By Sam Harris

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Initiation into serious diplomacy came the same year, when Franklin was appointed as one of the official Pennsylvania representatives to a congress in Albany that was convened to deal with the Iroquois Indians, to make them side with the British in the then worsening military conflict with the French. The French had, for example, captured part of the Ohio River Valley, including the unfinished British fort in present-day Pittsburgh, which they  B F completed and named Fort Duquesne.

Franklin had already heard Spencer speak once in Boston, and in 1744 he invited him to lecture in Philadelphia. Shortly thereafter, Peter Collinson sent the Library Company an electrical tube as a gift, and actual experiments began as a group activity of the Company. Franklin’s first “electrical” letter to Collinson in March 1747 begins as follows: Your kind present of an electric tube, with directions for using it, has put several of us on making electrical experiments, in which we have observed some particular phaenomena that we look upon to be new.

There Benjamin used every penny he could lay his hands on to buy books. He cultivated friendships with booksellers’ apprentices to obtain the loan of books. He chose to forego meals at his brother’s house to have more time to read books, and he evaded church when he could to be alone in the printing shop. He devised ingenious trial-and-error methods to develop a good writing style. Ben Franklin became a well-read youth at a time when literacy was rare. An indenture contract was normally binding on a young apprentice until he reached age twenty-one, but Benjamin managed to escape after a few years.

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An Atheist Manifesto by Sam Harris


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