Benjamin Franklin’s Political Career

Few people have had as varied and interesting a career as Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790). He was a printer, scientist, diplomat, and statesman, among other things. Franklin’s work in the printing industry helped him become wealthy and influential, which he then used to promote causes he believed in. His political career was marked by his strong belief in democracy and determination to see the United States thrive. Franklin’s legacy is still felt today, more than two centuries after his death.

United States Postmaster General

Franklin’s first foray into politics came in 1748 when he became a member of the city council in Philadelphia. Then in 1749, he was appointed a Justice of the Peace. In 1751, he was elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly as a city alderman. At around this time, Franklin began to take a more active role in the colonies’ affairs. In 1753, he was appointed deputy postmaster general of British North America. In this role, he helped to reform the postal system and make it more efficient. He held this position for 21 years and used his influence to improve the postal system. He helped establish regular mail service between Philadelphia and New York and increased the number of post offices in the colonies.

Albany Congress

Franklin was instrumental in drafting the Albany Plan of Union. This plan was an attempt to unify the colonies to better defend against French and Indian attacks. Franklin served as a Pennsylvania delegate to the Albany Congress, a meeting of representatives from the colonies.

He proposed a loose confederation with a president-general who had limited authority to impose taxes to be submitted to a central treasury. In 1754, the Plan of Union was approved by the Albany Congress. However, the Crown and the colonial assemblies did not approve of it because they were unwilling to sacrifice sovereignty. Thus, the Seven Years’ War was fought under the old system.

Franklin’s proposal was not about independence but helped create a sense of unity among the colonies and laid the foundation for future cooperation that eventually led to the American Revolution.

Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives

In 1757, when he was 59 years old, Franklin was sent to England as a delegate for Pennsylvania. He was sent to protest the political influence of the Penn family. William Penn and his family owned the colony of Pennsylvania, and they were exempt from paying taxes on their land. Franklin remained in England for a few years and worked to end the Penn family’s privilege to overturn legislation from the elected Assembly. He also tried to get them to pay taxes on their land. He was unsuccessful in both endeavors, but he gained valuable diplomacy experience.

Franklin then became the leader of the anti-proprietary party against the Penn family and was elected the Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in May 1764. Unfortunately, he lost his seat five months later in the Assembly elections. The anti-proprietary party sent him back to England to continue the work of removing the Penn family’s power over Pennsylvania.

The Stamp Act

In 1765, the British Parliament enacted the Stamp Act, which required all printed materials in the colonies to be taxed. This tax was very unpopular with the colonists. Franklin was in England at that time, so he did not know the extent of the colonists’ reaction. He initially recommended a friend, John Hughes, to the position of stamp distributor for Pennsylvania, which angered the people of Pennsylvania. They thought he was supporting the measure. Franklin quickly realized his error and fought to help repeal the Stamp Act.

Along with Jared Ingersoll from New Haven, Richard Jackson from Connecticut, and Charles Garth from South Carolina, Franklin met with George Greenville, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and presented arguments against the Stamp Act. He argued that the colonists should only be taxed by their own elected representatives.

Greenville and most of the Parliament were not convinced. Petitions submitted by the colonies went unheard. Franklin created an informal network of American newspaper editors and publishers so that they could band together and reprint news, editorials, and essays on the Stamp Act from each other’s papers. The publishers even printed the response from other colonies to the act, which helped to create a sense of unity among the colonists. Many demonstrations and riots broke out in the colonies to protest the act. Twelve stamp distributors eventually resigned.

The House of Commons finally heard the testimony of Benjamin Franklin and other Americans in early 1766. After some debate, the House of Commons voted 276-168 to repeal the Stamp Act. A resolution was passed on February 21, and the King assented to the repeal on March 18.

Diplomatic Career

Franklin was appointed as the United States Ambassador to France. He was sent there in December 1776 to negotiate a treaty of alliance. His association with Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau, a French Revolutionary writer, and statesman, was instrumental in the success of the Treaty of Alliance (also known as the Franco-American Treaty). Franklin was very successful in his negotiations with the French. He helped to secure critical military supplies and financing for the American Revolution. He also helped to create a sense of camaraderie among the French and Americans.

Franklin remained in the country until 1785. During his stay, he also served as the United States Minister Plenipotentiary to Sweden. He never visited the country, but he negotiated the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, which was signed on April 3, 1783, in France by the United States of North America and the Kingdom of Sweden.

After the signing of the treaties, Franklin became very popular in France. He was seen as a symbol of the American Revolution. His image appeared on many items such as clocks, medallions, and snuff boxes. He also became friends with many famous people, such as Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Franklin was one of the American delegates who negotiated the Treaty of Paris with Great Britain. The treaty was signed on September 3, 1783, formally ending the American Revolutionary War. The treaty acknowledged the sovereignty of the United States and guaranteed its territorial integrity.