Ben Franklin Research Paper

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<p>Once a Britain, Always an American:The Transformation of Benjamin FranklinMarcus Jeffrey Byrd Dr. Keith Pacholl HIST-4452 The American Revolution</p> <p>Ben Franklin is the least likely of the Founding Fathers to be involved in the Revolutionary activity. He is the oldest of the men and had already established himself as a prominent figure in both American and English society. What is it that causes this once loyal Briton, to become that which is always associated with American?</p> <p>Benjamin Franklin is the icon of American ideals. He is picturesque of what is known as the "American dream". He was born to a Boston man of little importance or historical recognition, yet through hard work and perseverance, Franklin rises up to be a noble statesmen, world renown scientist, and industrial titan. Franklin is the archetype of the self-made-man. He is a symbol of what America has become and strives to be, however for the majority of Franklin's life he was not American. Born in 1706, the first seventy years of his life America did not exist at all. For the majority of his life he was very much loyal to the crown of England and in fact strived for his beloved colony of Pennsylvania to become owned by the British government rather than a proprietary colony.i It is illogical for a man who was an avid loyalist for the majority of his life, and some say never fully committed to the American Cause, to be the symbol of America. Historian Gordon Wood explains that Ben Franklin is the least likely of the Founding Fathers to be involved in the Revolutionary activity. He is the oldest of the men and had already established himself as a prominent figure in both American and English society.ii What is it that causes this once loyal Briton, to become that which is always associated with American? In 1754 Benjamin Franklin outlined the points of his Albany Plan. The points included his short hints of a unified continent in America governed by a Grand Council, however Franklin was merely suggesting that unification would support the colonies interests but more important it would create a stronger Britain. Franklin was an passionate loyalist to the British throne. It is often unimaginable to think of Franklin in any context other than American yet until 1776 or somewhere in the revolutionary period Franklin was still a proud Britain. Then after the revolution was complete, Franklin spent a majority of his remaining years overseas in Britain</p> <p>and France. In the time Franklin was working abroad it became questionable to whether or not Franklin would return to America or if he even had a desire to return. It seems as though Franklin, the quintessential American, would have a raging sense of nationalism for the nation in which he embodies, and in many ways he did, but he would still forever be attached emotionally to his first love, Britain. Franklin is a prominent symbol in and of American culture. His writings, especially the Autobiography and Poor Richards Almanac, reflect the characteristics that are esteemed above all for both Franklin and America; capitalism, democracy, and opportunity. Franklin prefers opportunity than security, and so when Britain takes away American opportunity he is left with no other option than to offend the country that he loves. Franklin cast his vote in support of the American Independence movement and cements his legacy as an American hero as a result of the unrelenting oppression of the British Parliament. Benjamin Franklin was many things in his life; writer, laborer, scientist, politician, diplomat, inventor, and philanthropist. Franklin is among the most accomplished people in all of history. Many of his efforts alone would be enough to make him famous but the collection of his lifes work makes him iconic. The interconnectivity of all his efforts always relates to the publick good. Franklin had the public on his mind at all times. Franklin endlessly worked to improve the lives of his fellow citizens. His writings spoke of virtue and productivity and how they are center pieces for a life and a country that prospers.iii Franklins public works such as the library, fire department, militia legislation, postmaster general were all for the good of the people. Franklin often had personal reasons for creating the institutions that he did. For instance fires at his printing press enraged him to the point he wanted to create a public fire department.iv Franklins commitment to improving society proves to be a struggle for him during the American Revolution. Franklin shows some obvious indecision over where his loyalties exist in the events</p> <p>leading up to the revolution and some suggest they were never settled after American Independence was achieved. His struggle is often overshadowed and unrealized due to his overbearing symbolism of American value and virtue. The Albany Plan of Union is often pointed to as an early sign of the American Independence movement. In 1754, neither colonists nor Franklin had any desire to gain independence from Britain. The entire premise behind the Albany Plan of Union was not intended to make steps towards a revolution, but rather it was designed for the purpose of strengthening the British Empire. Benjamin Franklin has no desire to impede the powers of Britain or Parliament, but rather was attempting to create an extension of their powers. The design of a Ground Council was the culminating work of all Franklins efforts. He proudly presented the model of Union as one that provided a more efficient, regulated, and progressive continent. Franklins idea of Continental Union was not one separate from Britain, but rather a body that served the interests of the colonies while maintaining a working relationship with Parliament. Franklin believed a continental body would better serve the colonist than Parliament could so far away from colonial issuesv. This is what Franklin is all about; progress, efficiency, economic sustainability. Franklin was actually doing a service for Britain, which is one reason the plan fails.vi It is not that the representatives were opposed to the idea of a union; in fact there was nearly a consensus to adopt the plan. However, much of the concern was raised over the idea of American colonist asking of Britains involvement in colonial affairs. The colonist had grown accustomed to Britains unofficial policy of salutary neglect and was not fully ready to relinquish the benefits that it offered. The colonists were not interested in interfering with the business of trade that had been so profitable for them due to corruption and smuggling and a policy of looking the other way.