the colony's defense played a pivotal role in shaping the provisions of this legislation.

Establishment of Pennsylvania Militia

Arising from the urgent need for defense, and with Franklin's staunch backing, the Pennsylvania Assembly created a militia. 

1756 — Protecting the Frontier

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Amidst intensifying hostilities, Franklin's 1756 entailed a gamut of responsibilities, from his appointment as Colonel and spearheading the construction of frontier forts to delicate diplomatic engagements with Native American tribes—clashes with Governor Morris over defense funding highlighted the era's pervasive tensions between colonial leadership and crown-appointed officials.

Colonial Defense

As hostilities escalated, Franklin was deeply embroiled in Pennsylvania's defense efforts. 

Recognizing his organizational skills, Governor Morris appointed him to the position of Colonel and charged him with the defense of the northwest frontier.

Fortifying the Frontier

In response to the ongoing threat from French and Native American forces, Franklin oversaw the construction of a chain of forts, including Fort Loudoun, to safeguard Pennsylvania's frontier.

Relations with Native Americans

As the conflict deepened, forging and maintaining alliances with Native American tribes became crucial. 

Franklin's diplomatic acumen was evident in his interactions and negotiations with various tribal leaders.

Dispute with Governor Morris

The year also witnessed disagreements between Franklin and Governor Robert Hunter Morris over defense funding. 

This friction was emblematic of broader tensions between colonial assemblies and royal governors across America.

1757-1774 — Diplomat to England

Benjamin Franklin in London
© History Oasis

"London is a great city, where a man may be lost in the multitude, and yet not be lonely."

—Benjamin Franklin

1757 — Sailing to London

Benjamin Franklin sailing to England
© History Oasis

In 1757, Franklin's diplomatic sojourn to England was marked by a quest to reconfigure Pennsylvania's governance structure—pivotal interactions with British luminaries like Pitt and Grenville concerning the colonies and the ongoing war—intellectual exchanges with figures like Priestley and Pownall—all while cultivating a heartfelt bond with Mary Stevenson, offering an intimate glimpse into his London life.

Mission to England

One of the most significant undertakings of 1757 was Franklin's voyage to England as a representative of the Pennsylvania Assembly. 

His task was to petition against the Penn family's proprietary governance and seek the transition of Pennsylvania from a proprietary to a royal colony.

William Pitt

As Britain's Secretary of State, Pitt played a pivotal role in the direction of the Seven Years' War (French and Indian War). 

Franklin's interactions with him were integral in securing British support and resources for the American colonies during the conflict.

Lord Grenville

Another towering political figure, Lord Grenville's conversations with Franklin further underscored the evolving relationship between the colonies and the British crown.

Meetings with Joseph Priestley

Franklin's boundless intellectual curiosity led him to meetings with the renowned scientist and theologian Joseph Priestley. Their discussions ranged from religious freedom to groundbreaking scientific experiments.

Thomas Pownall

The Governor of Massachusetts and a future advocate for the American cause in the British Parliament, Pownall and Franklin shared dialogues on colonial administration and defense, illuminating the complexities of transatlantic governance.

Mary Stevenson

While residing in London, Franklin became close to the Stevenson family, particularly Mary, with whom he shared a warm and affectionate correspondence. 

Their letters provide a window into Franklin's life in London, punctuated with insights, advice, and camaraderie.

1758 — Treaties & Cooling Experiments 

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In a year replete with diplomatic, scientific, and intellectual engagements—Franklin's instrumental role in the Treaty of Easton secured crucial Native American neutrality—while his deepening alliance with Pitt buttressed colonial war efforts—simultaneously, his forays into the realm of cooling added to his scientific acclaim—and his enriching exchanges with luminaries like Sloane, Kames, and Hume illuminated the era's vibrant intellectual tapestry.

Treaty of Easton

Franklin played a role in the negotiations leading to this treaty, which secured the neutrality of several Native American nations, ensuring they would not ally with the French. 

This diplomatic coup bolstered British and colonial efforts during the war.

Collaboration with William Pitt

Their rapport, begun in 1757, deepened as they jointly navigated the challenges of the war. With Pitt's encouragement, Britain increased its military support to the colonies, marking a significant shift in the empire's war strategy.

Experiments on Cooling

Franklin's insatiable scientific curiosity led him to study the cooling process, resulting in his observation that the evaporation of certain liquids, like alcohol, could reduce temperature below the freezing point of water.

Sir Hans Sloane

The renowned physician, naturalist, and collector, Sir Hans Sloane, engaged in dialogue with Franklin. Their exchanges underscored the shared intellectual fervor of the Enlightenment.

Deborah Franklin

Her letters to her husband resonate with the everyday challenges faced by those left behind in Philadelphia, painting a vivid picture of colonial domesticity amidst global tumult.

Louisbourg Expedition

While Franklin was not directly involved in military expeditions, the British and colonial capture of the French fortress at Louisbourg had profound implications for the course of the war and the geopolitics of North America.

Lord Kames

A Scottish judge and philosopher, Lord Kames, and Franklin exchanged ideas on a range of subjects, illustrating the transatlantic intellectual currents of the time.

David Hume

The celebrated Scottish philosopher and historian entered Franklin's orbit this year. Their interactions enriched the philosophical discourse of the era, with both figures contemplating the nature of society, governance, and human understanding.

The Way to Wealth

Franklin compiled and published "The Way to Wealth," a collection of adages and advice from his earlier writings in "Poor Richard's Almanack," advocating for industry, frugality, and prudent financial habits.

1759 — The Gulf Stream

Benjamin Franklin discovering the Gulf Stream
© History Oasis

In 1759, the landscape of North America was indelibly altered with the British conquest of Quebec and Montreal—reshaping colonial politics and setting the stage for Franklin's evolving diplomatic role—concurrently, the loss of James Logan, a pivotal intellectual companion to Franklin—his dialogues with the eminent Sir John Pringle and his astute maritime observations that bridged science with seafaring pragmatism.

Quebec & Montreal

1759 saw pivotal British victories in North America, notably the capture of Quebec, followed by Montreal in 1760. 

While Franklin wasn’t directly involved in these military endeavors, their outcomes significantly impacted colonial politics and Franklin's subsequent diplomatic roles.

Death of James Logan

The passing of James Logan, a fellow polymath and one of Pennsylvania's foremost statesmen, marked the end of an era. 

Logan had been a mentor of sorts to Franklin, and their correspondences over the years were a testament to their shared intellectual pursuits.

Sir John Pringle

A prominent physician, Pringle and Franklin engaged in extensive dialogue this year. 

Their discussions spanned a plethora of topics, from medical science to the ethics of war.

Papers on the "Nature of the Sea"

Drawing upon his transatlantic voyages, Franklin penned observations on the Gulf Stream and other maritime phenomena, intertwining science with practical implications for navigation.

1760 —  Geopolitical Shifts 

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1760 was marked by pivotal events, from the Treaty of Closterseven foreshadowing future peace negotiations—the accession of George III with its looming impact on colonial relations—and all set against the backdrop of notable deaths in British politics and Franklin's analytical insights into population dynamics and economics.

Treaty of Closterseven

Though not directly involved, Franklin keenly observed the diplomatic developments of this treaty, where Britain and its allies modified their approach towards the warring factions, marking an essential precursor to the eventual Treaty of Paris in 1763.

George III Ascends to the Throne

The accession of George III to the British throne in October brought forth a new monarch with whom Franklin and the American colonies would later engage, both diplomatically and contentiously.

