Benjamin Franklin

Key Terms and Events


Albany Plan of Union -  · In 1754 representatives from several colonies met in Albany, New York, to establish a common defense policy for the frontier and improve relations with the Iroquois. Franklin attended as a delegate and drafted a plan for establishing a common government. The plan was adopted by the convention but then rejected by the legislatures of the colonies. Though the convention failed, it set a precedent for the later Continental Congress, while Franklin's plan became a model for the Articles of Confederation.
Autobiography -  · The Autobiography, written in several stages in Franklin's later life, is his most famous piece of writing. In it he tells the story of his youth and early career as a printer. The book presents Franklin as a self-made man, someone who succeeded through hard work and good behavior. While Franklin the man certainly was hard working, the image of Franklin presented in the book is idealized. Franklin's story of success of prosperity is the story of the American Dream, which partly explains why the book remains so popular today.
"Great Compromise" -  · In 1787 Franklin attended the Constitutional Convention, where the United States Constitution was written. The delegates at the convention could not agree on whether each state should have an equal number of votes in the new legislature or a number of votes in proportion to their population. This difference pitted small states against big ones, and nearly sunk the whole convention. On July 3, Franklin broke the deadlock by moving that the legislature have two houses, one with equal representation and the other with proportional representation. This became known as the Great Compromise.
Indenture  -  · Indentures were a common form of contract in the eighteenth century. Generally, a person would agree to work for a period of time without pay (except room and board) in return for training, education, or some other service. Many people emigrating from Britain to America paid for their journey by signing indentures. After arriving they would work as servants for a number of years to pay off the cost of their trip. Franklin signed a nine-year indenture to be an apprentice to his brother. When Franklin left James's printing shop, he was breaking his indenture, which technically was illegal. (He knew James wouldn't chase him down, however, since his indenture was secret. Had Ben's indenture been public, he would not have been allowed to publish James's newspaper while James was in prison.)
Poor Richard's Almanack -  · Every year from 1732 to 1757, Franklin published an almanac. It had all the traditional components of an almanac, such as weather tables and agricultural information, but it also contained the sayings and proverbs of "Poor Richard." Poor Richard was none other than Franklin himself, writing in the persona of an innocent country bumpkin whose simple sayings were uncommonly wise. Poor Richard became a celebrity and was quoted everywhere. Franklin's almanac sold over 10,000 copies annually and helped make him a wealthy man.
Stamp Act -  · Passed by Parliament in 1764, the Stamp Act placed a tax on most paper transactions in the colonies. Nearly every official document, from court papers to contracts, required a stamp showing that the tax had been paid. The tax was intended to help pay for the recently ended French and Indian War. The colonists heavily opposed the Stamp Act. It was repealed soon afterwards, in part because of Franklin's testimony against it in the House of Commons.
Townsend Acts -  ·  Passed by Parliament in 1767 as the Revenue Act but known as the Townsend Acts, these laws taxed all glass, paper, lead, tea, and paint entering the American colonies. The colonists bitterly opposed these acts, which hurt American trade.
Treaty of Paris -  · The Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, officially ended the Revolutionary War. Franklin was the lead negotiator of the treaty, in which Britain recognized American independence and granted it all of the territory east of the Appalachian Mountains and south of Canada. The treaty also secured American fishing rights off the coast of Newfoundland and bound the British to remove their troops from the Ohio Valley.


Second Continental Congress -  · In September of 1774, representatives from all the colonies except Georgia met to decide how to respond to the Coercive Acts, which closed Boston's harbor. This was the First Continental Congress. The Second Continental Congress met a year later, after the Battles of Concord and Lexington set the colonies in open conflict with Britain. Franklin attended the Congress as a delegate from Pennsylvania and argued for American independence.
Battles of Concord and Lexington -  · On April 19, 1775, British troops marched from Boston to confiscate a stockpile of weapons held by rebellious colonists. On their way, the troops met by local militias. The two sides fired shots, and by the end of the day both British and militia troops had been killed. With these accidental battles, the Revolutionary War started.