Benjamin Franklin: A Documentary History
, by Leo Lemay
Detailed chronology of events, from the birth of Franklin's father to Franklin's burial, divided into seven periods, the first three became the basis for three volumes of The Life of Benjamin Franklin
"28 March, Saturday, BF [Benjamin Franklin] to Peter Collinson: 'Your kind present of an electric tube, with directions for using it, has put several of us on making electrical experiments. ...For my own part, I never was before engaged in any study that so totally engrossed my attention and my time as this has lately done.' P [The Papers of Benjamin Franklin] 3:118-9. Cf. April, 1745 (and sources cited there); 6 March (b) and 13 July 1747; and 8 Feb 1770. P 3:115-18 has an excellent headnote on the manuscripts and printed editions of BF's Experiments and Observations on Electricity. "
The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary
Website, now maintained by Franklin & Marshall College, dedicated to celebrating the 300th anniversary of Franklin's birth; includes interactive timeline of his life and a virtual display of the exhibition "Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World"
Benjamin Franklin | Libertarianism.org
Links to essays, columns and other resources about Franklin
Benjamin Franklin - Online Library of Liberty
Includes portrait, short biography and links to various versions of Franklin's works and to selected quotations
"Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was a Founding Father of the American republic, an author, inventor, and diplomat whose life and ideas came to be identified with the new American nation. He wrote the best selling Poor Richard's Almanac (1733), a posthumously published Autobiography, and many articles advocating American independence from Great Britain. From 1776-1785 he was the American ambassador to France, and from 1785-1788 he was governor of Pennsylvania."
Avalon Project - Jefferson's Autobiography
, 29 Jul 1821
Covering the period from 1743 (his childhood, with background on his parents) to 1790 (shortly after his return from Paris and before assuming his office as U.S. Secretary of State); written during 6 Jan-29 July 1821
"[Mr. Chase] therefore proposed that in votes relating to money, the voice of each colony should be proportioned to the number of its inhabitants. Dr. Franklin thought that the votes should be so proportioned in all cases. He took notice that the Delaware counties had bound up their Delegates to disagree to this article. He thought it a very extraordinary language to be held by any state, that they would not confederate with us unless we would let them dispose of our money. Certainly if we vote equally we ought to pay equally; but the smaller states will hardly purchase the privilege at this price."
Barack Obama: The Anti Economic Growth President
, by Jim Powell
, 29 Feb 2012
Lists and criticizes several of Obama's policies and proposals and discusses why economic growth and progress is beneficial
"Our Founders risked their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor for liberty and all its blessings — not least, unlimited human progress. For instance, Benjamin Franklin, in a 1788 letter, wrote: 'I have been long impressed with the improvements in philosophy, morals and even the conveniences of common living, by the invention and acquisition of new and useful utensils and instruments. Invention and improvement are prolific and beget more of their kind.'"
Ben Franklin on Liberty
, by Gary M. Galles, Mises Daily
, 3 Feb 2003
List of select quotes by Franklin on the subject of liberty, with introductory and closing remarks
"As a member of the Second Continental Congress, Franklin helped draft the Declaration of Independence. As a member of the Constitutional Convention, he helped draft the Constitution. ... Franklin's role in our founding has, however, been eclipsed in modern memory by his many other accomplishments. ... Unfortunately, the result has been that attention which deserves to be paid to what Franklin said about America and the liberty it was designed to protect has often been crowded out by that paid to his other accomplishments. It is worth remembering some of those inspirational words."
Benjamin Franklin: The Man Who Invented the American Dream
, by Jim Powell
, The Freeman
, Apr 1997
Lengthy biographical essay, including a section on the posthumous publication and reaction to Franklin's Autobiography
"Benjamin Franklin pioneered the spirit of self-help in America. With less than three years of formal schooling, he taught himself almost everything he knew. He took the initiative of learning French, German, Italian, Latin, and Spanish. ... He made himself an influential author and editor. He started a successful printing business, newspaper, and magazine. He developed a network of printing partnerships throughout the American colonies. ... He affirmed that by improving yourself and helping your neighbors you can make a free society succeed. His most glorious invention was—and is—the American dream."