Papers on Population Growth and Economics

Tapping into his polymathic nature, Franklin delved into theories on population growth, speculating on its implications for colonial prosperity and future autonomy.

Death of the Duke of Newcastle

As a leading British statesman, the Duke's passing signified the end of an era in British politics. Franklin, ever the astute observer, gauged the potential implications for colonial diplomacy.

1761 — Colonial Rights 

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As 1761 marked the dimming of the Seven Years' War and the Treaty of Paris loomed on the horizon—Franklin's involvement in Pennsylvania's politics—access to James Logan's library—deepening ties with London's intellectual elite—and his early writings on colonial rights spotlighted his evolving role in the intricate transatlantic relations and American revolutionary ideation.

Dimming of the Seven Years’ War

Although the war officially concluded in 1763 with the Treaty of Paris, 1761 saw the waning of hostilities. 

Franklin keenly perceived the shifting balance of power and the impending repercussions for the American colonies.

James Logan's Library

After the passing of James Logan in 1751, his extensive library became accessible to scholars and thinkers. 

Franklin, given his close association with Logan, often made use of this treasure trove of knowledge.

John Penn

Appointed the Governor of Pennsylvania in 1763, Franklin’s interactions with Penn began in earnest in 1761, presaging the later political maneuverings and tensions that would emerge between colonial leadership and the Penn family.

London Society

Residing in London for his diplomatic duties, Franklin became increasingly entwined with the city's intellectual and social circles. 

His interactions ranged from members of the Royal Society to political luminaries, enhancing his status as a transatlantic conduit of ideas.

Pamphlets on Colonial Rights

Perceiving the stirrings of discontent in the American colonies and sensing the trajectory towards confrontation with Britain, Franklin began penning his views on colonial rights and governance, sowing the early seeds of revolutionary thought.

The Glass Armonica

Franklin invented the Glass Armonica, a unique musical instrument that produced ethereal tones by rubbing glass bowls with wet fingers.

1762 — Deputy Postmaster

Benjamin Franklin as Deputy Postmaster
© History Oasis

In 1762, Franklin's elevation as deputy postmaster intertwined with his homecoming to Philadelphia—his peripheral association with the seminal Mason-Dixon Line survey—the nascent phases of the Hutchinson Letters scandal—and intensifying contemplations on colonial self-governance underscored the complexities and growing tensions in transatlantic colonial relations.

Appointment as Deputy Postmaster for North America

This year saw Franklin's appointment, alongside William Hunter, as deputy postmaster for the colonies, a role that significantly expanded his influence over communication and information dissemination.

Return to Philadelphia

After an extended stay in London representing colonial interests, Franklin made a temporary return to Philadelphia in 1762, reconnecting with local political and social developments.

Mason-Dixon Line Survey

Franklin had a peripheral yet significant involvement in the commissioning of Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon to delineate the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland, an endeavor that would yield the famed Mason-Dixon line.

The Hutchinson Letters Affair (Prelude)

Franklin would soon become embroiled in a controversy involving the correspondence of Thomas Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay's royal governor. 

While the storm would erupt in subsequent years, 1762 saw the initial maneuvers that would culminate in this dramatic episode.

Conversations on Colonial Autonomy

As imperial policies grew more restrictive, Franklin began nurturing deeper discussions on the feasibility and implications of greater colonial autonomy, setting the stage for the revolutionary fervor to come.

1763 — End of The Seven Years’ War

The Global Seven Years' War
© History Oasis

1763, marked by the pivotal Treaty of Paris (1763)—saw Franklin at the nexus of geopolitical shifts—indigenous uprisings—British edicts limiting colonial expansion—evolving discourses on colonial rights with figures like Otis—continuing scientific engagements—enhancements in colonial communication—internal political wranglings in Pennsylvania—and artistic commemorations.

First Treaty of Paris

This year witnessed the conclusion of the Seven Years' War with the signing of the Treaty of Paris

The ramifications of the treaty would not only reshape the global order but also exacerbate tensions between Britain and its colonies, with Franklin keenly observing these shifts.

Pontiac's Rebellion

An indigenous uprising against British rule in the Great Lakes region, named after one of its leaders, Pontiac, led to the proclamation of 1763, a direct attempt by Britain to stabilize the western frontier. 

Franklin, always attuned to colonial sentiments, recognized the broader implications of these events for colonial-British relations.

The Proclamation of 1763

Issued by King George III, this decree halted westward expansion past the Appalachian Mountains, a move that sowed seeds of discontent among colonists. 

Franklin's own views on westward expansion and colonial rights were notably influenced by this proclamation.

James Otis Jr.

A firebrand lawyer and thinker, Otis's discourses on colonial rights and his famous phrase "Taxation without representation is tyranny" resonated with Franklin, foreshadowing the ideological underpinnings of the revolutionary movement.

Electricity & Ocean Currents

In 1763, Franklin's repute as a premier scientist of his age remained intact. His correspondences with European intellectuals continued to flourish, discussing topics from electricity to ocean currents.

Expansion of the Postal System

Under Franklin's oversight, the colonial postal system saw marked improvements, facilitating better communication across vast distances.

Political Struggles in Pennsylvania

Franklin, involved in the Pennsylvania Assembly, faced challenges, particularly from the Penn family and their supporters.

John Sargent

An English artist of note, Sargent painted a portrait of Franklin in 1763, encapsulating the visage of a man whose influence was to be deeply etched in the coming American Revolution.

Hand Paddle

Franklin invents the hand paddle to help him swim.

1764 — Resignation from the Pennsylvania Assembly

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1764 was a transformative year, marked by British legislative decisions like the Sugar and Currency Acts—Franklin's personal political transitions—from his exit from the Pennsylvania Assembly to his consequential journey back to England—his continuous commitment to science and arts—as evidenced by his election to the Society of Arts—his controversial association with John Hughes—and his unwavering stance on justice during the Paxton Boys' debates.

Sugar Act

Enacted by the British Parliament, this act imposed tariffs on sugar and molasses, exacerbating the economic burdens on the American colonies. 

Franklin, ever attentive to colonial grievances, noted the rising discontent this act engendered.

Currency Act

This act sought to stabilize the colonial currency by prohibiting the issuance of paper money in the colonies. Given Franklin's previous advocacy for paper currency to ease economic hardships in Pennsylvania, this act struck a discordant note with him.

Decision to Leave Pennsylvania Assembly

Having served in the Pennsylvania Assembly for over a decade, Franklin decided not to seek reelection in 1764, a move influenced by intensifying political skirmishes and his burgeoning responsibilities in London.

Election to the Society of Arts

Recognizing his immense contributions to science and the arts, Franklin was elected a member of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce in London.

John Hughes

Tasked with enforcing the Stamp Act (which would be enacted the following year), Hughes was a controversial figure. Franklin's recommendation of Hughes for the position was a contentious point, leading to criticism and accusations of betrayal from fellow colonists.

Return to England

Late in 1764, Franklin embarked on a trip to England, which was meant to be a short stay but extended for over a decade. 

This journey would see him engage deeply in transatlantic diplomacy, seeking redress for colonial grievances.

Debates on the Paxton Boys' Uprising

Following the violent actions of the Paxton Boys against indigenous communities in previous years, 1764 saw intense debates on the matter. 

Franklin, a critic of the Paxton Boys, became involved in the discussions, emphasizing justice and fair treatment for Native Americans.

