Library of Congress Resources
The digital collections of the Library of Congress contain
a wide variety of materials related to the life and times
of Benjamin Franklin. This page compiles links to primary-source
material throughout the Library of Congress Web site, including
manuscripts, letters, broadsides, and images.
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Benjamin Franklin Papers
The papers of statesman, publisher, scientist, and diplomat Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) consist of approximately 8,000 items spanning the years 1726 to 1907, with most dating from the 1770s and 1780s. The collection's principal strength is its documentation of Franklin's diplomatic roles as a colonial representative in London (1757-1762 and 1764-1775) and France (1776-1785), where he sought to win recognition and funding from European countries during the American Revolution, negotiated the treaty with Britain that ended the war, and served as the first United States minister to France. The papers also document Franklin's work as a scientist, inventor, and observer of the natural world, and his relations with family, friends, and scientific and political colleagues.
A selection of highlights from this collection includes:
- Petition, First Continental Congress to King George III, October 26, 1774, one of the copies sent to Benjamin Franklin in London to present to the King.
- Treaty of Paris, September 3, 1783, Benjamin Franklin's letterbook copy of the treaty ending the Revolutionary War.
- A letter from Franklin to his daughter Sarah Franklin Bache, January 26, 1784, explaining "For my own part I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country. He is a bird of bad moral character."
- A letter from Franklin to George Whately, May 23, 1785, containing his drawing of bifocals.
Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional
Documents and Debates, 1774-1875
This collection contains a large selection of Congressional
material related to Benjamin Franklin's political career
from 1774 to 1790. Search
the following publications in order to locate material
related to Franklin's involvement in the American Revolution
and its aftermath.
Records contains the documentary records of the
Constitutional Convention. At the age of eighty-one,
Benjamin Franklin was the oldest delegate at the Constitutional
September 17, 1787, the last day of the Constitutional
Convention, Franklin urged his fellow delegates to sign
the proposed Constitution.
- The Journals
of the Continental Congress are the records of the
daily proceedings of the Congress from 1774 to 1789.
Benjamin Franklin was a member of the Continental Congress
from 1775 until he was selected on September
26, 1776, as one of the commissioners to France.
14, 1778, he was appointed as Minister to France.
- The Letters
of Delegates to Congress aims to make available
all the documents written by delegates that bear directly
upon their work during their years of service in the
First and Second Continental Congresses, 1774-1789.
On or about June
21, 1776, Thomas Jefferson asked Franklin to review
a draft copy of the Declaration of Independence.
Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United
States, a six-volume set covering the years 1775
to 1785, contains hundreds of letters sent to and from
Benjamin Franklin during the time he served as Minister
to France. This publication also contains a biographical
essay on Franklin.
- The United
States Statutes at Large, volume 8, contains every
foreign treaty from 1778 to 1845, including the
Treaty of Alliance with France (1778) and the
Treaty of Paris (1783), both of which Franklin helped
negotiate while serving in France.
- Benjamin Franklin began serving as President of the
Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of
Slavery in 1787. In this capacity, Franklin submitted
to Congress calling for the abolition of slavery
that was printed in the Annals
of Congress on February 12, 1790.
from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774 to 1789
This collection contains documents relating to the work
of the Continental Congress and the drafting and ratification
of the Constitution. Franklin's diplomatic work is represented
by broadsides of a commercial
treaty with Sweden and the preliminary
articles of peace ending the Revolutionary War. Search
this collection using the phrase "Benjamin Franklin" to find additional
material related to Franklin.
The George Washington Papers contains 62 items to, from,
or referring to Benjamin Franklin (some references are
in the editorial notes that accompany the transcripts).
Many of these materials document Franklin’s and
Washington’s roles in the American Revolution.
Among the collection’s Franklin-related materials
- A letter from Washington to Franklin on December
28, 1778, introducing the Marquis de Lafayette.
- A letter from Washington to Franklin and the other
American representatives in France on October
22, 1781, enclosing official documentation of the
surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.
- A letter from Franklin to Washington on September
16, 1789, congratulating him on his administration
and pledging eternal “Esteem, Respect, and Affection.”
James Madison Papers, 1723 to 1859
The James Madison Papers contain 3 items to or referring
to Benjamin Franklin. Among the collection’s Franklin-related materials
is an unsigned manuscript
copy of a poem attributed to the New Jersey loyalist
and Anglican clergyman Jonathan Odell that satirizes Franklin’s
participation in the Revolution in terms of his invention
of the Franklin stove.
Thomas Jefferson Papers, 1606 to 1827
The Thomas Jefferson Papers contain 55 items to, from,
or referring to Benjamin Franklin. Many of these materials
document Franklin’s vital diplomatic service representing
the new nation in France during and just after the American
Among the collection’s Franklin-related materials
Amazing Americans: Benjamin Franklin
Designed for elementary and middle-school students,
America's Library provides information about Benjamin
Franklin's career as a printer
and a writer
as well as his scientific experiments with electricity.
