Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Influence of Benjamin Franklin

Everyone knows the name Benjamin Franklin. He was a successful printer, inventor, statesman and activist from Philadelphia that was involved in the formation of our country. In fact I believe Franklin was the most influential of our founding fathers.

Franklin was a member of the Second Continental Congress which chartered a five member committee to draft the Declaration of Independence. Other members of the committee were Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman.

You see how functional our Congress is today. We have great communication with fast news media and people generally have a sense of what the thinking is in other parts of the country. In the late 1700's people communicated through the mail delivered by horse drawn vehicles. Even delegates did not always understand the thinking of their constituents.

People from different colonies were more interested in their colony than the group of colonies as a whole, so you can bet there were some severe arguments over any policies the Continental Congress wanted and what the committee members thought was the intent of the Declaration of Independence. I think Franklin's value to the acceptance of this document was more what he did lobbying outside the Congress than the influence he had in Congressional sessions.

Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft, which included an objection to the slave trade. The Continental Congress made 86 changes which included dropping the anti slave trade language over Jefferson's strenuous objections. Jefferson's language was reduced by about 25%. Robert Livingston, one of the committee members that wrote the Declaration would not sign it, because he thought it was too soon to declare independence.

When the Revolutionary War started, Franklin was sent to France to enlist their support for our rebellion against British rule. He was successful in this endeavor and after the war was over, Franklin was a negotiator of the Treaty of Paris which officially ended the war.

Then the founders had to write our Constitution. Seventy three delegates were appointed, but 18 refused the appointment, including Patrick Henry. Some of the other 55 delegates that were well known were George Washington, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. All of these people had strong domineering personalities, as did most of the other delegates to the convention.

Franklin, being the oldest member of the delegation, recognized the value of getting a document to guide our government that was comprehensive, inclusive and long-lasting. Knowing how important it was to the success of our country, he used his influence in one-on-one settings to help people reach consensus. My conclusion is that the high standing of the Constitution as a legal document today is attributable to the efforts of Benjamin Franklin.


  1. I am a huge fan of Ben Franklin. I saved this blog entry to my home page. In college American History I had a great professor who helped us remember what Ben Franklin did during his career by telling us that the French ladies loved his long hair

  2. Ben needs more promotion for his contributions. Thanks for reading.