1765 — Interrogation in the House of Commons

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In 1765, the controversial Stamp Act ignited colonial furor over "taxation without representation," leading to significant political actions such as the Stamp Act Congress—in London, Franklin vociferously championed colonial rights through petitions, debates, and a memorable examination before Parliament—and began his influential association with the emerging revolutionary thinker, Thomas Paine.

Stamp Act

This year's most contentious legislation, the Stamp Act mandated that printed materials in the colonies be produced on stamped paper produced in London. 

This "taxation without representation" sparked vehement protests across the colonies.

Stamp Act Congress

Responding to the act, representatives from several colonies convened in New York, marking a significant step toward inter-colonial unity. 

While Franklin was in London during this period, his writings and beliefs influenced many of the delegates' deliberations.

Petition Against the Stamp Act

Residing in London, Franklin was among those who petitioned King George III and the British Parliament to repeal the act, underscoring the economic repercussions it would have.

Debate with William Grenville

In a notable exchange, Franklin challenged Prime Minister Grenville, architect of the Stamp Act, emphasizing the economic self-sufficiency of the colonies and their right to self-determination.

Examination before the House of Commons

Perhaps the most iconic event for Franklin this year, he was interrogated by the British Parliament regarding the American opposition to the Stamp Act. 

His eloquent defense of colonial rights and clarifications on colonial sentiments made a profound impact and played a role in the act's eventual repeal the following year.

Thomas Paine

Although their most significant interactions would come later, 1765 marked the beginning of Paine's transition from England to the American colonies. 

Franklin's letters and endorsements would play a crucial role in Paine's journey and the revolutionary ideas he would bring with him.

1766 — The End of the Stamp Act

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1766 saw the British Parliament's repeal of the Stamp Act, a result of intensive colonial lobbying led by figures like Franklin; however, the subsequent Declaratory Act signified Britain's unwavering intent to maintain authority—-Franklin's multifaceted London life thrived, from deepening scientific investigations to enduring personal friendships and active engagement in the city's intellectual milieu.

Repeal of the Stamp Act

1766 began with a significant victory for the colonies as the British Parliament repealed the Stamp Act in March. 

This was a direct consequence of the intense lobbying efforts by Franklin and other colonial representatives in London.

Declaratory Act

Almost concurrently with the repeal of the Stamp Act, Parliament passed the Declaratory Act, asserting its right to legislate for the colonies in all cases whatsoever. 

While the act did not impose new taxes, it signaled Britain's intent to retain control over its American colonies.

Thomas Whatley

An influential figure in the British Parliament, Whatley had discussions with Franklin regarding colonial affairs. 

Their exchange of letters later became significant, especially in the context of the American Revolution.

Electricity & Grounding

Amidst the political discourse, Franklin's scientific endeavors continued to gain momentum. 

This year, he refined some of his earlier experiments on electricity, further emphasizing the importance of grounding in protecting buildings from lightning.

Friendship with Mary Hewson

A close friend of the Stevenson family with whom Franklin stayed in London, Mary, a young widow, grew closer to Franklin in this period. 

Their friendship and correspondence would persist for many years, providing Franklin with both emotional and intellectual companionship.

Participation in London's Social & Intellectual Circles

Despite the political tensions, Franklin remained an active member of London's intellectual scene, attending meetings at the Royal Society and mingling with other prominent figures of the Enlightenment era.

Benjamin Franklin as a humorist
© History Oasis

1767 — King of Prussia

In 1767, amidst rising colonial tensions accentuated by the Townshend Acts—Franklin in London continued his multi-pronged approach to advocate for colonial rights: through satirical writings, clandestine newspaper contributions, and collaborations with figures sympathetic to the American cause, such as Pownall.

Townshend Acts

The British Parliament enacted the Townshend Acts in 1767, which imposed duties on glass, lead, paper, paint, and tea imported into the colonies. 

Franklin, still in London, worked assiduously behind the scenes to prevent or repeal such legislation, foreseeing the discontent it would breed in the colonies.

Circulation of "An Edict by the King of Prussia"

Franklin's satirical piece, which cleverly ridiculed British policies toward the colonies by imagining a scenario where the King of Prussia claimed ancestral rights over Britain, was circulated more widely and garnered significant attention.

Thomas Pownall

A former colonial governor and Member of Parliament, Pownall and Franklin had multiple discussions regarding the colonial situation, with Pownall generally advocating for the colonies' interests in Parliament.

Public Advertiser Letters

Using pseudonyms, Franklin contributed letters to the Public Advertiser, a London newspaper, advocating for the colonies and critiquing British policies, further showcasing his adeptness at wielding the pen for political purposes.

1768 — America Discontent 

Benjamin Franklin taking an air bath
© History Oasis

Amidst 1768's escalating colonial tensions, Franklin tenaciously represented American interests in London—from directly opposing policies like the Townshend Acts and Lord Hillsborough's stance—to penning interesting works—and strategically engaging with the British press to amplify the colonial viewpoint.

Continued Opposition to the Townshend Acts

Franklin was deeply involved in the mounting opposition to the Townshend Acts, leveraging his position and influence in London to lobby for their repeal.

Publication of "Causes of the American Discontents before 1768"

Franklin penned this influential piece, highlighting the roots of American resentment towards British policies. 

It served as an effort to explain to the British populace and officials the perspectives and grievances of the American colonies.

Lord Hillsborough's Appointment

As the new Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Hillsborough's policies often clashed with Franklin's views. 

Hillsborough would become a consistent adversary, especially when it came to matters of colonial self-governance.

The "Liberty" Affair

While Franklin was not directly involved, he was deeply aware of the ramifications when the British seized John Hancock's sloop "Liberty" in Boston, alleging smuggling. 

The subsequent violent protests echoed the sentiments Franklin had been highlighting in London.

Interactions with the British Press

As tensions escalated in the colonies, Franklin continued to be an active contributor to British newspapers. 

Under various pseudonyms, he disseminated the American perspective, aiming to influence public opinion.

Air Baths

Writing to Sir. John Pringle, Franklin extolled the virtues of "air baths," during which he would sit in his chambers without clothes for an hour or so, believing in the health benefits of allowing his skin to breathe.

1769 — Ireland & Scotland

Benjamin Franklin in Ireland
© History Oasis

In 1769, Franklin navigated a milieu of significant events—ranging from increased representative duties and educational honors to engaging European luminaries—all while monitoring and reacting to shifting political dynamics both in London and across the Atlantic.

Continued Advocacy Against Oppressive Policies

With the non-importation agreements taking root in America as a form of protest against British taxes, Franklin worked tirelessly to illustrate the negative impacts of such British policies on the empire itself.

Georgia's Agent

This year marked Franklin's appointment as the agent for Georgia, adding to his responsibilities as representative of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. 

Cambridge Honorary Degree

The University of Cambridge awarded Benjamin Franklin an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, a testament to his unparalleled intellectual contributions to both sides of the Atlantic.

Interaction with James Watt

This year bore witness to the beginnings of Franklin's acquaintance with James Watt, the ingenious engineer behind the improved steam engine. 

Their discussions naturally meandered into the realms of science and innovation.

Visit to Ireland & Scotland

Franklin embarked on a tour of Ireland and Scotland, during which he met with prominent figures, including Lord Kames and William Cullen, discussing matters of politics, science, and education.

Lord Hillsborough's Resignation

The Secretary of State for the Colonies, with whom Franklin often locked horns, resigned this year. 

