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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Study Guide

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin By Benjamin Franklin

Part one

Benjamin Franklin's early life was spent in apprenticeship to his older brother James Franklin, a printer and publisher of the New England Courant. Benjamin studied writing, and one night, wrote an anonymous paper and slipped it under the door at the Courant. James and his friends loved the paper and published it, prompting Ben to write several more, now collectively known as the Silence Dogood Essays. When Ben revealed his authorship, James was mad at him and thought him proud.

Eventually James gets thrown in jail, and Ben is planned to take over the Courant under James' leadership, but decides he would rather not. James gets Ben blacklisted all over Boston, and Ben leaves for New York; unable to get a job there, he heads to Philadelphia. The Governor of Philadelphia notices Franklin, and offers to set him up in his own business on the condition that he go to London for supplies. Franklin agrees, but when he gets to London, the Governor's letter of recommendation has failed to appear, and he is struck there with no money and no allies. He gets a job until he is able to find a way back. He gets a job managing a print shop, but soon quits because the shop's owner wants to pay him less. One of the other print shop employees offers to partner with Franklin in setting up a shop, and they do. They buy the only newspaper in town, and make it successful. He marries Deborah Read, and started planning the first public library. The American Revolution interrupts, ending part one.

Part two

Franklin has embarked on a project to morally perfect himself, but realizes that perfection cannot be obtained. He is happier for having made the attempt.

Part three

Franklin first publishes Poor Richard's Almanack, which becomes very successful, and he continues to prosper with his newspaper. He reconciles with James, and loses a four-year-old son to smallpox. He takes minor political positions, proposes improvements to the city and state, and invents the Franklin stove. When war with France threatens, he proposes a Union of the Colonies, but it is dropped.

Franklin's ideas lead to the formation of a militia, and he takes command of the northwestern frontier. He is chosen as colonel, and the head of the colony (Thomas Penn, for whom Penn's Sylvania, or Penn's Woods, is named) takes offense and complains to the government in England of Franklin.

Franklin starts experimenting with electricity, and his theories are attacked by others who have their own conflicting theories. Franklin gets voted an honorary member of the Royal Society. Political strife sends Franklin to London in an attempt to quell differences between parts of the colony's government.

Part four

Franklin and his son arrive in London, and they speak with the King (the ultimate legislator of the colonies) and the Penn family. Franklin worked to reconcile the two, but failed. References to a planned section regarding the Treaty of Paris exist, but Franklin died before he could finish any more of his autobiography.

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