Benjamin Franklin: Early America's Renaissance Man

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Part 2: Well-traveled Man

Franklin hadn’t slowed down to become a full-time family man, however. He was still writing and educating himself in many subjects. In 1732, he began to publish what became an annual product, Poor Richard’s Almanack, under the name Richard Saunders. He continued to publish the Gazette as well, until 1748, when he sold it and retired from printing.

He also took an active role in his community, founding a volunteer fire company in 1736, becoming the city’s postmaster the following year, and organizing the Philadelphia Militia in 1747. He also helped create Pennsylvania’s first university. On the national front, he helped organized the country’s first city hospital and also the country’s first subscription library, both in Philadelphia.

He traveled around Great Britain as his city’s representative for five years, beginning in 1757. He made several more trips to Britain and to France in the days leading up to the American Revolution. His opinion regarding the Stamp Act and its effect on Americans was instrumental in Britain’s decision to repeal the controversial paper tax, in 1766.

Franklin was elected to the Continental Congress and was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. That same year, he went to France as the newly formed United States’s official representative, the American Commissioner. He played a large role in securing France’s eventual alliance with the U.S. in the Revolutionary War. He also went on a mission to Canada, to try to find support for America. It was one of the few times in his life when he failed something.

Franklin’s stature at the time of the end of the war was such that he was one of the three Americans chosen to negotiate the peace terms. (The other two were John Adams and John Jay.) Franklin chose to stay in Europe after the United States gained its independence, and he negotiated treaties with other countries.

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