|After ten years of being away from Boston, Franklin made a
voyage home. On the way, he visited Newport to see his brother
James. The two reconciled their estranged brotherhood and made
peace. James, at the time, was suffering from a terminal illness.
His dying wish was for Benjamin to take care of his ten-year old
son. Like a true brother, the younger Franklin honored the request
and took in the son, sending the boy to school and instructing him
in the trade of printing.
In 1736, Franklin suffered a tremendous loss with the death of his four-year old son Francis from smallpox. Regrettably, Benjamin had not had his son inoculated and thus, he carried the onus of his son's death on his conscience throughout life. He loved "Little Franky" with all his heart. Fifty years after Francis' death, his father still wept when he spoke of him. "I always thought he would have been the best of all my children."
Franklin's political career got its start in 1736, when he was elected clerk of the state legislature. The following year, he was appointed to the position of post-master. Meanwhile, his many ideas benefited the city of Philadelphia. At Benjamin's urging, a tax was established to provide better watchmen. In addition, he helped organize groups of volunteer firefighters and assisted in the procuring of equipment (fire engines, hooks, and ladders). He supported a famous preacher, George Whitefield, in establishing an orphanage. Furthermore, he proposed a lottery to raise money for cannons to defend the city, and he also served his term as a common soldier, like any civic-minded Philadelphian. The chartering of a university, the Academy of Pennsylvania, was also Franklin's original idea. The college Benjamin founded is today known as the University of Pennsylvania. Benjamin's inventive genius proved to be a huge asset to the rapidly growing city as well. The Franklin stove, developed by him in 1748 at the age of 42, improved heating and reduced fire hazards in Philadelphia.
As his printing industry prospered, Franklin could afford to devote more and more of his energy to ameliorating life in Philadelphia. Printing had never been known as a wealthy trade. However, he used his talent and perseverance to create an extremely profitable enterprise. By 1748, the success of Benjamin's print shop entitled him to an early retirement. Freed from pecuniary burdens, Franklin turned his attention to the endeavors he most adored: science and politics.