</p> <p>The largest issue in the minds of the delegates at the Albany congress was the impeding French into the Ohio River Valleyvii. Conflicts between a Virginia militia and French troops caused concern for colonial defenses against further aggressions. Franklins plan was also a response to these issues. The plan did not pass, as Franklin suspected it would not and if it did he believed it would fail. Franklin confided in Peter Collison that the states wanted a Union but when one was offered they were "too easily distracted" to allow a Union to existviii. Franklin proves to be an adept man in every venture he takes on. His public works continued throughout his life. His most high minded desire was to operate social affairs on an international level. This desire is why he leaves his printing press completely to pursue a career in politics. It opens up to him opportunities that he could not have as a printer. He had accomplished all there was in that world and needed more time to focus on other ventures. As historian Gordon Wood puts it, he reached a place where he no longer needed to worry of financial matters, so he leaves the world of industry to pursue a career as a genteel statesman. One of his proudest jobs was that of postmaster. The colonies had poor mail services. There was no good way to travel from place to place and the process was slow. Improving this public service was a two-fold motive for Franklin. It is obviously a help to society and the public but, if he could improve the mail service then he would benefit by being able to get his publications out to more places and at a faster rate. Franklin is appointed as Postmaster General for the entire English colonies. This appointment was one that he was very proud of however; it would later help make Franklin commit to America in the midst of the pre-cursers of the revolution. Franklin was happy and appreciative of his opportunity to move up the ranks in the colonial society. This is indicative of Franklins character. Franklin starts his career in the mail service in 1737 as he is appointed</p> <p>Postmaster of Philadelphia. In 1753 he rises to a co-op position along with William Hunter to Deputy Postmaster and Manager of all His Majesty Provinces and Dominions, on the continent of North America.ix This appointment can be accounted to his advancements in the service. He visits all of the post stations in all thirteen colonies. He continues to improve the efficiency of the service by establishing major trade routes and shortening distances of other routes. He also increases the frequency in which the mail was delivered in America. Under the leadership of Franklin mail delivery goes from once a week in summer months to three times a week and from once a month in the months of winter to once a week. Franklin takes this position very seriously and holds postmasters to higher standards under his management.x This appointment made Franklin an employee of the Crown. He is paid a salary for his services and uses this opportunity to make connections with people overseas. In the years following the French and Indian War, conflict between the mother country and the colonist arises over Parliaments authority to tax the colonist. Franklin is commissioned to England by the colonist in 1757 through 1762. He is brought before the House of Commons and questioned over the reasons for unrest in the colonies. At this point in time Independence is not on the forefront but is beginning to enter into the minds of some radicals. However, Franklin suggests that the whole issue is that Parliament has overstepped its power in the mind of colonists. However, Franklin states, the peace could be restored if Parliament would limit the duties on colonist to external taxes. This issue, which is played out in the House of Commons, is specifically concerning the Stamp Act of 1765 but speaks to the general oppression of opportunity in the Colonies. Franklin makes the distinction clear. The taxes the colonist opposed were the ones that they had no say in the matter.xi He explains that the colonist did not object to the external taxes, or taxes on items. The colonist, Franklin included, did not like the taxes being</p> <p>forced on them without any consent. As long as the colonist were allowed the opportunity to decline products that had taxes they were at ease, but when that privilege was taken away and colonist were forced to pay the taxes, then they had reason to complain. Franklin could sympathize with these sentiments because he did not approve of Parliaments actions either. Franklin's purpose in the House of Commons questioning was to make amends with Parliament. Franklin did not try to stir up any trouble but was stating as diplomatic as he could the mood prevailing in the colonies. However, the language in which he spoke speaks to the mentality of the colonist. When Franklin was asked specifics about what taxes would be accepted by the colonist, he replied that "they think you can have no right to lay [an excise tax] within their country."xii By Franklin's words the colonists already see themselves as a separate country. Each colony acts and believes in their own sovereignty. Benjamin Franklin understands this point very well; he also states that the colonial assemblies are willing to work with Parliament to amend the troubles they have had over the war debt. He is very firm throughout the questioning that the colonies will not give in to Parliament's oppression under any circumstances but is willing to work things out. The problems in America are not amended and do not subside. The longer the disputes last the more and more resentment towards Parliament and England grows. In the 1770's, aggressions mount. It was found that Franklin stumbled upon secret letters that incriminated public officials he sent them to colleague for safe keeping. Ben Franklin was dismissed from his position as Postmaster General as a result. He was charged with treason for sending the letters. A report on his trial from the Boston Gazette tells that the trial of Franklin was a conspiratous, treasonous, one in which the Doctor received a "shaft". The prosecutor attempted to damage the reputation of Franklin, but as the writer put it "[h]ow weak and ridiculous is this?.xiii Franklin</p> <p>was doing his job with merit but as he writes to friend Tomas Cushing explaining what had happened he seems angry or perhaps upset by the way he has been treated throughout the matter. "I am at a loss" Franklin laments "to know how peace and union is to be maintained or restored between the different parts of the empire".xiv Franklin desires to have this peace restored because of his natural affection for English tradition and custom but is becoming a casualty of the conflict. As he informs his friends and family of his displacement he assures them not to worry about him. In writing to John Foxcroft, he states It seems I am too much of an American". xv Franklin is obviously exasperated by the accusations of his harmless behavior, however comes to embrace the role of an American. In a letter to his sister Jane his tone seems a little different, not as much sarcasm as with Foxcroft. He explains that he has been "done [an] Honour" and that he is now "too much attachd to the Interests of America". xvi Before his displacement Ben searched for peace and harmony between the two parties. He had not committed to either cause, but the unwarranted personal assault on his character places Franklin in a place where he is forever supportive of the American cause. In less than a two years Franklin will be a part of the committee of five that will draft the Declaration of Independence. Franklins decision to support independence causes him to break many friendships he had developed throughout his political years. Franklin befriends Joseph Galloway early in his political career. Their friendship is benevolent for both parties, but comes to an end during the revolution. Franklin and Galloway are such close friends that when he leaves America as an ambassador to France, he left his personal papers (including his autobiography) with Galloway.xvii In 1775, Franklin has long forgotten his Albany Plan of Union of 1755; however, Joseph Galloway submits a similar plan to Congress in 1775. Galloways Plan of Union nearly succeeds in Congress; however...</p>