Benjamin Franklin's Relationships
Credit: Copyright @ 2008 Marion Doss /

Benjamin Franklin was an interesting and complex person; it would be impossible to view his relationships through simplistic lenses. For just like any great individual, there are many facets of a historic figure outside of what mainstream declares is his important contributions to society. He was more likely to establish deep bonds with women than with men. This isn’t to say that he didn’t establish close relationships with men, but many of those relationships lost friction and died down for various reasons. It appears to be a common theme in his life to struggle with maintaining long relationships with individuals that involve personal commitments.

Ralph James

Ralph James and Benjamin Franklin became friends through both being in an exclusive circle of young tradesmen.  James was an aspiring poet who went to London with Franklin, leaving his wife and child behind.  Franklin was encouraged by a patron to go to London to buy equipment for his own print shop in the states—this patron promised to finance this venture.  Upon arriving, he discovers that his patron does not send letters of credit and leaves him with no financial support.  The two young journeymen decide to make the best of the situation and try to find jobs.  Franklin starts working at a printing house while James is unable to find a job.  So for some time, Franklin was racking in the money while James was encouraging him to spend it on amusements for the both of them.  Through these actions, James began to owe him money.  James eventually found a girlfriend, but went away to pursue a job.  He asked Franklin to watch over her; instead of his friend complying with James' request, he tries to seduce her.  This put an end to their friendship and James never paid back the money he owed.

George Whitefield

Benjamin Franklin developed a relationship with George Whitefield, a popular preacher responsible for spreading the Great Awakening.  At first glance, this relationship appears to be more of a financial benefit to Franklin.  They agreed to a deal that allowed him to be the main publisher of Whitefield’s sermons.  He also advertised Whitefield’s sermons at two shillings a volume.  But it would be too simplistic to state that Franklin was only interested in Whitefield for monetary gains.  He was intrigued by Whitefield’s charisma and ability to shake up traditional thought by challenging popular views in the 1730's and 1740's.  Franklin even invited Whitefield over for supper while he was in Philadelphia giving sermons.  They remained in contact with each other till Whitefield’s death in 1770.  

Catherine Ray

Catherine Ray was a young lady who Benjamin Franklin had a strong interest in. Franklin was 48 years old, while this young lady was 23 years old. She was in Newport visiting her family; her sister was married to the stepson of John Franklin. At this time, Franklin was married to his wife Deborah, whose marriage is seen as a comfortable companionship rather than a passionate one. Franklin was pragmatic by nature, so his marriage with Deborah was a choice made through practical means. Catherine Ray and Franklin occasionally flirted, yet there is no record of an affair. His romance with Catherine Ray ended shortly when she had to go back to Block Island. They often wrote each other letters and remained friends for the remainder of their lives.