The exit of Lord Hillsborough marked a significant shift in colonial policy discussions in London.

Virginia's Resolutions

Franklin closely followed the Virginia House of Burgesses' defiant resolutions against British taxes and encroachments on colonial rights, underscoring the widespread colonial solidarity.

1770 — The Boston Massacre & a Tax on Tea

The Boston Massacre
© History Oasis

In 1770, while the Boston Massacre underscored growing tensions in the colonies—Franklin's varied engagements in London—ranging from successful lobbying efforts and spirited debates to scholarly exchanges—highlighted his pivotal role in shaping transatlantic dialogues during a period of mounting unrest.

Boston Massacre

On March 5, a violent confrontation between British soldiers and American colonists in Boston resulted in the death of five civilians. 

Though Franklin was across the Atlantic, the event further solidified his conviction of the widening gulf between the colonies and the motherland.

Repeal of the Townshend Acts

Franklin's lobbying, along with other colonial agents and British supporters, finally bore fruit. 

The British Parliament repealed most of the duties imposed by the Townshend Acts, albeit maintaining the tax on tea, symbolizing Britain's continued assertion of its right to tax the colonies.

Debate with John Robinson

In January, Franklin engaged in a public spar with John Robinson, Lord of the Admiralty, in a London coffeehouse. 

The confrontation further underlined the deep-seated misunderstandings between British officials and the American perspective.

Meeting with Samuel Johnson

The two towering intellects, Franklin and Dr. Samuel Johnson, are believed to have met around this period. Their conversation, surely, would have spanned literature, philosophy, and the contentious politics of the day.

Observations on Electric Phenomena

Expanding on his renowned experiments from the 1750s, Franklin further delved into the mysteries of electricity, elucidating phenomena that shaped the future of electrical science.

1771 — The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin writing his autobiograpy
© History Oasis

In the midst of political upheavals, 1771 saw Franklin penning the early chapters of his introspective autobiography—cultivating influential bonds with figures like Jefferson—and continuing to intertwine his personal and entrepreneurial pursuits with the broader American narrative.


One of Franklin's most enduring legacies, the first part of his autobiography, was penned during this year. 

While it remained unpublished until after his death, the work offers a candid and introspective look into the life and ethos of this polymath.

Relations with Thomas Jefferson

The 1770s saw the beginning of a lasting friendship and mutual respect between Franklin and the young Thomas Jefferson. 

Their shared dedication to the revolutionary cause and intellectual pursuits bound them together in the tapestry of nation-building.

Land Purchases

Franklin, always the entrepreneur, was involved in several land deals this year. These endeavors reflected both his business acumen and a keen interest in America's westward expansion.

1772 — The Hutchinson Letters Affair

© History Oasis

In 1772, Franklin's discreet dissemination of the inflammatory Hutchinson letters irrevocably heightened transatlantic tensions—while personal rifts widened with his son, William—his visionary push for intercolonial communication began taking tangible form in the nascent Committees of Correspondence.

Hutchinson Letters

Arguably the most significant event of Franklin's year, he anonymously obtained, and then sent to American politicians, a series of confidential letters penned by Thomas Hutchinson, the loyalist Governor of Massachusetts. 

These letters advocated for a curtailment of colonial rights, and their publication caused a furore on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Franklin's role in the affair, once discovered, would cost him dearly in terms of reputation among the British elite.

Tensions with William Franklin

His relationship with his loyalist son, William, the Governor of New Jersey, became increasingly strained. Their differing political allegiances sowed seeds of personal discord that would last for years.

Involvement with the Committee of Correspondence

While the first such committee was formed in Boston this year, Franklin's earlier advocacy for such intercolonial committees, meant to foster communication, underlined his influence and vision.

1773 — The Privy Council

Benjamin Franklin in front of the Privy Council
© History Oasis

In 1773, amid the aftershocks of the Boston Tea Party, Franklin, although beset by personal humiliation at the Privy Council—forged significant connections, notably with the fiery Thomas Paine—while pursuing Pennsylvania's autonomy and striving—against increasing odds, to bridge the widening rift between Britain and her American colonies.

The Boston Tea Party

While Franklin was not directly involved in the event, the repercussions of this act of colonial defiance were felt keenly in London. 

Franklin, as the de facto representative of colonial interests, was thrust into the spotlight, grappling with the British response and advising American reactions.

Privy Council Hearing

Perhaps the most personal affront to Franklin this year was his humiliation at the Cockpit in Whitehall. 

Here, in a session of the Privy Council, Franklin was lambasted for his role in the Hutchinson Letters affair, facing a torrent of abuse from Solicitor-General Alexander Wedderburn. 

This event only further solidified Franklin's commitment to the American cause.

Thomas Paine & ‘Common Sense’ 

Franklin met the radical writer and thinker, Thomas Paine, in London this year, recognizing the latter's potential and subsequently encouraging him to move to America. 

Paine would soon pen "Common Sense," a seminal work in the cause of American independence.

Lord Dartmouth

As the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Dartmouth and Franklin engaged in numerous dialogues, with the former often serving as Franklin's channel of communication to the British government.

Pursuit of Autonomy for Pennsylvania

Franklin's efforts to end the proprietary government of the Penn family in Pennsylvania continued, though they would ultimately prove unsuccessful in the immediate term.

Efforts to Reconcile Differences

Despite the growing chasm, Franklin, ever the diplomat, tirelessly sought avenues of compromise and reconciliation between the colonies and Britain, penning multiple essays and letters advocating for understanding and mutual respect.

1774 — Return to America 

© History Oasis

In 1774, as tensions reached a crescendo with the militarization of Massachusetts and the outright rejection of the First Continental Congress's petition by Britain's Privy Council—Franklin, amidst final reconciliatory attempts including correspondence with Lord Howe, made the consequential decision to leave London and return to the burgeoning crucible of revolution in Philadelphia.

First Continental Congress

Although Franklin was in London for much of this period, the establishment of the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia was an epochal event in the struggle for American rights. 

The decisions and declarations emerging from this assembly would dramatically shape Franklin's future role and the trajectory of the revolutionary movement.

Militarization in Massachusetts

The decision by the British to fortify Boston and Massachusetts more broadly was a clear sign that the crown viewed matters as reaching a breaking point. 

Franklin, ever the mediator, continued to hope for a peaceful solution, but these British actions set many in the colonies on a path of resistance.

Correspondence with Lord Howe

Recognizing the urgency of the moment, Admiral Lord Richard Howe initiated private communications with Franklin, a testament to the latter's influence. 

These letters reflect the final attempts of reconciliation between the two sides.

Privy Council Rejection

One of Franklin's key initiatives, the petition of the First Continental Congress to King George III, was rejected outright by the Privy Council. 

This stark refusal further underscored the widening chasm between Britain and the colonies.

Return to Philadelphia

Recognizing the seismic changes afoot and perhaps foreseeing the inevitability of conflict, Franklin decided to return to America in late 1774.


Benjamin Franklin in France
© History Oasis

"We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

—Benjamin Franklin

1775 — Rebellion & Diplomatic Endeavors

© History Oasis

In 1775, marked by the eruption of the Revolutionary War and efforts of reconciliation like the Olive Branch Petition—Franklin's multifaceted roles in the Second Continental Congress—the Committee of Secret Correspondence—and as Postmaster General underscored his profound influence—even as communications with figures like George Washington and Lord Howe demonstrated the intricate interplay of war and diplomacy.

