1 Benjamin Franklin: A Significant Leader in Founding Our Country Marianne Nagengast Brandywine High School First Place 2006 Legislative Essay Scholarship Competition 2 Benjamin Franklin was never preside nt of the United States. He was not electe d to Congress, or appointed to the Supreme Court. Other great c olonial leaders 3 Washington, Jefferson and Hamilton, for example 3 might have held positions with greater authority.
But Benjamin Franklin has rightly been called cthe first great American d (W ood 3) for his work as a civic leader, first in Philadelphia, then within the c olonies, and l ater on the international stage. His work helped to shape the institutions that are fundamental to our society and to establish the principles on which our governm ent is based. Furthermore, his writings, power of persuasion, inventions and warm, witty personality set him apart as a distinctly American character 3 a man of the middle class whose industry and intelligence enabled him to become one of the leaders in th e creation of a new nation.
Franklin 9s career as a civic leader and statesman had the greatest influence on the developing nation. If not for Franklin 9s early civic leadership and involvement in ... more. less.
the Albany Congress, the Treaty of Paris, and the Constitutio nal Convention, it is unlikely the United States would be the great country it is today. While Benjamin Franklin is noted for having been the only person to have signed the three major documents essential for the birth of the United States 3 the Declarati on of Independence, the Treaty of Paris, and the Constitution 3 he achieved other worthwhile goals as well.<br><br> Franklin was not only a leader in American politics, but also in the development of American cultural and community life. He was one of the founders of Philadelphia 9s first public library. He tried to generate wealth in the community by calling for the printing of paper money, which he thought would greatly benefit trade.<br><br> Concerned with public safety, he created the nation 9s first volunteer firefighti ng company in 1736, and published pamphlets on how people could protect themselves from dangerous chimneys, fire, and hot coals. He called for night watchmen for the streets of Philadelphia and for inoculation against smallpox. He reformed the postal syste m and became the first postmaster general in 1775.<br><br> In his final years, Franklin was the president of the Pennsylvania Abolitionist Society, and wrote several 3 essays calling for integration of African - Americans and the end of slavery. Franklin, who once sai d cI wish to be useful even after my death d (Isaacson 474), left a sum of money to Philadelphia in his will in hopes that the city would spend it on public projects. His efforts had a lasting impact on the nation, as other cities eventually followed the ex amples set in Philadelphia.<br><br> Even hundreds of years after his death, Franklin continues to play an important role in the community. Although Franklin for many years considered himself a Loyalist, he always recognized the need for unity in the colonies. Wit h the threat of a war between England and France looming over the colonists 9 heads in 1754, Franklin was one of the four commissioners from Pennsylvania to meet at the Albany Congress to discuss intercolonial defense and security.<br><br> Franklin developed what b ecame known as the Albany Plan, which was one of the first steps the colonies took towards unification. The plan called for a president, who would be appointed by the king, and a Grand Council, whose delegates would be selected by the colonial legislatures . Although the Albany Plan failed to be ratified, many of its ideas would later be incorporated into the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution.<br><br> Less than a year before he died in 1790, Franklin remarked that it was most likely for the best that th e Albany Plan had not been passed: c On Reflection it now seems probable, that if the foregoing Plan or some thing like it, had been adopted and carried into Execution, the subsequent Separation of the Colonies from the Mother Country might not so s oon have happened, nor the Mischiefs suffered on both sides have occurred, perhaps during another Century. For the Colonies, if so united, would have really been, as they then thought themselves, sufficient to their own Defence, and being trusted with it, as by the Plan, an Army from Britain, for that purpose would have been unnecessary. d (Mount). 4 While the failure of the Albany Plan may have disappointed Franklin in 1754, America greatly benefitted from his efforts.<br><br> Because of Franklin, tw enty years before the Declaration of Independence was signed, some of the most prominent men in the c olonies had begun to recognize the importance of cooperation among their governments. As Franklin said, had the Albany Plan been passed, the colonies migh t have achieved a sense of unity under the British crown, and might never have rebelled. Later, when the timing was more appropriate, Franklin 9s attempts to establish unity among the 13 states were implemented in the Constitution, the document that has bee n the foundation of American government for more than 200 years.