On APRIL 17, 1790, the son of a poor candle-maker died.
The 15th of 17 children, he apprenticed as a printer and published a popular almanac.
He retired at age 42, then taught himself five languages, invented the rocking chair, bifocal glasses and the lighting rod, which earned him degrees from Harvard and Yale.
He helped found the University of Pennsylvania, a hospital, America’s first postal system and fire department.
He became the governor of Pennsylvania, signed the Declaration of Independence and called for prayer at the Constitutional Convention.
He was president of America’s first anti-slavery society.
His name was Ben Franklin.
When France and Spain were raiding the American colonies, Ben Franklin proposed a General Fast, which was published in the Pennsylvania Gazette, December 12, 1747:
“We have…thought fit…to appoint…a Day of Fasting & Prayer, exhorting all, both Ministers & People…to join with one accord in the most humble & fervent supplications that Almighty God would mercifully interpose and still the rage of war among the nations & put a stop to the effusion of Christian blood.”
In a pamphlet for Europeans titled Information to Those Who Would Remove to America, 1754, Benjamin Franklin wrote:
“Atheism is unknown there; Infidelity rare and secret; so that persons may live to a great age in that country without having their piety shocked by meeting with either an Atheist or an Infidel.
And the Divine Being seems…pleased to favor the whole country.”
On September 28, 1776, as Governor of Pennsylvania, Benjamin Franklin signed the State’s first Constitution, which stated in Frame of Government, Section 10:
“And each member, before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz:
‘I do believe in one God, the Creator and Governor of the Universe, the Rewarder of the good and the Punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine Inspiration. And no further or other religious test shall ever hereafter be required of any civil officer or magistrate in this State.'”
When Congress was debating slavery, Ben Franklin became President of Pennsylvania’s Society for the Abolition of Slavery. On March 23, 1790, in his last published letter (Federal Gazette), Franklin condemned the Southern State’s economic argument for continuing slavery by comparing them to the Muslim pirates who enslaved Christians:
“If we cease our cruises against Christians, how shall we…make slaves of their people…to cultivate our land…to perform common labors…Must we be our own slaves: And is there not more compassion due to us as Mussulmen than to these Christian dogs.
We have now about 50,000 slaves in and near Algiers…If we then cease taking and plundering the infidel ships and making slaves of the seamen and passengers, our lands will become of no value for want of cultivation.”
In his Poor Richard’s Almanac, May 1757, Ben Franklin wrote:
“Work as if you were to live 100 years; pray as if you were to die tomorrow.”
Self-Educated American contributing editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.