franklin

The game of chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are acquired or strengthened by it. For life is a kind of chess, in which we have adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events that are, in some degree, the effects of prudence or the want of it. By playing at chess, we may learn:

1. Foresight, which considers the consequences that may attend an action: for it is continually occurring to the player, “If I move this piece, what will be the advantage of my new situation? What use can my adversary make of it to annoy me?”.

2. Circumspection, which surveys the whole chessboard, the scene of action, the relations of the several pieces and situations, the dangers they are exposed to, the several possibilities of their aiding each other.

3. Caution, not to make our move too hastily, acquired by observing strictly the laws of the game. If you have incautiously put yourself in a bad and dangerous position, you must abide all the consequences of your rashness.

4. And the habit of not being discouraged by present bad appearances in the state of our affairs, of hoping for a favorable change, and of persevering in the search of resources. One so frequently, after long contemplation, discovers the means of extricating one’s self from a supposed insurmountable difficulty, that one is encouraged to continue the contest to the last, in hopes of victory by our own skill.

– Excerpt from Benjamin Franklin’s Essay, “The Morals of Chess”

Brief Biography of Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin FRS (January 17, 1706 – April 17, 1790) was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and in many ways was “the First American”. A world-renowned polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. As an inventor, he is known for the lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove, among other inventions. He facilitated many civic organizations, including Philadelphia’s fire department and a university.

Franklin earned the title of “The First American” for his early and indefatigable campaigning for colonial unity; as an author and spokesman in London for several colonies, then as the first United States Ambassador to France, he exemplified the emerging American nation. Franklin was foundational in defining the American ethos as a marriage of the practical values of thrift, hard work, education, community spirit, self-governing institutions, and opposition to authoritarianism both political and religious, with the scientific and tolerant values of the Enlightenment. In the words of historian Henry Steele Commager, “In a Franklin could be merged the virtues of Puritanism without its defects, the illumination of the Enlightenment without its heat.” To Walter Isaacson, this makes Franklin “the most accomplished American of his age and the most influential in inventing the type of society America would become.”

Franklin, always proud of his working class roots, became a successful newspaper editor and printer in Philadelphia, the leading city in the colonies. With two partners he published the Pennsylvania Chronicle, a newspaper that was known for its revolutionary sentiments and criticisms of the British policies. He became wealthy publishing Poor Richard’s Almanack and The Pennsylvania Gazette. Franklin was also the printer of books for the Moravians of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (1742 on). Franklin’s printed Moravian books (printed in German) are preserved, and can be viewed, at the Moravian Archives located in Bethlehem. Franklin visited Bethlehem many times and stayed at the Moravian Sun Inn.

He played a major role in establishing the University of Pennsylvania and was elected the first president of the American Philosophical Society. Franklin became a national hero in America when as agent for several colonies he spearheaded the effort to have Parliament in London repeal the unpopular Stamp Act. An accomplished diplomat, he was widely admired among the French as American minister to Paris and was a major figure in the development of positive Franco-American relations. His efforts to secure support for the American Revolution by shipments of crucial munitions proved vital for the American war effort.

For many years he was the British postmaster for the colonies, which enabled him to set up the first national communications network. He was active in community affairs, colonial and state politics, as well as national and international affairs. From 1785 to 1788, he served as governor of Pennsylvania. Toward the end of his life, he freed his own slaves and became one of the most prominent abolitionists.

His colorful life and legacy of scientific and political achievement, and status as one of America’s most influential Founding Fathers, have seen Franklin honored on coinage and the $100 bill; warships, the names of many towns, counties, educational institutions, namesakes, and companies, and, more than two centuries after his death, countless cultural references.

Franklin was an avid chess player. He was playing chess by around 1733, making him the first chess player known by name in the American colonies. His essay on “The Morals of Chess” in Columbian magazine in December 1786 is the second known writing on chess in America. This essay in praise of chess and prescribing a code of behavior for the game has been widely reprinted and translated. He and a friend also used chess as a means of learning the Italian language, which both were studying; the winner of each game between them had the right to assign a task, such as parts of the Italian grammar to be learned by heart, to be performed by the loser before their next meeting. Franklin was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1999.

Born: January 17, 1706; Boston, Massachusetts Bay
Died: April 17, 1790 (aged 84); Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Parents: Josiah Franklin, Abiah Folger
Nationality: American
Spouse: Deborah Read
Children: William Franklin, Francis Folger Franklin, Sarah Franklin Bache
Profession: Printer-Publisher, Writer, Politician, Scientist
Inventions: Lightning rod · Franklin stove · Bifocals · Glass harmonica

[Benjamin Franklin Photo and Brief Biography from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]