by Bill Korach
The First Coast Tea Party of Jacksonville is planning events and publishing brief biographies of the 39 signers commemorating the 224th Anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. The Constitutional Convention took place from May 14 until the formal document signing on September 17, 1787, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to address problems in governing the United States of America, which had been operating under the Articles of Confederation following independence from Great Britain. Although the Convention was purportedly intended only to revise the Articles of Confederation, the intention from the outset of many of its proponents, chief among them James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, was to create a new government rather than fix the existing one. The delegates elected George Washington to preside over the convention. The result of the Convention was the United States Constitution, the fundamental legal expression of American rights and liberties. Thus the Constitutional Convention was one of America’s most important historic events.
The Framers and signers of the Constitution were patriots of great character. Many of these men looked to Christian principles as the legal and ethical foundation of the Constitution. The Report Card will publish biographies of each of the 39 signers to provide insight about their background and motivation as they created what some say is the greatest Constitution of any government in history.
Benjamin Franklin Signer of the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence
Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 17, 1706 and baptized at Old South Meeting House. His father Josiah wanted Ben to attend school with the clergy, but only had enough money to send him to school for two years. He attended Boston Latin School but did not graduate; he continued his education through voracious reading. Although “his parents talked of the church as a career” for Franklin, his schooling ended when he was ten. He then worked for his father for a time and at 12 he became an apprentice to his brother James, a printer, who taught Ben the printing trade. At age 17, Franklin ran away to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, seeking a new start in a new city. He began a remarkable career. During his early years in Philadelphia, Franklin founded a library, an organization to discuss the affairs of the day. He founded the Philadelphia Gazette at the age of 22 as a newspaper for ideas and reform. At the age of 27, he started publication of Poor Richard’s Almanac. Fascinated by science, he invented the lighting rod, the urinary catheter, the Franklin stove, and bifocal glasses. He did not file patents because wanted to share his ideas with the world.
Franklin traveled in Europe and England during the 1760’s and 1770’s and came to questions the rights of kings over the people. He opposed the stamp act, and when he returned to Philadelphia in 1775, fighting against British rule had begun. Franklin signed the Declaration of Independence saying to John Hancock: “Yes indeed, we must all hang together or assuredly we will hang separately.” In 1775, Franklin was voted Postmaster General by the Continental Congress. The postal system he designed is in use today. In 1776, he was made Ambassador to France where his key mission was to bring France to provide military and naval support of the revolution against England. He was highly successful, and it was the French Navy that helped force the surrender of the British at Yorktown.
Franklin was the elder statesman of the Constitutional Convention and successful mediated twice when it appeared that the Convention would break up without a document. The first moment came when there was a sharp division between those who favored states rights and those who favored a strong Federal government. Franklin did not offer a legal solution, but instead, asked the Convention for prayer reminding the assembly that Americans had prayed daily for God’s help during the Revolution. He reminded the men that God rules in the affairs of men saying “if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?”
He is the only Founding Father who is a signatory of all four of the major documents of the founding of the United States: the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris, the Treaty of Alliance with France, and the United States Constitution.
Franklin died on April 17, 1790, at age 84. Approximately 20,000 people attended his funeral. He was interred in Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia. In 1728, aged 22, Franklin wrote what he hoped would be his own epitaph:
“The Body of B. Franklin Printer; Like the Cover of an old Book, Its Contents torn out, And stript of its Lettering and Gilding, Lies here, Food for Worms. But the Work shall not be wholly lost: For it will, as he believ’d, appear once more, In a new & more perfect Edition, Corrected and Amended By the Author. “