CliffsNotes on Franklin's Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

By Merrill Maguire Skaggs | Go to book overview

Character List

Benjamin Franklin The author, writing his Autobiography in his old age, reveals himself to be something of a “renaissance man,” skilled in many fields: business, science, public affairs, and diplomacy. He believes in hard work, honesty, and the capacity of all men to improve themselves. He possesses a subtle sense of humor.

Dr. Thomas Bond The physician who originated the idea of a public hospital in Philadelphia to serve the poor, whether residents or travelers.

General Edward Braddock The Commander-in-chief of forces sent to defend the Colonies against French and Indian attacks in 1755. Braddock ignored warnings about the Indians’ usual ambush tactics and was subsequently killed. His army was slaughtered.

Andrew Bradford The best-established printer in Philadelphia when Franklin arrived there looking for work. In his first days Franklin boarded with Bradford, though he was employed by Keimer, a rival. Once Franklin began his own printing-house, however, he and Bradford became great rivals. As postmaster, Bradford forbade his riders to carry Franklin’s newspapers. Bradford’s father, William, of New York, had originally recommended that Franklin try to find work in Philadelphia.

Dr. John Browne An inn-keeper near Burlington with whom Franklin stayed on his first journey to Philadelphia. Browne remained Franklin’s friend for life, though Franklin felt that Browne’s doggerel parody of the Bible might cause much harm.

Peter Colinson A London merchant and scientist who sent the Philadelphia Library Company its first Leyden jar for electrical experiments, and who later read Franklin’s papers on electricity to the London Academy.

John Collins Franklin’s boyhood friend whose superior argumentative abilities spurred Franklin to learn to write good prose. Later Collins came to Philadelphia but found no work, borrowed money Franklin held in trust, and never repaid the debt.

Denham A prosperous Philadelphia merchant Franklin met on his first voyage to England, who advised the youth when he was left stranded in London. Denham later made Franklin manager of his Philadelphia store, but died shortly afterwards.

Governor Denny The last governor mentioned in the Autobiography, who once tried to bribe Franklin on behalf of Pennsylvania’s Proprietors. Though he had given a personal bond not to do so, Denny himself was finally “persuaded” to sign a bill taxing the Proprietary estates.

Fothergill A London physician who wrote the preface for Franklin’s published papers on electricity and later advised Franklin when he arrived as Assembly Agent to petition the government against the Proprietors.

James Franklin Benjamin’s brother, a Boston printer, to whom he was apprenticed at the age of 12. James was imprisoned for opposing government measures and was forbidden to publish his newspaper. He cancelled Benjamin’s contract in order to make him figurehead publisher, and soon afterwards Benjamin refused to work for him. James was resentful when a prosperous Benjamin returned from Philadelphia, but the two were reconciled years later when Benjamin promised to train James’s son as his own apprentice.

Josiah Franklin Franklin’s father, who immigrated to New England to find greater religious freedom, and who inculcated in his son a desire to become both prosperous and useful.

William Temple Franklin Franklin’s son, who accompanied him on military trips and government missions in Pennsylvania and England. Later Governor of New Jersey, Temple sided with England during the Revolution, and therefore estranged himself from his father.

Thomas Godfrey Glassblower, astronomer, and mathematician of excellence, who rented part of Franklin’s printing house as a home and became a charter member of the Junto.

David Hall Franklin’s partner for 18 years, he managed the printing-house after Franklin himself retired from active participation in it.

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CliffsNotes on Franklin's Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Table of Contents 1
  • Book Summary 2
  • About the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin 3
  • Character List 8
  • Summary and Analysis 10
  • Section 1 11
  • Section 2 12
  • Section 3 14
  • Section 4 16
  • Section 5 18
  • Section 6 20
  • Section 7 22
  • Section 8 24
  • Section 9 25
  • Section 10 27
  • Section 11 29
  • Section 12 31
  • Section 13 33
  • Section 14 35
  • Section 15 36
  • Section 16 38
  • Section 17 40
  • Section 18 41
  • Critical Essays 42
  • Franklin’s Writing Style 43
  • Franklin’s Humor 44
  • Franklin and the American Dream 45
  • Franklin and the Spirit of Capitalism 46
  • Critical Opinions of the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin 47
  • Study Help 49
  • Quiz 50
  • Essay Questions 51
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