Remembering Benjamin Franklin 223 years after his passing

benfranklin_from-the-archivesApril 17 is the 223rd anniversary of Benjamin Franklin’s death in 1790, at the age of 84.

We remember him well—particularly in Philadelphia.

There is the Ben Franklin Bridge. The world-famous Franklin Institute. The Benjamin Franklin Parkway, sometimes referred to as the “Champs Elysees of the West.” The Post Office of which he was postmaster. The first fire department he established. The Philadelphia Contributionship he created, which to this day insures peoples’ homes. The Junto Club, a book-reading group he founded in 1727. Our public library, which he founded in 1731. The American Philosophical Society, which he founded in 1743. The University of Pennsylvania, which he founded in 1749. The Pennsylvania Hospital, which he founded in 1751. And Franklin Square Park, one of the parks in William Penn’s original plan for Philadelphia that was renamed in Franklin’s honor in 1825.

And Franklin’s influence has gone far beyond Philadelphia. How many of us are now reading through bifocal glasses? He continues of entertain and educate us with his writings and publications. He kept us warm with his stove. His findings about lightning and electricity led to lightning rods which have saved hundreds of thousands of buildings and countless lives. He enables us to swim faster with his swim fins. He helped Jefferson draft the Declaration of Independence. He represented Colonial interests in England for nearly 20 years before the Revolutionary War. He garnered French support for our Revolutionary War. And when the war was over, he helped negotiated the Treaty of Paris, which made us a truly independent nation in the eyes of the world. And he was not done.

After he left Paris to return home to Philadelphia, he overcame pain and illness to guide the delegates at the Constitution Convention. At the convention’s conclusion, he foresaw the sun carved into the back of Washington’s chair—which to him symbolized America—as rising. Following the convention he was asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?” He responded “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

Remember? Yes, we remember him well.

Donald Applestein is a retired attorney and an experience guide in the National Constitution Center’s Public Programs Department.

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