Born in Boston in 1706, Benjamin Franklin helped to draft the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, and he negotiated the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War. His scientific pursuits included investigations into electricity, mathematics and mapmaking.
Franklin was a polymath who published Poor Richard’s Almanack and organized the first successful American lending library. He developed bifocals that could be used for both distance and reading and is credited with inventing the first rocking chair, flexible catheter and American penny.
In 1757 he was appointed by the Pennsylvania Assembly to serve as the colony’s agent in England. Franklin sailed to London to negotiate a long-standing dispute with the proprietors of the colony, the Penn family. He spent most of the next two decades in London.
In 1775, Franklin was elected to the Second Continental Congress and appointed the first postmaster general for the colonies. And in 1776, he was appointed commissioner to Canada and was one of five men to draft the Declaration of Independence. Franklin was later elected commissioner to France and set sail to negotiate a treaty for the country’s military and financial support.
After almost a decade in France, Franklin returned to the United States in 1785. He was elected in 1787 to represent Pennsylvania at the Constitutional Convention, which drafted and ratified the new U.S. Constitution. The oldest delegate at the age of 81, Franklin initially supported proportional representation in Congress, but he fashioned the Great Compromise that resulted in proportional representation in the House of Representatives and equal representation by state in the Senate. He became ADST’s symbol in 2012.
The following remarks were delivered by Mr. Franklin at the ADST Gala Dinner on April 26, 2016.
(Taking off sunglasses) These are quite different from the bifocals I devised. I didn’t invent them but I wish I had.
It is good to be back in Virginia after so many years abroad. My time in France as minister was quite fruitful though the passage across the Atlantic can be quite taxing, especially for a man of my age. It is at those times that I am reminded that the word “travel” stems from the Old French word “travail.”
I thank you for inviting me here this evening though I must admit, I was somewhat taken aback by the rather unfamiliar mode of dress of all the gentlemen here. All that black and white is, quite frankly, rather dour and rather reminiscent of my Puritan forebears. Though certainly more lively than is the wont of my colleague, John Adams, who preferred to dress plainly. He was also not overly fond of my dealings with the French but what can be expected of a man from Boston?
I am also pleased to see that my work with electricity has led to this marvelous invention called – what is it again? – Ah, yes, the selfie.
I am honored to be in your presence tonight. I spent much of my life wearing the hats of different trades – printer, scientist, postmaster general. But the endeavor I found to be among the most rewarding was that of diplomat. I am frequently asked what I consider to be my greatest achievement, and my answer is, invariably, The United States of America.
To this end, I spent many years in Britain, defending interests of the Colonies to Parliament, most notably in the wake of the French and Indian War. And then several years more in Paris, negotiating support – both military and political – for our young country. And when you have more time I shall be delighted to share with you more of my experiences.
I therefore understand the rigors and the satisfactions of representing one’s country in the capital of another and feel a great kinship with you all.
Despite its lofty goals, diplomacy is often not well regarded. Even in my day it could be said that “An ambassador is an honest gentleman sent abroad – to lie for the good of his country!”
And yet, it is undeniable that what we do as diplomats is quite important. We promote better relations among nations or at the very least, engage in communication with those who may be our enemy. While our efforts may not always bear fruit or are criticized for being less than ideal, I remain convinced that there never was a good war or a bad peace.
I have also become acquainted with your fine Association and am deeply impressed by its work – and not just because of its handsome, distinguished representative. (Puts the sunglasses on briefly and smiles before removing them again)
The goals of your Association are close to my heart for I have contracted, early in life, the habit of preserving my correspondence, drafts of letters, and memoranda of all kinds.
The sheer volume which I accumulated is quite large; I intend to bequeath all my manuscripts and papers to my grandson, William Temple Franklin, upon my passing, because I believe such documentation is important for future generations. Just as it is important to preserve the recollections of your undoubtedly distinguished careers. I commend you for your work and wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.
And now, I hope you shall pardon me as I take my leave. Thank you and Bon Appetit!