Declaration Of Independence Benjamin Franklin


Michael Benton, Contributor

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declaration of independence benjamin franklinWhen Benjamin Franklin returned to Philadelphia in 1775, his opinion on the matter of American Independence had fully formed. In the years previous, Franklin had held out hope for an accommodationist solution that would allow Britain to maintain its rule over the American colonies with a compromise on the representation of the colonists in Parliament. It was a moderate position at the time and seemed more reasonable than open conflict, but a number of events came to change Franklin's mind about the future of the colonies. In 1771, he visited Ireland and witnessed the great poverty and brutal oppression that plagued the island under British rule; in his descriptions of the destitute land and people, Franklin notes his worry that similar laws and policies instituted by the British in America would certainly lead to a state of slavery for the colonists. Three years later, Franklin intercepted the private letters of Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson and Lieutenant Governor Andrew Oliver in which they requested more British troops to squash the rebellious population of Boston. He leaked these documents to the Sons of Liberty and they were heavily publicized by leaders such as John Adams. When three innocent men were charged for the leak, Franklin admitted his guilt and the scandal cost him his position and status in England. After being ridiculed before Parliament, Franklin headed home to Philadelphia with a newfound commitment to ending British power in America.

Five days after Franklin's return, the Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia and he was unanimously chosen to represent Pennsylvania as a delegate. In his speeches to the Continental Congress, Franklin warned of the British capability for brutality and oppression and the necessity for liberty. Franklin was included in the appointment of a Committee of Five for for the drafting of a new declaration. During the writing of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin played only a minor role; he provided advice to Thomas Jefferson and made several small changes to his original draft. The important aspect of Franklin's involvement in the movement for Independence was his influence in America and abroad. Franklin had grown into a transatlantic celebrity in the decades before; his publication, "Poor Richard's Almanack" was translated and read throughout Europe and his kite experiment was emulated by scientists in many countries. Franklin was one of the few Americans to become an admired figure on both sides of the ocean and for him to throw his weight behind the Revolution would have galvanized support for the issue of liberty.

For Ben Franklin, Declaration of Independence was the first of four documents he would sign that together gave birth to the United States of America. The second was the Franco-American Alliance of 1778 that secured the support of Britain's most powerful enemy; Franklin had negotiated the Alliance as the elder statesman representing America in France. The third was the Treaty of Paris in 1783 that ended the war in America's favor; Franklin was once again the leading American diplomat in the negotiations. And the fourth and final document was the United States Constitution which he signed at the age of 81 years.