Back in Time: France Allied with American Colonies, February
On February 6, 1778, Benjamin Franklin was in France
signing the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty
Treasures at the Library of Congress: Franklin on Electricity
In a document that is more a draft scientific report
than a letter, Benjamin Franklin writes to Dutch physician
and scientist Jan Ingenhousz about electricity and the
Leyden jar, an early form of electrical condenser.
Treasures at the Library of Congress: "Original Rough
Draught" of the Declaration of Independence
The "original Rough draught" of the
Declaration of Independence shows revisions by Benjamin
Franklin and John Adams to Thomas Jefferson's original handwritten text.
Treasures at the Library of Congress: Poor Richard Illustrated
The enduring popularity of Poor
Richard's Almanac is emphasized in this print published
nearly seventy years after Franklin's death.
Franklin: In His Own Words
This exhibition indicates the depth and breadth of Benjamin
Franklin's public, professional, and scientific accomplishments
through important documents, letters, books, broadsides,
Independence: Drafting the Documents
This exhibition includes a timeline, an essay on the
drafting of the documents, and related documents and prints.
Benjamin Franklin's contributions can be found in Thomas
Jefferson's "original Rough draught" of the
Declaration of Independence, which contains revisions
by Franklin and John Adams. The exhibit also includes
an 1876 lithograph of the "Declaration Committee"
that shows Benjamin Franklin working along side Jefferson,
Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston.
Dream of Flight
The first manned balloon flight, in a Montgolfier-designed
hot-air balloon on November 21, 1783, lasted twenty-five
minutes and landed about five-and-one-half miles from
the Paris site where it started. Among the spectators
that day was Benjamin
Franklin, who wrote about the flight in a letter to
Sir Joseph Banks.
and the Founding of the American Republic
This exhibition explores the role religion played in
the founding of the American colonies, in the shaping
of early American life and politics, and in forming the
American Republic. Included is a copy of Benjamin
Franklin's speech to the Constitutional Convention requesting
that the convention begin each days' session with prayers.
Also contains Franklin's original proposal for the Seal
for the United States that adapted the biblical story
of the parting of the Red Sea.
Presented here is a copy of Thomas Jefferson's and Benjamin Franklin's
for the Great Seal from 1776. Although Congress rejected
the elaborate seal, it did retain the words "E Pluribus
Unum," which became the country's motto.
Division Finding Aids Online
A finding aid for the Benjamin Franklin Papers collection
in the Library of Congress Manuscript Division can be
found online as an HTML
or a PDF
document (PDF file requires the Adobe
and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC)
Search PPOC using the phrase Franklin,
Benjamin, 1706 1790 to find digital images related
to Franklin, such as prints, photographs, and political
Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706, in Boston,
Massachusetts. His accomplishments as scientist, publisher,
and statesman are particularly remarkable when considered
in the context of colonial North America, which lacked
the cultural and commercial institutions to nourish original
ideas. A spirit of pragmatic innovation imbued all of
Franklin's intellectual, social, and scientific pursuits.
He dedicated himself to the improvement of everyday life
for the largest number of people and, in so doing, made
an indelible mark on the emerging nation.
On February 6, 1778, France and the fledgling United
States of America signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce
and the Treaty of Alliance in Paris, France. The Treaty
of Amity and Commerce recognized the United States as
an independent nation and promoted trade between France
and the United States. Benjamin Franklin was one of the
diplomats who negotiated the Treaty.
The Continental Congress ratified preliminary articles
of peace ending the Revolutionary War with Great Britain
on April 15, 1783. International intrigue and intense
negotiation preceded the formulation of these preliminary
articles. Franklin was one of the representatives of the
United States in the negotiations.
On May 9, 1754, "Join, or Die", considered the
first American political cartoon, was printed in the Pennsylvania
Gazette. The impetus for the cartoon, which is believed
to have been devised by Benjamin Franklin, was concern
about increasing French pressure along the western frontier
of the colonies.
On November 14, 1732, the Library Company of Philadelphia
signed a contract with its first librarian. Founded by
Benjamin Franklin and friends in November 1731, the library
enrolled members for a fee of 40 shillings but had to
wait for its books to arrive from England before beginning
In a 2014 presentation Jonathan Lyons discusses his book The Society for Useful Knowledge, analyzing how Benjamin Franklin and his circle helped to shape the history of science and technology in early America. Lyons argues that a knowledge revolution set the stage for American independence.
This audio recording features Walter Isaacson discussing his book
Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
at the 2003 National Book Festival.
A. Leo Lemay
J.A. Leo Lemay presents a lecture on Benjamin Franklin
in a 2006 program sponsored by the Interpretive Programs Office,
Manuscript Division, Center for the Book and Publishing
Office. His presentation was based on a compilation of
the sources for his projected seven-volume biography of
Marcello Pera, Giannicola Sinisi, Antonin Scalia, Monica D'Agostini
In 2010 the Libraryof Congress's European Division sponsored a conference exploring the intellectual relationship between Benjamin Franklin and Italian enlightenment philosopher Gaetano Filangieri, author of The Science of Legislation. Though the two never met, they corresponded from 1782 to 1787 on issues surrounding constitutional law and the the drafting of constitutions.