Benjamin Franklin: Statesman Years (Ages 50 - 84)
by Ron Kurtus (revised 23 October 2011)
After spending years as a successful publisher and renown scientist, Benjamin Franklin turned to statesmanship at the age of 51. This was especially important in these formative years of the United States. His ability to make keen observations and solve problems were important, as well as his ability to form relationships with leaders abroad.
Questions you may have include:
- How did he get started in statesmanship?
- Did his scientific background help him?
- What skills did he use as a statesman?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Ages 50 to 59 (1756 - 1765)
At age 51, Benjamin Franklin was sent to London, England as a delegate representing the Pennsylvania Legislature. Five years later, he came back home to Pennsylvania. Two years later, at age 58, he returned to London as a colonial representative.
During these travels by ship, Franklin keep himself busy by measuring the different temperatures in various parts of the Atlantic Ocean. From these measurements, he was able to chart the Gulf Stream in detail.
In 1761, at age 55, Franklin saw an entertainer in London who performed music on a set of singing glasses. The beauty of the sound inspired Franklin and got his active mind working on improving that way of making music.
He then invented the glass armonica (also called the glass harmonica). It was a device that turned various sized glasses on a horizontal spindle, allowing the musicians to effectively increase their creative expression.
Mozart and Beethoven were enthusiastic about this new musical instrument and incorporated the glass armonica into many of their renown works.
Ages 60 to 69 (1766 - 1775)
When he was 61, Franklin used his influence to make his illegitimate son, William, royal governor of New Jersey. Franklin was later greatly disappointed when William was unwilling to repay his father's generosity by supporting the American Revolution.
Honored by French
At age 62, he was given the honor of being inducted into the French Academy of Science. Franklin's success as a diplomat was greatly due to his fame among the European elite as a scientist.
Daylight Savings Time
While in Paris, Franklin was the first to propose the idea of Daylight Savings Time, hoping to provide the world with a greater opportunity of doing productive work during the longer daylight of the summer months.
Came back to America
Then at age 69, after spending years in France, Franklin was recalled to the colonies and named to the Second Continental Congress. There, he presented the Articles of Confederation of the United Colonies.
Ages 70 to 79 (1776 - 1785)
At age 70in 1776Franklin played an instrumental role in drafting and signing the Declaration of Independence.
Argued with John Adams
That year Benjamin Franklin traveled with John Adams (later to become the second U.S. President) to meet British Admiral Lord Howe. They stopped at an inn in New Brunswick, New Jersey for the evening. Not only sharing the same room, but sharing the same bed, Franklin and Adams got into a furious argument.
The argument was not about politics, but something more important to them at the time--whether the window in the room should be open or closed. Adams wanted it closed for fear of catching a cold. Franklin wanted the window kept open, so he could breathe the healthy fresh air.
As Franklin argued about his arduously, Adams fell asleep.
(Reference: John Adams by David McCullough, Simon & Schuster)
Negotiated peace treaty
That year, Franklin also then undertook a secret diplomatic mission to France. He was also assigned a member of the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention. The next year, he signed the Treaty of Alliance with France, and the following year, he was chosen Minister to France.
At age 76, Franklin negotiated a preliminary peace treaty with Great Britain along with John Adams and John Jay. He went back to France, and the next year he signed the Treaty of Paris, ending the American Revolutionary War.
Observed first balloon flight
When he was in Paris, he was able to watch the world's first known hot air balloon flight. Franklin was very interested in the idea of flight, predicting that balloons would be used for military spy flights and to drop bombs during battles of the future.
At age 79, Franklin arrived back in the United States and was elected President of Pennsylvania and member of Constitutional Convention.
Ages 80 to death (1786 - 1790)
At age 81, Franklin signed the Constitution of the United States of America. At this late time in this life, Franklin suffering from many ailments of old age. He often had to be literally carried to the meetings. He was later elected as president of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery.
At age 84--in 1790--Benjamin Franklin passed away.
Benjamin Franklin had a fruitful life as publisher, scientist and politician. You can learn from what he did and how he did things.
Benjamin Franklin led a full life, with many achievements. Admirable characteristics of Franklin, from which you can learn include:
- Love to read
- Writing allows you to express yourself
- Be an adventurer
- Master what you attempt
- Be involved
- Be inquisitive
- Take interest in things
- Have a good personality
- Enjoy life
- Help society and others
Can you think of anything else?
Having good character pays
Resources and references
Virtual Glass Armonica - Interactive exercise allows you to play the armonica
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Benjamin Franklin: Statesman Years (Ages 50 - 84)