“The Hypocrisy of this Country”

Benjamin Franklin, despite having brought two Black slaves to England in 1757, became an eager supporter and correspondent of Anthony Benezet, the Philadelphia abolitionist and educator, who had written important anti-slavery pamphlets, books, and newspaper articles. As president of the Pennsylvania anti-slavery society, Franklin appealed for public support of a humanitarian plan to not only emancipate slaves, but to educate free blacks and their children and to facilitate their progress toward good citizenship.

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Restoring Harmony

When delegates became heated over the issue of proportional representation at the Federal Constitutional Convention in 1787 at Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin urged “great Coolness and Temper,” telling the delegates “we are sent here to consult, not to contend, with each other.” As the eldest delegate at the Convention, Franklin acted on several occasions to restore harmony.

Benjamin Franklin. Draft speech, [June 11, 1787]. Manuscript document. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (26)

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President of Pennsylvania

Benjamin Franklin was chosen president of Pennsylvania shortly after his 1785 return from France. The bulk of Franklin's presidential duties included signing land grants, such as this 1787 bill of sale, and performing ceremonial functions.

Bill of Sale, August 1787, signed by Benjamin Franklin. Manuscript document with seal. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (27)

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A Copy of the Federal Constitution

Benjamin Franklin enclosed a copy of the new federal constitution with this letter to Thomas Jefferson, the American minister to France, and thanked him for the receipt of a box of books.

Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) to Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), October 14, 1787. Manuscript letter. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (28)

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“A Much More Respectable Bird”

Benjamin Franklin criticized the new American hereditary military order of the Society of Cincinnati in this long letter to his daughter, Sarah Franklin Bache. He was particularly critical of the Society's symbol, featuring “a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turk' y. For in Truth, the Turk'y is in comparison a much more respectable Bird.”

Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) to Sarah Bache (1743–1808), January 26, 1784. Manuscript letter. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (29)

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The “growing Strength” of the United States

In his eighty-fourth year, seven months before his death, an ailing Franklin writes to the nation's first president George Washington: “For my own personal case, I should have died two years ago; but tho' those years have been spent in excruciating pain, I am pleased that I have lived them since they brought me to see our present situation.”

Benjamin Franklin to George Washington, September 16, 1789. Page 2. Manuscript letter. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (30)

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