Outbreak of the Revolutionary War

The year saw the onset of the American Revolutionary War, beginning with the Battles of Lexington and Concord in April. 

The British attempt to seize colonial munitions triggered the "shot heard 'round the world," signaling the point of no return for both sides.

Second Continental Congress

Franklin was appointed as a Pennsylvania delegate to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia. 

Here, he would work with luminaries like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and John Hancock to steer the direction of the revolutionary cause.

Committee of Secret Correspondence

Recognizing the need for international support, Congress established this committee with Franklin as a member. 

Its mission: to secure foreign alliances and aid for the rebellion.

Postmaster General

Franklin was appointed Postmaster General for the colonies, a position that played to his strengths, given his prior experience in streamlining postal services.

Drafting of the Olive Branch Petition

Still hopeful for a peaceful reconciliation, Franklin joined John Dickinson in crafting the Olive Branch Petition, a final appeal to King George III to redress colonial grievances. The king, however, would reject the petition outright.

George Washington

In June, the Continental Congress appointed George Washington as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. 

Franklin's endorsement and interactions with Washington further solidified the unity of the cause.

Lord Richard Howe

With the escalation of hostilities, Admiral Howe was dispatched to America, not just as a military commander but also with the power to negotiate peace. 

Franklin would engage in numerous communications with Howe, though to little avail as the gulf between the two sides had become vast and seemingly insurmountable.

Decisional Balance Sheet

Franklin devised the "pro and con" list, commonly referred to as the decisional balance sheet, as a systematic method to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a choice.

1776 — The Declaration of Independence

© History Oasis

In 1776, as Franklin played an instrumental role in crafting the seminal Declaration of Independence—his interactions with figures like John Adams and Lord Howe—as well as his impending mission to France—exemplified the balance of staunch revolutionary commitment and a persistent, if dwindling, hope for reconciliation.

Declaration of Independence

Perhaps the most consequential event of Franklin's life, and indeed of American history, took place this year. 

Benjamin Franklin was one of the five members (Committee of Five) selected to draft the Declaration of Independence, alongside Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston. 

While Jefferson penned the initial draft, Franklin's revisions and insights were invaluable.

Meeting with John Adams

The pair reviewed Jefferson's draft of the Declaration. 

One famous suggestion by Franklin was changing the wording from "We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable" to the now-iconic phrase, "We hold these truths to be self-evident."

The Liberty Bell

While Franklin's direct interaction with the bell is largely symbolic, it's famously believed to have been rung to mark the public reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 8, making it an emblem of the revolution and of Franklin's Philadelphia.

Mission to France

By the year's end, recognizing the imperative need for a powerful ally against Britain, Franklin was chosen as one of the commissioners to negotiate a formal alliance with France

His imminent departure for France signaled the beginning of a crucial diplomatic chapter in the Revolutionary War.

He is accompanied by his grandsons, William Temple Franklin, aged 16, and Benjamin Franklin Bache, a mere 7.

Lord Richard Howe

Following the Declaration of Independence, Admiral Howe attempted to negotiate peace, believing he could charm the Americans, particularly Franklin, into reconciliation. 

While discussions occurred, they were futile, as the chasm between loyalist and revolutionary sentiments had become insurmountable.

1777 — Benjamin Franklin’s French Foray

In 1777, amid the backdrop of Parisian society and Enlightenment exchanges—Franklin's diplomatic tact—from liaising with the French court to capitalizing on the Saratoga victory—was instrumental in rallying French support for the American revolutionary endeavor.

Diplomacy in France

Having arrived in France the previous year, 1777 witnessed Franklin's intensified efforts to secure French support for the American Revolution

His magnetic persona, replete with the fur cap that became emblematic of the 'natural American,' made him an instant celebrity in Paris, aiding his diplomatic endeavors.

Liaison with the French Court

Franklin's diplomatic dance involved liaising with key figures such as French Foreign Minister Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes, with whom he built a rapport crucial for the American cause.

Meeting Voltaire

In a symbolic meeting of Enlightenment minds, Franklin met the eminent French philosopher Voltaire

The famous gesture of their touching of hats became a symbol of the shared Enlightenment values between the Old and New Worlds.

Beaumarchais & Aid

Playwright Pierre Beaumarchais, best known for "The Barber of Seville", played a covert role in supplying the American rebels. 

Franklin's negotiations and interactions with Beaumarchais proved vital in ensuring this clandestine support.

Captured British Dispatches

In a significant intelligence coup, Franklin received a trove of captured British dispatches in late 1777, detailing their war strategies. 

This information, passed on to George Washington, had a notable impact on the conflict.

News of Saratoga

Towards the end of the year, Franklin received news of the American victory at Saratoga. This pivotal triumph, which he promptly shared with the French court, bolstered the case for a formal French alliance with the American rebels.

Playing Chess with Madame Brillon in a Bathtub

While in France, Benjamin Franklin was said to have played a game of chess with Madame Brillon (who some may claim was an easy woman or c-word), a close friend and confidante, while she was in her bathtub, illustrating he was quite the womanizer

1778 — Franco-American Diplomacy

Treaty of Alliance with France
© History Oasis

In 1778, amidst the backdrop of forging treaties and nurturing alliances—Benjamin Franklin's diplomatic acumen was paramount in solidifying French support for the American cause—while also navigating the multifaceted challenges and personalities of European politics.

Treaty of Alliance with France

Arguably the most seminal event of the year, the Treaty of Alliance was formalized on February 6, 1778, with Franklin as one of the American commissioners. 

This Franco-American alliance ensured that France would provide military support to the United States in their fight against Britain.

Treaty of Amity and Commerce

On the same day as the Treaty of Alliance, the Treaty of Amity and Commerce was signed, recognizing American independence and establishing commercial relations between France and the U.S.

John Adams

In 1778, John Adams arrived in France to replace Silas Deane as a commissioner. 

Adams and Franklin had a complex relationship, marked by both cooperation and tension, as they navigated the complexities of European diplomacy.

Carl Friedrich von Weissenstein

Franklin met with the Prussian diplomat several times, and they discussed possibilities for Prussian recognition of American independence.

Commission to the French Court

Throughout the year, Franklin's role as one of the American commissioners placed him in continuous engagement with the French court, where he liaised with key figures such as the Comte de Vergennes.

British Peace Commission

In a bid to end the war, the British sent the Carlisle Peace Commission to America. 

While the commission was primarily based in the colonies, Franklin was privy to its deliberations and extended an unofficial line of communication.

Encounter with John Paul Jones

The famous naval commander sought Franklin's counsel on multiple matters, including ship acquisitions and the handling of British prisoners.

Advocacy for Prisoner Exchange

Aware of the dismal conditions American prisoners faced in British captivity, Franklin actively championed for their exchange and better treatment.

1779 — Diplomatic Mastery

Benjamin Franklin meeting with the King
© History Oasis

In 1779, as Minister Plenipotentiary, Benjamin Franklin deftly navigated the complexities of Franco-American relations—endured internal tensions among American envoys—and pursued multifaceted negotiations—all while championing the American cause in Europe with astute diplomacy and determination.

Minister Plenipotentiary

Franklin's role in France shifted as he was appointed the Minister Plenipotentiary to the court of Louis XVI, granting him considerable latitude in shaping Franco-American relations.

John Adams & Arthur Lee Tensions

Relations between Franklin and his fellow commissioners, particularly Adams and Lee, became strained. 

Differences in approach and views towards France created an atmosphere of mutual mistrust and occasional conflict.

