Benjamin Franklin  

Benjamin Franklin

by Jocelyn Alvarez

Benjamin Franklin was an individual who had a wide spectrum of abilities. He was a poet, statesman, scientist, an inventor, a philosopher, an educator, and a public servant. Any one of Franklin's many accomplishments would have been enough to make him famous. In Europe, Benjamin Franklin was the most famous American of his time. It was he who persuaded the English to repeal the hated Stamp Act. He was also crucially responsible for the American Revolution, since it was also he who convinced the French to aid in the Revolution. Franklin helped draft both the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution. Benjamin Franklin was the embodiment of the American man, who rises from the common man. He was at ease with kings and stable boys at the same time.

Benjamin Franklin wrote many books, but his most popular publication was 'Poor Richard's Almanack.' The 'Almanack' was a calendar and weather forecast for the year, and it contained amusing stories, jokes, and aphorisms. The homely sayings, which Franklin published under the pen name Richard Saunders, made him famous as a rustic philosopher. It was "Poor Richard" who said:

Early to bed, early to rise Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Franklin, more than any man before him, drew the colonies together. In four years he made the postal service pay. For the first time the British government made a profit on the system. Quarrels between Britain and France brought war to America in the 1750s. French hunters, trappers, and soldiers moving down from Canada had built forts along the Ohio River and had made friends with Indian tribes.

Franklin was called before the English House of Commons for questioning. He resented the American position so clearly and reasonably that Parliament was persuaded to repeal the Stamp Act. Franklin was hailed as a great statesman for this accomplishment.

Many Englishmen in power, however, refused to listen to Franklin's good advice. Open rebellion broke out in America. Franklin returned to Philadelphia in 1775, landing just after the battle of Lexington and Concord had been fought. His wife had died in 1774. Although Franklin was nearly 70 years old, he plunged into the work of the Revolution. "I am but a fag end," he said, "and you may have me for what you please."

At once he was made the first postmaster general of the colonies and a member of the Second Continental Congress. In the autumn of 1775 Congress appointed Franklin one of three men to go to Washington's headquarters at Cambridge, Mass., to confer on problems of the Continental Army. He helped draft the Declaration of Independence and later the Articles of Confederation.

In 1776 Congress sent Franklin on his most important diplomatic mission. He was asked to persuade France to help America in its fight for independence. Before he left he lent Congress about 4,000 pounds of his own money to help carry on the war. He reached Paris just before Christmas.

Franklin first he had to secure formal recognition for his country. Then he had to persuade the French that an alliance would be helpful to them. He was successful, and the Treaty of Paris was signed Feb. 6, 1778.

In the celebration of the treaty at the royal palace, King Louis XVI told all the world that France was the friend of the American Colonies and would help them in their fight for independence. Franklin was hailed as the champion of liberty. Jacques Turgot, the French statesman, said of him, "He snatched the lightning from the sky and the scepter from tyrants."

Franklin remained in France as a representative of America. In 1781 he was named one of the commissioners to negotiate peace with Great Britain. When the Revolution was won, Franklin was one of the signers of the peace treaty.

When Benjamin Franklin arrived in Philadelphia on Sept. 14, 1785, he became president of the Pennsylvania Assembly, a post equal to that of governor. Franklin was also a member of the Constitutional Convention. His own plan of government, which was rejected, called for an executive committee instead of a president and for a one-house legislature instead of two. Franklin was one of the signers of the Constitution.

In his last years the statesman wrote newspaper articles and his famous autobiography. His final public act was to sign a memorial to the state legislature as president of the Pennsylvania society for the abolition of black slavery.

Jocelyn Alvarez was a contestant in the SAR Knight Essay Contest.   This was her entry in the Thomas Jefferson contest.