Related Topics: John Adams
, American Revolutionary War
, United States Constitution
, United States Declaration of Independence
, John Hancock
, Thomas Jefferson
, Thomas Paine
, No Quartering of Soldiers
, George Washington
Benjamin Franklin - Hero of the Day
, The Daily Objectivist
Two excerpts from The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
"[I] grew very artful and expert in drawing people, even of superior knowledge, into concessions, the consequences of which they did not foresee, ... and so obtaining victories that neither myself nor my cause always deserved. I continu'd this method some few years, but gradually left it, retaining only the habit of expressing myself in terms of modest diffidence; never using, when I advanced any thing that may possibly be disputed, the words certainly, undoubtedly ... This habit, I believe, has been of great advantage to me when I have had occasion to inculcate my opinions, and persuade men into measures that I have been from time to time engag'd in promoting ..."
Childhood Ends at Puberty
, by Charley Reese, 15 Apr 2006
Recounts the early life of Benjamin Franklin and argues for ending formal basic education by 13
"Franklin, at the age of 8, studied at Boston Grammar School. He ... finished his formal schooling at George Brownell's English School — at age 11. From 11 to 12, he worked in his father's shop making candles and soap, then tried the cutlery business ... From age 13 to 15, he worked for his brother and wrote broadside ballads. He borrowed books to read, among them John Bunyan, Xenophon, John Locke, various histories and religious polemics, and improved his writing by imitating the essays of Joseph Addison and Sir Richard Steele in the London Spectator. ... At age 16, Franklin started his own newspaper, and his career was under way."
Empire or Liberty: The Antifederalists and Foreign Policy, 1787-1788
[PDF], by Jonathan Marshall, The Journal of Libertarian Studies
Describes the arguments regarding foreign policy made during the period of ratification of the United States Constitution by the Federalists and the counterarguments, "largely ignored" by historians, from the Antifederalists
"Few Federalists harbored any doubts as to America's future greatness under a centralized, energetic regime. ... Benjamin Franklin, too, had abandoned the ideal of the small Spartan republic, as he began to sense the awesome implications of 'our growing Strength, both in Numbers and Wealth.'"
Related Topics: American War Between the States
, Standing Armies
, Foreign Entanglements
, Patrick Henry
, John Jay
, James Madison
, George Mason
, United States
Franklin's Golden Rules
, by Mark Skousen
, The Daily Reckoning
, 18 May 2006
"Benjamin Franklin made great contributions as an inventor, scientist, writer, and founding father, but he is also offered valuable advice on money matters. ... An incurable optimist, Franklin was always bullish on America, and life in general. ... Franklin continued to live frugally, even during his retirement ..."
Frederic Bastiat, Ingenious Champion for Liberty and Peace
, by Jim Powell
, The Freeman
, Jun 1997
Lengthy biographical essay, covering those who influenced Bastiat as well as those influenced by him, his writings (including correspondence with his friend Félix Coudroy), his roles in the French Constituent and Legistative Assemblies and his legacy
"Bastiat came across a copy of Poor Richard's Almanack in 1827. He wrote a friend: 'I have discovered a real treasure—a small volume of the moral and political philosophy of Franklin. I am so enthusiastic about his style that I intend to adopt it as my own.'"
Related Topics: Frédéric Bastiat
, Richard Cobden
, Foundation for Economic Education
, Free Trade
, Henry Hazlitt
, The Law
, Gustave de Molinari
, Jean-Baptiste Say
, The State
In Pursuit of Liberty
, by Jarret Wollstein
, May 1997
Primer on liberty concepts, including voluntary vs. coercive associations, individual rights, government and possible future improvements in the status quo
"Liberty is such a compelling and important value that even brutal dictatorships claim to support it. Tyrants say they are promoting 'higher' freedoms – such as 'national security', 'economic equality', or 'the common good.' ... Even the United States imprisoned over 115,000 Americans of Japanese descent during World War II in the name of 'national security.' As Benjamin Franklin observed in 1759, those who give up their liberty in exchange for government promises of security, end up with neither liberty nor security."
Liberty, safety, and Benjamin Franklin
, by Eugene Volokh, The Volokh Conspiracy
, 11 Nov 2014
Parses the famous Franklin quote about "essential Liberty" and "little temporary Safety" in the two contexts in which he made it
"As Ben Wittes has noted ... 'The words appear originally in a 1755 letter that Franklin is presumed to have written on behalf of the Pennsylvania Assembly to the colonial governor ... Franklin was writing ... in his capacity as a legislator being asked to renounce his power to tax lands notionally under his jurisdiction. ...' Then Franklin famously repeated the words right before the Revolution, as a defense of the colonies' right not to have their charters and laws altered by Parliament - again, we're talking here about 'liberty' in the sense of communal self-government, not individual liberty."