John Jay

In the latter part of the year, John Jay arrived in Spain with the objective of securing Spanish recognition for the U.S. Franklin and Jay corresponded regarding the nuances of this endeavor.

Continued Negotiations with Britain

While the war raged on, Franklin was involved in covert negotiations with British agents, attempting to carve out a peace deal that would recognize American independence.

Efforts to Secure Loans

Much of Franklin's time was devoted to obtaining financial support for the American war effort. 

His diplomatic skills were vital in ensuring that the French continued to provide loans and financial aid to the struggling American cause.

Espionage Concerns

Franklin became embroiled in the investigation of Edward Bancroft, suspected of being a British spy. 

Though Bancroft was Franklin's secretary, the latter remained unaware of his espionage activities.

Honorary Degrees

In acknowledgment of his immense contributions to science and diplomacy, both the University of Yale and the University of St. Andrews awarded him honorary degrees.

Paul Jones' Naval Exploits

Franklin, acting in his capacity as a representative of the Continental Congress, was engaged in supporting and directing parts of John Paul Jones' naval campaigns against Britain.

1780 — European Endeavors 

Benjamin Franklin Meeting Catherine The Great
© History Oasis

In 1780, Benjamin Franklin adeptly managed the multifaceted challenges of diplomacy—weaving between the courts of France and Russia—grappling with intelligence intrigues—and securing essential financial aid, all against the backdrop of shifting circumstances in the American Revolutionary War.

Diplomacy with France

Throughout the year, Franklin, serving as the United States' Minister Plenipotentiary, cemented ties with the French court, ensuring continuous military and financial support from King Louis XVI.

Meeting with Catherine the Great

Although Russia did not directly support the American cause, Franklin's diplomatic circuits saw him engaging with Russian intermediaries, given Catherine the Great's influential role in European politics.

The Capture of Charleston

Back in the American colonies, the British captured Charleston in May. 

While Franklin wasn't directly involved in military decisions, the event had significant ramifications for his diplomatic efforts in Europe.

Benedict Arnold's Treason

News of Benedict Arnold's betrayal reached Franklin later in the year. It was a significant blow to the American cause, and Franklin had to manage European perceptions after this debacle.

Espionage & Double Agents

Franklin was embroiled in intelligence and counterintelligence activities. 

This included efforts to unmask double agents and protect American interests against British spies in France.

Correspondence with the Famous

Franklin's reputation as an intellectual meant he was in correspondence with several luminaries of the era. These included figures like Antoine Lavoisier, the famous French chemist.

Financial Negotiations

Franklin tirelessly worked to secure funds for the American war effort, negotiating loans and grants from the French government.

Engagement with Spain

As Spain was an ally of France but not yet of the U.S., Franklin was involved in delicate negotiations to ensure Spanish neutrality or support without alienating France.

1781 — Yorktown & Beyond

Battle of Yorktown
© History Oasis

In the wake of the pivotal Siege of Yorktown, Benjamin Franklin's intricate diplomacy in 1781 was characterized by relentless negotiations for peace—securing financial aid—and fostering intellectual engagements in Europe—while maintaining a delicate balance among global powers.

The Siege of Yorktown

The decisive Franco-American victory at Yorktown in October essentially ended major hostilities in North America. 

While Franklin was not directly involved in the military campaign, his years of fostering French support played a crucial role in ensuring French troops and naval forces were available to aid General Washington in the siege.

Peace Negotiations

Preliminary discussions surrounding a potential peace treaty began in earnest, with Franklin playing a central role in shaping America's diplomatic stance and terms.

John Jay Arrives in Paris

In June, John Jay arrived in Paris to join Franklin and John Adams in peace negotiations with Britain. The trio would play a pivotal role in the ensuing Treaty of Paris.

Financial Support from France

Throughout 1781, Franklin negotiated tirelessly to secure further financial assistance from the French. His efforts proved fruitful, bolstering the American war effort during its most critical period.

Continued Diplomacy with Spain

Charles III of Spain had been wary of recognizing American independence due to concerns about its colonies. 

Franklin navigated this delicate diplomatic terrain, seeking Spanish support while not compromising the primary alliance with France.

Fart Proudly

Franklin penned a satirical essay titled "Fart Proudly," humorously proposing scientific inquiry into making flatulence less offensive to the senses.

Elusive British Peace Commissioners

Franklin and his colleagues had several discreet exchanges with British representatives, most notably Richard Oswald, to pave the way for official peace talks.

Exchange with Intellectuals

Beyond the realm of politics, Franklin's tenure in France was marked by interactions with luminaries of the European Enlightenment. 

In 1781, his circle included figures like the Marquis de Lafayette, who had fought in America, and Jacques-Donatien Le Ray, a key supporter of the American cause.

Concerns about American Prisoners

Franklin was continuously engaged in efforts to assist American prisoners of war in Britain, seeking their exchange or better treatment.

Publication Efforts

In the midst of diplomatic activities, Franklin also found time for his intellectual pursuits. 

This year, he continued to publish various writings, further enhancing his reputation in European intellectual circles.

Liaising with Congress

Despite the vast distance and slow communications, Franklin kept an open channel with the Continental Congress, updating them on European developments and seeking guidance on diplomatic matters.

Benjamin Franklin Frees His Slaves

Franklin freed his two slaves, Peter and Juba, marking a significant turn in his personal stance on slavery.

1782 — The Dawn of American Diplomacy

Benjamin Franklin meeting with the King of France
© History Oasis

In 1782, with the American Revolution's end in sight, Benjamin Franklin, alongside fellow American diplomats—navigated intricate negotiations with global powers—setting the stage for the momentous Treaty of Paris—while maintaining personal ties and addressing wartime practices.

Peace Negotiations Intensify

The preliminary peace talks begun in 1781 took on increased urgency. 

Franklin, John Jay, John Adams, and Henry Laurens were appointed to negotiate a peace treaty with Britain.

Treaty of Paris Discussions

These peace talks, which would culminate in the 1783 Treaty of Paris, began to take shape in 1782. 

Franklin's diplomacy was instrumental in securing favorable terms for the young republic.

Richard Oswald

Appointed by the British government as its chief negotiator, Oswald developed a rapport with Franklin. Their discussions played a crucial role in the eventual peace treaty.

Recognition by the Dutch

Franklin's diplomatic endeavors bore fruit as the Dutch Republic recognized the independence of the United States and established diplomatic relations.

Marquis de Lafayette

A key ally in both the military and diplomatic arenas, Lafayette liaised frequently with Franklin, ensuring close cooperation between the French and Americans.

Sarah Franklin Bache

Benjamin Franklin's daughter played an active role back in America supporting the war effort. 

Letters exchanged between father and daughter in 1782 provide insights into the personal side of Franklin's life during this tumultuous period.

Efforts to End Privateering

Franklin and his British counterparts discussed the cessation of privateering, a wartime practice that affected commerce on both sides.

1783 — Treaty of Paris & Its Broader Impacts

© History Oasis

In 1783, Benjamin Franklin's diplomatic prowess culminated in the signing of the Treaty of Paris—formally ending the American Revolution—while his enduring engagement with Enlightenment figures and continued scientific pursuits underscored his multifaceted contributions to both the American and global stage.

Treaty of Paris (1783)

The most significant event of 1783 was the signing of the Treaty of Paris on September 3, which officially ended the American Revolutionary War. 

Franklin, along with John Adams and John Jay, represented the United States, while David Hartley represented Great Britain. 

