What was Benjamin Franklin's childhood like?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Most of what we know about Benjamin Franklin's childhood is derived from his Autobiography, which is, of course, a carefully constructed version of his life. What Franklin emphasizes is that he pulled himself up by his own bootstraps, earning success through hard work. He was born into an ordinary family in Boston, and went to grammar school (unlike his brothers, who were apprenticed into trades) because his father wanted him to become a minister. He describes himself as successful at writing, but a failure at mathematics, and so he returned at the age of ten to work for his father, who worked as a candle and soap maker. Franklin's father, perceiving that his son hated the trade, determined to set him up as a printer. He was apprenticed to his brother, who treated his younger brother with contempt and borderline abuse. Indeed, Franklin remembers, "his harsh and tyrannical treatment of me might be a means of impressing me with that aversion to arbitrary power that has stuck to me through my whole life." Eventually, Franklin left his brother for Philadelphia, where he began life as a young man. Overall, Franklin emphasizes his work ethic and especially his lust for learning as the factors that contributed to his success later in life.