Franklin returned to Philadelphia in 1775. There he served as a delegate to the Continental Congress, where he was instrumental in drafting the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation to form a new union. Because of his international experience, Franklin was chosen by the Continental Congress as one of its first ministers to France. In Paris Franklin reached his peak of fame, becoming the focal point for a cultural Franklin-mania among the French intellectual elite. Franklin ultimately helped negotiate a cessation of hostilities and a peace treaty that officially ended the Revolutionary War.


City of Philadelphia

Philadelphia, site of both Continental Congresses, was one of the most urban, advanced cities in America in the eighteenth century. Drawn by George Heap, a surveyor and city coroner of Philadelphia, and Nicolas Scull, Surveyor General of the Province of Pennsylvania and a friend to Franklin, this map shows streams, roads, and names of the landowners in the vicinity of Philadelphia. The bottom of the map contains an illustration of the State-House or Independence Hall, home of the Federal Convention of 1787.

A plan of the city and environs of Philadelphia, survey'd by N. Scull and G. Heap. London: Will Faden, 1777. Engraved map. Geography & Map Division, Library of Congress (16A) [gmd382/g3824/g3824p/ct000185]

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Plan of Confederation, 1775

Benjamin Franklin returned from London in May, 1775, and was quickly drafted as one of the Pennsylvania delegates to the second Continental Congress. Franklin's plan for a government for a united colonial confederation was read in Congress on July 21, 1775, but was not acted upon at that time. Thomas Jefferson, a fellow delegate, annotated this copy of Franklin's plan.

Benjamin Franklin. Plan for a Confederation, July 21, 1775. Annotated document. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (17)

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Benjamin Franklin Delivers a Petition

Benjamin Franklin delivered this Petition of the Continental Congress, dated October 26, 1774 and signed by fifty-one delegates to the Congress, to Britain's King George III. The petition, one of two copies sent to Franklin, stated the grievances of the American provinces and asked for the King's help in seeking solutions.

Petition of the Continental Congress to King George III, October 26, 1774. Page 2. Manuscript document in the hand of Timothy Matlack. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (18)

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The Edge of the Precipice

Charles Thomson, secretary of the First Continental Congress, sent the petition of Congress to the British King, George III, with this cover letter to Benjamin Franklin, one of America's agents in London. Thomson wrote that although there was still hope for peace, the colonies were on the "very edge of the precipice." The petition, which outlined a peaceful redress of grievances, was summarily rejected by the British government.

Charles Thomson (1729-1824) to Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), November 1, 1774. Manuscript letter. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (19)

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To the Continental Congress

In anticipation of an imminent attack by enemy forces gathering on Staten Island, Congress had ordered the formation of a flying camp of militiamen from Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania to defend New Jersey. Franklin was appointed to a Congressional committee charged with conferring with political and military authorities on the best means of defense. This broadside signed by Franklin as president of the Pennsylvania Convention, urges the provincial militia to march with expedition, disregarding any reports to the contrary.

In Congress, July 19, 1776. Resolved, That it be earnestly recommended to the Convention of Pennsylvania, to hasten, with all possible Expedition, the March of the Associators into New-Jersey. Page 2. [Philadelphia: John Dunlap, 1776]. Rare Book & Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (19A)

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