The terms they negotiated were favorable to the Americans, recognizing the independence of the United States and establishing generous boundaries.

Émilie du Châtelet

Though she had passed away earlier, the legacy of Franklin’s interactions with this leading French intellectual and physicist persisted. 

Their friendship was emblematic of Franklin's broader engagement with European Enlightenment thought.

Thomas Jefferson

1783 was also the year when Jefferson arrived in France, succeeding Franklin as the U.S. Minister to France. 

The transition would take place in the following years, but 1783 marked the beginning of their overlapping diplomatic tenures in Paris.

This return would allow him to participate directly in the shaping of the new American government.

The Newburgh Conspiracy

Though Franklin was in France, he was surely aware of the military unrest occurring in the U.S. during this period. 

Officers of the Continental Army met in Newburgh, New York, to discuss grievances about unpaid salaries and pensions, and there were fears of a potential coup against Congress. 

The crisis was averted, and the civil control of the military was upheld, a foundational precedent for the new nation.

Efforts in Science

Despite his political obligations, Franklin continued his scientific explorations, corresponding with other intellectuals and making observations, such as on the Earth's magnetic field.

First Hot Air Balloon Flight

Franklin witnessed one of the first hot air balloon flights in Paris, marking a significant moment in the annals of aviation history.

1784 — Innovator, Diplomat & Humanitarian in Paris

© History Oasis

In the post-revolutionary period, while fulfilling his diplomatic duties in Paris, Benjamin Franklin also showcased his inventiveness with the bifocal glasses and Franklin stove, explored his familial roots, promoted the idea of daylight saving time, and began a profound engagement with the issue of slavery.

Role as U.S. Diplomat in Paris

Even after the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, Franklin remained in France to continue strengthening the bond between the two nations. 

His charm and wit were indispensable in maintaining French goodwill and support for the United States.

Drafting of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce

Alongside Jefferson and John Adams, Franklin played a role in the development of this treaty with Prussia, underscoring America's intent to establish strong commercial ties with European nations.

Bifocal Glasses

Around this time, Franklin, ever the inventor, developed the bifocal glasses, an innovation designed to aid those with presbyopia—a condition he himself suffered from.

The Franklin Stove

Franklin's famous design for a metal-lined fireplace, known as the Franklin stove, was improved upon and became widely known in Europe.

Ancestral Research

While in Europe, Franklin conducted research into his family's history, eventually tracing his ancestry back to Ecton in Northamptonshire, England. 

His findings were later documented in his autobiography.

Proposal of Daylight Saving Time

Though the idea had been previously considered by others, Franklin famously revisited the concept of adjusting clocks to make better use of daylight, particularly in a satirical letter he penned while in Paris.

Efforts against Slavery

Franklin’s evolving views on slavery began to manifest more prominently. 

He started engaging more deeply with the issue, setting the stage for his later efforts in advocating for abolition.

Animal Magnetism

Franklin led a commission in France to investigate the claims of Franz Mesmer's "animal magnetism," ultimately debunking its supposed healing powers.

1785-1790 — Final Years

Benjamin Franklin as an old man
© History Oasis

"Life's tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late."

—Benjamin Franklin

1785 — Final Return to America

© History Oasis

In 1785, after a distinguished diplomatic tenure in France, Benjamin Franklin transitioned back to America—immersing himself in governance—the abolitionist cause—scientific research—and pivotal discussions shaping the republic's future.

Ambassador to France

For the majority of the year, Franklin continued to serve as the United States Minister to France, a crucial post-war diplomatic role. 

Through his position, he continued nurturing the relationship between the U.S. and its most vital European ally.

Return to America

After almost a decade in Paris, Benjamin Franklin made his long-anticipated return to the United States in September. 

He was welcomed back as a hero, both for his role in securing French support during the Revolutionary War and for his negotiation of the peace treaty that followed.

Election as President of Pennsylvania

Shortly after his return, Franklin was elected President (a position equivalent to today's governor) of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, highlighting the immense respect and trust he commanded.

Thomas Jefferson

With Franklin's departure from Paris, Jefferson succeeded him as the U.S. Minister to France. The two continued to correspond, discussing political, scientific, and personal matters, a testament to their mutual respect and friendship.

Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery

Deeply moved by the abolitionist cause, Franklin became more actively involved in the society's activities this year, underlining his evolving stance against the institution of slavery.

Exchange with George Washington

Franklin's correspondence with Washington in this period offered insights into their shared vision for the nascent republic, emphasizing unity and forward-thinking governance.

Efforts towards the Northwest Ordinance

Franklin had earlier proposed a plan for the governance of the western territories, and although the final Northwest Ordinance of 1787 would differ, his early efforts laid the groundwork for this pivotal legislation.

Engagement with the Constitutional Debate

Although the Constitutional Convention was two years away, debates concerning the nature and shape of the federal government were gaining momentum. 

Franklin, with his unique blend of experience and wisdom, engaged in these discussions, foreshadowing his pivotal role in the Convention.

1786 — Navigating a Young Republic

Benjamin Franklin
© History Oasis

In 1786, Benjamin Franklin, while serving as Pennsylvania's leader, engaged deeply in nationwide concerns—from promoting abolition and education to grappling with populist uprisings—while maintaining intellectual exchanges with prominent figures, reflecting his central role in shaping America's formative years.

President of Pennsylvania

Serving as the President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, Franklin provided stable leadership at a state level during a period characterized by political and economic turbulence.

Support for the Abolition of Slavery 

Franklin’s involvement with the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery became increasingly pronounced. 

He believed in gradual abolition and supported efforts to provide education and resources for newly freed African Americans.

Role in the Constitutional Discussions

With the inadequacies of the Articles of Confederation becoming glaringly evident, discussions about a new federal constitution were intensifying. 

Franklin’s insights and diplomatic experience made him a valued voice in these deliberations, setting the stage for the pivotal Constitutional Convention of the subsequent year.

Engagement with Thomas Jefferson

Their correspondence, marked by mutual admiration, spanned topics from political insights to scientific discoveries. 

This year, the exchange of letters included discussions on European affairs, particularly concerning France, and the challenges of the young American republic.

Involvement in the Potomac River Compact

Although not directly part of the negotiations, Franklin's correspondence and discussions around the time show his keen interest in inter-state cooperation, which the Potomac River Compact represented. 

This agreement between Maryland and Virginia was a precursor to broader calls for cooperation and federal unity.

Ties with John Adams

Now serving as the U.S. ambassador to Britain, Adams and Franklin exchanged views on the state of U.S.-British relations post-war, reflecting on the intricacies of international diplomacy.

Promotion of Education

A lifelong advocate for public education, Franklin was instrumental in the establishment and development of institutions like the University of Pennsylvania. 

In 1786, his continued patronage and involvement in educational causes were evident.

Response to Shays' Rebellion

The late 1786 outbreak of Shays' Rebellion, a populist uprising in Massachusetts, deeply troubled Franklin and other national leaders. 

It underlined the need for a stronger federal government and would become a key talking point in the lead-up to the Constitutional Convention.

Associations with James Madison & Alexander Hamilton

As discussions about the nation's governance grew, Franklin interacted with both Madison and Hamilton, two figures who would be instrumental in drafting and promoting the Federalist Papers and new Constitution.

