Benjamin Franklin

1706-1790. Inventor, author, and diplomat. Born in Boston, he left school at the age of ten to help with his father's candle and soap business. Two years later he was apprenticed to a printer, his half-brother. He achieved great success in several fields-as publisher, author, businessman, philanthropist, moralist, inventor, scientist, civil servant, and statesman. He influenced American religious thought and popular morality through his writings, especially through the widely read Poor Richard's Almanac (1732- 57) which extolled the virtues of hard work, thrift, moderation, and common sense in a humorously homespun way.

Though he contributed money to many religious institutions and valued the churches insofar as they promoted individual and social morality, he personally rejected the distinctive doctrines of orthodox Christianity in favor of an optimistic and undogmatic natural religion. He was a Deist who believed that nature rather than Scripture is the place where human reason recognizes God. He admired Jesus and His teachings, but doubted His divinity, and believed the essence of religion is to do good to men. He advocated separation of church and state and helped write the Declaration of Independence, which he also signed, and the U.S. Constitution. He helped to found the University of Pennsylvania, the first circulating library in America, and the American postal system.