SAN JOSE: This week we celebrate the birthday of one of the most important Founding Fathers to serve his country. Before and after it became a legitimate nation. Benjamin Franklin may have been the unofficial president of the United States. Sadly, Americans have never honored this great American as they have done for others less remarkable.
Benjamin Franklin once wrote that
“If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worthy of reading or do things worth the writing.”
Franklin did both, but unfortunately, he is not often easily remembered for all of the incredible things he did, or for the words of wisdom he left for posterity.
Benjamin Franklin – Renaissance Man
In his time, Benjamin Franklin was recognized as a Renaissance Man. Franklin was born into a humble and large family on January 17, 1706. For Franklin, his professional life started as a printer in his brother’s print shop and newspaper in Boston. This foundation served as a basis for his industriousness and provided a livelihood that served him well many times throughout his younger days.
However, Franklin eventually outgrew such a beginning as he literally becomes a colonial Renaissance Man. He is an entrepreneur and a businessman, a meteorologist, a scientist, and inventor. Franklin is also known as a musician, librarian, humorist, economist, philanthropist, philosopher, diplomat, and statesman.
He was also what we now call an opinion writer under the name of Silence Dogood.
To Walter Isaacson, whose exhaustive biography of Benjamin Franklin was published in 2003, Franklin stood out as
“…the most accomplished American of his age and the most influential in inventing the type of society America would become.”
Benjamin Franklin: Always a blue collar man
Amazingly, during the time of such an incredible career, never lost pride in working-class roots, nor his desire for freedom. He served his people and his country as a determined patriot for most of his adult life. Even at 81 years of age, one of his last, and most important, duties was to give the concluding remarks at the Constitutional Convention to urge the delegates to sign the document giving birth to the new nation.
One of the most important statements Franklin made came at the conclusion of the gathering of delegates as they deliberated on signing the document. Among other words that he shared with his fellow patriots, he confessed:
“I have often… in the course of the session… looked at that sun (engraved upon Washington’s chair) behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length, I have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun.”
Franklin was the oldest, if not the wisest, delegate to the convention.
His words having great impact upon his colleagues. One of his many concerns with the Constitution written in 1787, was a lack of reference to God. The Declaration of Independence had so eloquently linked the quest for freedom to connectedness to the Creator. Franklin was concerned about the absence of any reference to God and made clear his perspective:
“I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth. That God Governs the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it possible that an empire can rise without His aid?”
A little-known fact about Benjamin Franklin is that of all the Founding Fathers, he was the only person to sign all four of the founding documents, The U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Articles of Confederation that gave birth to the United States of America.
In 1776, he was on the committee to write out a declaration of the intent of the colonists with regard to Great Britain. Although Thomas Jefferson wrote the original draft, Franklin added his two cents in the revision of the Declaration of Independence.
He also played a significant role in arranging the Treaty of Alliance with France in 1778 which brought French loans and troops when the struggling colonies were fighting for independence. Franklin also helped negotiate the Treaty of Peace between England, France, and the new United States in 1782.
The Constitutional Convention
At the age of 81, even though he was carried into the sessions and placed in his chair, and even though he slept through much of the boring bantering, he attended the Constitutional Convention. He could sense the concern over the words and content of the document, but his concluding remarks helped to encourage the other delegates to sign the historic document.
There is a story about Franklin included by Isaacson in his book that after the Constitutional Convention a woman named Mrs. Powel approached him and asked
“What type of government have you delegates given us?’ To which he replied, ‘A republic, madam if you can keep it.’”
It is in this day and age many Americans are concerned whether the nation can continue to stand as a republic. Ironically, in considering the state of the nation, it may help to re-examine the life and legacy of Ben Franklin. Certainly, his wisdom can speak to us from the cornerstones of our past. If American leaders would heed his words today, it would go a long way towards establishing a healthier republic.
Making America great again is not just the job of one great man.
It is the job and the responsibility of all of those who love America.
Just as Franklin was concerned about the absence of any reference to God in the Constitution, all Americans should be concerned today about the absence of God in our political arena. Americans should also be concerned about the absence of God in business enterprise and corporate business establishments. The absence of God within in our media and entertainment industries. And the absence of God in our public education systems and in many of our churches.
And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it possible that the “Land of the Free” could to exist without acknowledging and embracing God’s presence?