1787 — The Constitutional Convention

Constitutional Convention
© History Oasis

In 1787, the Constitutional Convention, graced by Benjamin Franklin's seasoned wisdom and diplomacy—crafted the U.S. Constitution amid diverse perspectives—with Franklin championing unity, civic virtue—and the document's eventual ratification in his home state of Pennsylvania.

The Constitutional Convention

From May to September 1787, Philadelphia's Independence Hall witnessed the gathering of a brilliant assembly of minds. 

The Constitutional Convention was convened to address the inadequacies of the Articles of Confederation. 

At 81, Benjamin Franklin was the oldest delegate, but his wisdom, wit, and diplomatic skills were unmatched. His influence was felt in various capacities throughout the proceedings.

Prominent Figures at the Convention

George Washington, presided over the Convention and often consulted with Franklin on various matters.

James Madison—often referred to as the "Father of the Constitution," Madison and Franklin engaged in many discussions, their views sometimes aligning and sometimes diverging.

Alexander Hamilton, though he and Franklin had differing views on certain aspects of governance, their mutual respect was evident.

The Great Compromise

Franklin supported the Connecticut Compromise or "The Great Compromise," which proposed a bicameral legislature, consisting of the Senate (equal representation) and the House of Representatives (representation based on population). 

This compromise helped bridge the divide between large and small states.

Promotion of Unity

Understanding the divisions among the states and the delegates, Franklin often played the role of mediator. 

He famously remarked upon seeing a sun painted on the back of George Washington’s chair, “I have often ... in the course of the session ... looked at that sun behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun.”

Opposition to Salaries for Public Officials

Franklin believed that public servants should serve without a salary to ensure that they were motivated by public interest rather than personal gain.

The Final Document

Franklin, while recognizing the Constitution's imperfections, believed in its merits. 

He made a poignant plea to his fellow delegates, urging unanimity: "I doubt ... whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution ... It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does."

Endorsement of the U.S. Constitution

On September 17, Franklin became one of the 39 signatories of the Constitution, lending his considerable reputation to its endorsement.

Pennsylvania Ratification Convention

Later in the year, as states convened their own conventions to ratify the newly drafted Constitution, Franklin played a pivotal role in the Pennsylvania convention, championing ratification.

The Fugio Cent

Franklin contributed to the design and conceptualization of the Fugio Cent, America's first official one-cent piece, embodying his famous adage, "Mind Your Business."

1788 — Legacy in Twilight

In 1788, as the U.S. Constitution approached ratification, an ailing Benjamin Franklin, receding from active public life—focused on safeguarding his multifaceted legacy while maintaining key correspondences—including with the soon-to-be first President, George Washington.

Ratification of the U.S. Constitution

By 1788, the ratification process of the U.S. Constitution was in full swing. 

Franklin, having been an integral part of its drafting, took a keen interest in the debates and discussions surrounding its adoption. His reputation and endorsement lent considerable weight to the pro-ratification side. 

Benjamin Franklin's Health & Public Life

By this time, Franklin's health was in decline, and he withdrew somewhat from public life. 

However, his correspondence remained active, and he continued to engage with notable figures, sharing his thoughts on various subjects, including governance, science, and international affairs.

George Washington

As the United States' first President, Washington and Franklin's correspondence reflected a mutual respect, even as Washington prepared for the responsibilities of his upcoming presidency.

Preparation for Final Years

Recognizing his advancing age and declining health, Franklin began to put his affairs in order, ensuring that his legacy, both in terms of political philosophy and scientific contributions, would endure.

1789 — Franklin’s Last Full Year

Benjamin Franklin dying
© History Oasis

In 1789, as the newly formed U.S. government took shape with Washington's inauguration, an ailing Benjamin Franklin—though physically limited—remained an intellectual force—penning significant correspondences—championing the abolitionist cause—and ensuring his enduring legacy through meticulous preparations.

Beginning of a New Governmental Era

1789 marked the commencement of the United States' government under the new Constitution. 

On April 30, George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States. 

While Franklin did not hold an official position in the new administration, his foundational contributions to the shaping of the nation's governance structure and his continued correspondence lent guidance and perspective.

Franklin's Declining Health

Benjamin Franklin's health was in serious decline by 1789. 

He was largely confined to his home in Philadelphia and could not actively participate in the bustling political events. However, his home often became a hub for political discussions and meetings.

He was also frequently afflicted with gout, a painful ailment that both influenced his personal correspondence and shaped some of his public demeanor.

Franklin may have also contracted syphilis during his time in Europe, with speculations centering around the mid-18th century, though definitive evidence remains elusive.

Final Public Acts

Despite his ailing health, Franklin's political spirit did not waver. 

In February, he penned a public letter to the Federal Gazette on the subject of the slave trade, a testament to his enduring commitment to abolition. 

Legacy Preparations

Knowing that his time was limited, Franklin spent parts of 1789 ensuring that his vast array of written work, correspondences, and will were in order.

1790 — Benjamin Franklin’s Death & Lasting Legacy

In 1790, the United States mourned the loss of Benjamin Franklin—a foundational figure whose death was felt deeply at home and abroad—but his impactful legacy in politics, science, abolitionism, and public welfare lived on—influencing leaders—shaping debates—and touching communities for generations to come.

Death of Benjamin Franklin

On April 17, 1790, Benjamin Franklin passed away at the age of 84 in Philadelphia. 

His death was deeply mourned by the nation he had helped to birth and nurture. 

As a testament to his significant contributions to American society, an estimated 20,000 people attended his funeral, reflecting the deep respect and admiration held for him by the populace.

Legacy & Influence

Before his passing, Franklin was actively involved in various public affairs, expressing his views on subjects like abolition and education. 

Posthumously, his ideas continued to influence debates and policies.

Famous Eulogy by Mirabeau

Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau, a leading figure in the French Revolution, delivered a famous eulogy for Franklin before the French National Assembly, underscoring the global impact of Franklin's works and character. 

He extolled Franklin's virtues and contributions to both the sciences and the cause of liberty.

George Washington

The sitting President of the United States, Washington wrote to Franklin's daughter, expressing condolences and lauding Franklin's unmatched contributions to the nation.

Thomas Jefferson

Serving as Secretary of State, Jefferson had a deep appreciation for Franklin, having exchanged numerous correspondences with him over the years. He continued to reflect on Franklin's insights in matters of governance and diplomacy.

John Adams

Despite their previous differences, Adams recognized Franklin's significance to the nation, and he too expressed his condolences upon hearing of Franklin's passing.

Will & Legacy Preparations

Franklin's will, which he had revised multiple times, was executed upon his death. 

In it, he bequeathed funds to the cities of Boston and Philadelphia to be used for public projects, a testament to his enduring commitment to public welfare and education.

Advocacy for Abolition

One of Franklin's last public acts was his petition to Congress, in early 1790, on behalf of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, calling for an end to the transatlantic slave trade. 

The petition sparked heated debate in Congress, symbolizing the tensions that would persist over this issue for decades.

Discovery of Bones in a House

In the late 20th century, during a renovation of a house on Craven Street in London where Benjamin Franklin had resided for nearly two decades, over 1,200 fragments of human and animal bones were discovered, igniting intrigue and speculation about their origins and Franklin's potential involvement.

Characteristics Before Death

Franklin, often depicted with his bald pate, round spectacles, and robust frame, stood at a height of approximately 5 feet 9 inches.

Net Worth

At the time of his death in 1790, Benjamin Franklin left behind an estate valued at approximately £4,400, a considerable sum reflective of his successful ventures and investments over a lifetime of entrepreneurship and public service.