, by Jack Dennon, 29 May 2006
Critiques the U.S. Constitution and the government it allowed to be set up, with quotes from Albert Jay Nock and Lysander Spooner
"Recall that on his way home from Independence Hall, where he had been delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1789, Benjamin Franklin is said to have been asked what kind of government he and the others had created. 'A republic,' answered Franklin, 'if you can keep it.' If the Franklin fable be true, then evidently like many today, Ben had not read the fine print."
The Philosophy of Paine
, by Thomas Edison, The Diary and Sundry Observations of Thomas Alva Edison
, 7 Jun 1925
Edison laments the lack of interest in Paine's writings, outlines his life, discusses the main writings and encourages others to read him
"Franklin knew him for a great patriot and clear thinker. ... Franklin also had a hand and probably was responsible in even larger measure for the Declaration. But all of these men had communed with Paine. ... Paine, you know, came over to the Colonies after meeting Franklin in London. He had encountered numerous misfortunes, and Franklin gave him letters to friends back home which resulted in his becoming editor of the Pennsylvania Magazine in January of 1775."
, by Wendy McElroy
, Future of Freedom
, Dec 2010
Discusses the 18th century French economists and their influences on Adam Smith, on American agriarianism and on Henry George
"Several Founding Fathers, including Benjamin Franklin, traveled to France where they personally met the Physiocrats. Franklin first visited Paris in 1767 and, at that point, formed close bonds of friendship with the French economists with whom he shared many beliefs, including free trade, agrarianism, and natural law. Upon his return to America, he maintained active contact with them through correspondence. In one letter, Du Pont enclosed his work Physiocratie. Declaring himself 'perfectly charmed' by the work, Franklin claimed to have received 'a great deal of instruction from it.'"
The Rocky Road of American Taxation
, by Charles Adams
, Mises Daily
, 15 Apr 2006
Adapted from the author's For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes on the Course of Civilization
; examines tax resistance in colonial America up to the Jefferson presidency
"Benjamin Franklin was one of those sent to argue for repeal. He was the agent for New Jersey, Georgia, and above all, Massachusetts — the seedbed of the rebels. He was invited to speak to the House of Commons. ... The best record we have of the tyranny of British tax agents is in a small article written by Benjamin Franklin in 1773, which has no resemblance to his remarks to Parliament in 1766. His later article was called, 'Rules by which a Great Empire may be Reduced to a Small One.' He did not name Great Britain specifically, but he listed 20 grievances the colonies had against the British."
The Spirit of Humility
[PDF], by Stanley Kober, Cato Journal
Discusses the recognition of the limits on human knowledge, which the author claims leads to the title spirit as evidenced in "the American experiment" and its possible lessons for European unification
"... what historian Daniel Boorstin has called 'the courage to doubt,' ... was exemplified by Benjamin Franklin. Near death, Franklin was asked his opinion about a religious question. He expressed an opinion, but added that 'it is a question that I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble.' Franklin was not troubled by living in a state of uncertainty regarding a question for which he had no good evidence one way or the other."
Thomas Paine-Passionate Pamphleteer for Liberty
, by Jim Powell
, The Freeman
, Jan 1996
Biographical essay, highlighting Paine's writings in Common Sense
, American Crisis
, Rights of Man
and Age of Reason
"Benjamin Franklin helped [Paine] get started in Philadelphia and considered him an 'adopted political son.' ... He befriended a London astronomer who introduced him to Benjamin Franklin, then working to expand business with England. Franklin seems to have convinced Paine that he could make a better life in America, and Franklin provided a letter of introduction to his son-in-law in Philadelphia. ... Then he came up with an idea for cashing in on the American bridge-building boom. He didn't find American backers, so on Franklin's recommendation, he sought support in France and England."
Time Out of Mind
, by Christopher M. Montalbano, 12 Mar 2007
"All of us have heard since childhood that Benjamin Franklin was the first to propose 'daylight saving time.' ... The letter is really an example of American satire at its finest — it might have been written by Mark Twain 100 years later, or H. L. Mencken 50 years after that. It is hilarious. It concludes with a pure libertarian reductio ad absurdum of the idea that the state should enforce such an institution."
Ben Franklin: Conservative, Libertarian, or Radical Democrat?
, by David Boaz
(moderator), Mark Skousen
(speaker), 19 Jan 2006
Book Forum hosted by Boaz, with presentation by Skousen discussing Franklin's Autobiography
, Skousen's The Compleated Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
and under what political viewpoint would one categorize Franklin
"When Franklin died in 1790, he left unrecorded the last 33 years of his illustrious career as signer of the Declaration of Independence, ambassador to France, and delegate to the Constitutional Convention."