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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin | Study Guide

Benjamin Franklin

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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin | Key Figures

Key Figure Description
Benjamin Franklin Benjamin Franklin is the subject, author, and narrator of the Autobiography, which he wrote at three separate points in later life, beginning in 1771 at the age of 65; he wrote Part 2 in 1784 at 78, after the American Revolution; and he continued the work with Parts 3 and 4 from 1788 until his death in 1790 at 84. Thus, the Autobiography is unfinished, covering only a part of the narrator's life, from his birth until roughly 1757. Read More
William Franklin William Franklin was the son of Benjamin Franklin and the official addressee of his father's autobiography, as indicated by the author's introductory letter, dated 1771. At the time, William Franklin served as the Royal Governor of New Jersey, a post that he owed largely to his father's influence. Read More
James Franklin James Franklin was one of Benjamin Franklin's older brothers. Almost nine years Ben's senior, James plays an important role in the Autobiography, acting as both mentor and quasi-employer of Ben in the writing and production of one of the first independent colonial newspapers, the New England Courant. Read More
Samuel Keimer Samuel Keimer was a Philadelphia printer who was Franklin's first employer in that city. Read More
Dr. John Fothergill Dr. John Fothergill was an English physician and supporter of Franklin's. Read More
General Edward Braddock General Edward Braddock was a British military commander who headed colonial forces in the early stages of the French and Indian War.
Peter Collinson Peter Collinson was a Quaker British merchant and scientist who was a friend of Franklin and a fellow of the elite Royal Society. He corresponded regularly with Franklin on the subject of electricity.
Mr. Denham Mr. Denham was an older benefactor who befriended the young Franklin in London and offers him good advice and mentorship.
Abiah Franklin Abiah Franklin was Benjamin Franklin's mother.
Josiah Franklin Josiah Franklin was Benjamin Franklin's father. Benjamin evidently had great respect for him. Josiah Franklin emigrated to New England about 1682.
Lord Granville John Carteret, Earl Granville was a British politician who was the President of the King's Council in London. Granville coldly announced to Franklin at their first meeting that "the King is the legislator of the Colonies."
Rev. Samuel Hemphill Rev. Samuel Hemphill was a young Presbyterian preacher from Ireland who visited Philadelphia in 1734. Franklin wrote several pamphlets for him.
Sir William Keith Sir William Keith was the colonial governor of Pennsylvania when Franklin was just beginning his career in Philadelphia. Keith promised to help the young Franklin, but his assurances prove to be empty and vain; whether Keith is malicious or just empty-headed is left up to the reader to decide.
Lord Loudon Lord Loudon was a British nobleman and military officer. He treated Franklin shabbily and delayed him on his journey to London in 1757.
Hugh Meredith Hugh Meredith was a friend and short-term business partner of Franklin. Meredith was overly fond of strong drinks and eventually he and Franklin had a parting of the ways.
Abbé Jean-Antoine Nollet Abbé Jean-Antoine Nollet was a French clergyman and scientist whom Franklin describes as "an able experimenter." However, Nollet published a volume of letters opposing Franklin's conclusions on electricity, to which Franklin decided not to reply, preferring "to let [his] papers speak for themselves;" in the end, Franklin's theories on electricity replaced those of Nollet.
James Ralph James Ralph was a friend whom Franklin knew both in Philadelphia and in London; Franklin writes admiringly of Ralph's abilities at conversation. Franklin loaned Ralph money, which Ralph neglected to repay, and the friendship broke down.
Deborah Read The daughter of Benjamin Franklin's first landlord in Philadelphia, Deborah Read became Franklin's common-law wife in 1730. Franklin describes her as industrious and frugal, but it seems that their relations were somewhat distant, though she bore him two children (it is unlikely that she was the mother of William, Ben's illegitimate son). Deborah predeceased her husband, dying in 1774.
Richard Saunders "Richard Saunders" is a pseudonym: the supposed author of Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanack, first published in 1732.
Sir Hans Sloane Sir Hans Sloane was a wealthy Englishman who buys a "curiosity" (an asbestos purse) from Franklin when Franklin first visits London. Sloane went on to found the British Museum in 1753.
Benjamin Vaughan Benjamin Vaughn was a British politician and scientist with whom Franklin dealt in the treaty negotiations of 1783 in Paris. He wrote Franklin an admiring and supportive letter, which Franklin includes at the beginning of Part 2 of the Autobiography.
Rev. George Whitefield Rev. George Whitefield was a British clergyman, one of the founders of the evangelical movement and a major participant in the First Great Awakening in America. Whitefield visited the American colonies in 1739–40, and Franklin met him and admired his preaching.
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