On this day - 17th Apr 1790: Benjamin Franklin died


Continuing the American theme (blog on death of Abraham Lincoln from two days ago right here), today is the 225th anniversary of the death of Benjamin Franklin, often hailed as ‘The First American’. He is one of those people who I would describe with the following reverent phrase - “is there flipping nothing he couldn’t do?!”. Fame in one field clearly wasn’t his strong point and he found success in a seemingly endless list of things: as an inventor (of the lightning rod amongst other things), a scientist (one of the leaders of the American Enlightenment no less), politician, slavery abolitionist, diplomat, author, publisher and postman (well, why not!). 

Benjamin Franklin 
Robert Feke [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

He is known as one of the most famous of the Founding Fathers of the United States and defined the basis of the American ethos which is still felt today. He championed virtues of hard work, education and community spirit as central to what it meant to be an American. He fought hard to usher in the acceptance of the United States as a nation in its own right, becoming the first ever United States ambassador to France. Early in life he worked as a publisher for a revolutionary newspaper often to be seen criticising British policies whilst later he was to become essential to the war effort, organising timely shipments of munitions to Americans, pushing through a repeal of the hated Stamp Act and even delving into foreign policy to ensure good relations with the French. Seriously, there was nothing this man couldn’t do. And it didn’t stop there.

Benjamin Franklin 1767

Benjamin Franklin
David Martin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In the various and numerous positions he held during his life, he was committed to building America’s strength as a nation, morally, logistically and nationally. In Philadelphia (the most important American city at the time), Franklin ensured the beginnings of a university providing a good education for hundreds and producing the next generations of thinkers that would drive America’s future forward even further. As postmaster for the colonies he was able to set up the first ever American communications network. Again, is there nothing this man didn’t do?! He even turned his mind to the abolition of slavery. Franklin freed his own slaves as an example to others and tried to persuade many others to follow suit. Sadly it would take many more years and a bloody civil war before slavery was totally abolished in the United States (for more on this, see the Lincoln blog).

Peale - Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin
Charles Willson Peale [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

All in all he was a pretty phenomenally productive person and is well worth a little remembering today.  Perhaps if we all stopped procrastinating we too might reach such dizzying heights. 

© Isla Robertson 2017