Founding Father Benjamin Franklin dies at age 85 (1790)

Benjamin Franklin dies (1706-1790)

Philadelphia, April 21 [1790]: On Saturday night last departed this life, in the 85th year of age, Dr Benjamin Franklin, of this city. His remains will be interred this afternoon at four o’clock, in Christ Church burial ground.

Benjamin Franklin’s death and final illness

We are favored with the following short account of Doctor Franklin’s last illness, by his friend and physician, Dr [John] Jones.

The stone, with which he had been afflicted for several years, had for the last twelve months confined him chiefly to his bed; and during the extreme painful paroxysms, he was obliged to take large doses of laudanum to mitigate his tortures — still, in the intervals of pain, he not only amused himself with reading and conversing cheerfully with his family, and a few friends who visited him, but was often employed in doing business of a public as well as private nature, with various persons who waited on him for that purpose; and in every instance displayed, not only that readiness and disposition of doing good, which was the distinguishing characteristic of his life, but the fullest and clearest possession of his uncommon mental abilities; and not unfrequently indulged himself in those jeux d’esprit and entertaining anecdotes, which were the delight of all who heard him.

About sixteen days before his death, he was seized with a feverish indisposition, without any particular symptoms attending it, till the third or fourth day, when he complained of a pain in the left breast, which increased till it became extremely acute, attended with a cough and laborious breathing.

During this state, when the severity of his pains sometimes drew forth a groan of complaint, he would observe — that he was afraid he did not bear them as he ought — acknowledged his grateful sense of the many blessings he had received from that Supreme Being, who had raised him from small and low beginnings to such high rank and consideration among men and made no doubt but his present afflictions were kindly intended to wean him from a world, in which he was no longer fit to act the part assigned him.

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin's death

In this frame of body and mind he continued till five days before his death, when his pain and difficulty of breathing entirely left him, and his family were flattering themselves with the hopes of his recovery, when an imposthumation, which had formed itself in his lungs, suddenly burst, and discharged a great quantity of matter, which he continued to throw up while he had sufficient strength to do it, but, as that failed, the organs of respiration became gradually oppressed — a calm lethargic state succeeded — and, on the 17th of April 1790, about eleven o’clock at night, he quietly expired, closing a long and useful life of eighty-four years and three months.

>> Also see: Benjamin Franklin’s advice for getting better sleep (1786)

It may not be amiss to add to the above account, that Dr Franklin, in the year 1735, had a severe pleurisy, which terminated in an abscess of the left lobe of his lungs, and he was then almost suffocated with the quantity and suddenness of the discharge. A second attack of a similar nature happened some years after this, from which he soon recovered, and did not appear to suffer any inconvenience in his respiration from these diseases.

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Founding Father Benjamin Franklin's death

Benjamin Franklin dies: Burial account – Clipping from April 24, 1790

“In short, every possible mark of respect was paid to the mains of this venerable and illustrious citizen and philosopher.”

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin obituary










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