"Those who would
give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve
neither Liberty nor Safety."
Click here to listen.
Letter to the botanist Sir
Joseph Banks. Complete Works, vol. 8, ed. John Bigelow. A slightly altered version of this quotation is inscribed on a plaque in
the stairwell of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.
July 27, 1783
Born in Boston, Franklin is best known as a patriot, statesman, printer,
scientist, and writer. Franklin was the son of a tallow chandler and soap
maker. He was apprenticed to his half brother James, a printer, but left for
Philadelphia in 1723 to work as a printer. In 1729, Franklin became owner
and editor of the Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper, which soon became popular.
From 1733 until 1757, Franklin published Poor Richard's Almanac. Many of the
famous phrases associated with Franklin appeared in the Almanac.
Franklin was a tireless scientist, performing experiments and inventing such
things as the Franklin stove, bifocal glasses, glass harmonica, and the
lightning rod. He is well-known for his experiments on electricity,
including the now-famous experiment of flying a kite in a thunderstorm.
Franklin served as deputy postmaster general of the colonies from 1753-74,
making the postal system efficient and profitable.
With the approach of the American Revolution, Franklin's loyalties lay with
America. His illegitimate son, William Franklin, who was serving as Royal
Governor of New Jersey, remained loyal to England, causing a rift between
the two. Franklin was elected to the Second Continental Congress and worked
on a committee of five that drafted the Declaration of Independence. Though
much of the writing is Thomas Jefferson's, much of the contribution is
Franklin's. In 1776 Franklin signed the Declaration, and afterward sailed to
France as an ambassador to the Court of Louis XVI. Franklin enjoyed a high
reputation in France and helped gain French recognition of the new republic
In 1781, Franklin was one of the American diplomats chosen to negotiate
peace with Great Britain. Franklin returned to America in 1785 and was made
president of the Pennsylvania executive council.