<br><br> At a time when Americans were just discovering who they were, Benjamin Franklin was making plans for the future. He saw the necessity of foreign assistance to America 9s rebellion, and it was largely due to his work with France that the colonies were able to acquire such a powerful ally. Just months after signing the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Franklin was appointed as an envoy to France.<br><br> He was very popular; people all over Europe s ought his opinion and bestowed so many honors upon him that he told his sister, cmy Face is now almost as well known as that of the Moon d (Morgan 243). This undoubtedly made it a bit easier for him to accomplish his political aims. Franklin 9s diplomatic sk ills were greatly tested with his efforts to hold the Franco - American alliance together when it was most crucial to the nascent country.<br><br> He had to convince France of the worthiness of an American alliance as well as the possibility of an American victory, while at the same time convincing skeptical Americans of the benefits of having a French alliance. For the most part, he succeeded. Also w hile representing America in France, Franklin helped to negotiate 1783 9s Treaty of Paris, which officially ended the Revolutionary War.<br><br> Franklin, who had long since renounced any of his British ties, would settle for nothing less than what he thought the Americans deserved. After two months of intense negotiations, led largely by Franklin, Britain recognized the 5 independ ence of the thirteen colonies. Had it not been for Franklin, the United States might have meekly accepted whatever Britain would offer instead of what it deserved.<br><br> Benjamin Franklin 9s role in the 1787 Constitutional Convention was also pivotal. By that ti me, he was an old man crippled by gout and kidney stones, and public speaking was physically painful for him. Although his body may have been failing, his mind stayed as sharp as ever.<br><br> Feeling that someone with so strong a reputation had a responsibility t o attend the convention, he wrote speeches that strove to promote cooperation among the delegates that others would read aloud. As his age and frailty kept him from being as active a participant as he might have liked, he spent most of his time assuming th e role of conciliator and voice of reason. Although the extent of the divisions in the convention astounded him (Wood 220), he was very pleased in the end.<br><br> In his famous speech on the final day of the Constitutional Convention, Franklin remarked that, know ing that it was impossible to create an infallible Constitution, cIt therefore astonishes me, sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does. d Benjamin Franklin may not have been the fierce negotiator that he had been in Paris, but h is presence was both inspiring and comforting to the younger delegates. Although at one point in his life he said he related more to the British than to the Americans, Benjamin Franklin proved himself to be a true patriot, ready to defend the country 9s ri ght to liberty. He created the alliance with France that enabled the new nation to win its war for independence, then negotiated the treaty that brought his country recognition as an independent nation.<br><br> Those accomplishments alone would be enough of a lega cy for one of America 9s first heroes. But the extra measure of Benjamin Franklin 9s greatness is how, 300 years after his birth, his ideas still resonate in our daily lives. In 1824, the money that Franklin left in his will to Philadelphia went towards the founding of the Franklin Institute, which continues as a thriving museum.<br><br> Because of Franklin 9s generosity and commitment to the community, we now have the opportunity to experience the world 6 of science and technology in a fascinating, up - close way. And, w henever we take a book out of the library, pay cash for lunch in the cafeteria, drop a letter in the mailbox or watch fire engines speeding toward a burning building, we 9re enjoying the fruits of Benjamin Franklin 9s vision and intelligence. 7 Bibliography Ellis, Joseph J.<br><br> Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation . New York: Knopf, 2004. Franklin, Benjamin.<br><br> The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin . 1868. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, 1996.<br><br> c The History and Mission of t he Fr anklin Institute Science Museum . d The Franklin Institute Online. 28 Nov. 2005.<br><br> < http://sln.fi.edu/tfi/info/history.html >. Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life .<br><br> New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003. Ketcham, Ralph L. Benjamin Franklin .<br><br> New Yor k: Washington Square Press, 1966. Morgan, Edmund S. Benjamin Franklin .<br><br> New Haven: Yale UP, 2002. Mount, Steve. cThe Albany Plan. d 28 Jun.<br><br> 2004. USConstitution.net . 26 Nov.<br><br> 2005. < http://www.usconstitution.net/albany.html >. Wood, Gordon S.<br><br> The Americanizat ion of Benjamin Franklin . New York: Penguin, 2004. <br><br>