Benjamin Franklin
arrow Watch Benjamin Franklin,
inventor of lightning rods,
reading a letter to a
scientist friend
Benjamin Franklin (1706-90) was the most widely recognized American of his day. He was well-known as the publisher of the Pennsylvania Gazette and Poor Richard's Almanack and gained further fame in his middle years with a series of scientific experiments that culminated in the publication of Experiments and Observations on Electricity in 1751.

In 1753, he was appointed postmaster general of the colonies by the British Government. 4 years later, he was sent by the Pennsylvania assembly to London to act as its agent. It was his second term in that office that ended soon after Franklin's humiliation in the Privy Council. He returned to America in 1775 and joined the Second Continental Congress.

Bernard Vincent
arrow Watch Scholar Bernard
Vincent describe Franklin's
great appeal to the French
Congress sent Franklin to France in December, 1776 to secure French aid for the Revolution. He immediately became the toast of Paris society. Franklin appealed to what one scholar has called a "radical chic" which ran through the French aristocracy at the time. He represented not only a new republic, but a new kind of man—self-made, a man of science and philosophy, the embodiment of republican virtue.

Still the French were not inclined to offer their full support of the American rebellion until the British were defeated at the battle of Saratoga, in the fall of 1777.

In February of 1778, a treaty of alliance was finally signed between France and the Americans. At the ceremony which accompanied the signing, Franklin wore the same suit that he'd worn four years before, when he was savaged by Wedderburn in the Privy Council. When one of his fellow envoys commented on the fact, Franklin said that he'd worn the suit "to give it a little revenge."