Benjamin Franklin Is a Historical Figure in the US

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Assessing the influence of a particular figure in the history of a nation, usually one or two directions are chosen as criteria for assessment. For Benjamin Franklin, such method of assessment would have been applicable. Benjamin Franklin’s role in the history of the United States cannot be outlined through a singe contribution. Additionally, no contribution is complementary to his overall achievements.

All of Benjamin Franklin’s achievements separately contribute to his legacy as a historical figure in the United States. In that regard, this paper focus on the directions which can be considered as the most distinguished in Benjamin Franklin’s contributions, both at the time and in a historical perspective, which are literature, science, and politics. This paper argues that Benjamin Franklin’s separate contributions of in each of the aforementioned directions in which he excelled are alone sufficient to consider him as a historical figure. Nevertheless, it is his literary and scientific contributions that were most influential in the formation of Benjamin Franklin – the historical figure.

Benjamin Franklin and American Literature

In terms of literary evolution of the US of the 18th century, the works of Benjamin Franklin are specifically characteristic. Franklin was praised by David Hume, a Scottish philosopher and historian, as “the first philosopher, and indeed the first great man of letters, for whom we are beholden to her” (Franklin and Isaacson). In that regard, the importance of Franklin as a literary figure can be seen in that his works are assessed not only in a historical-cultural context, but also as individual literature works. Following the latter, it can be stated that Franklin’s works are vast in scope, writing from his early youth till his death. His works cover almost all genres of secular literature of colonial time.

The literary accomplishments of Benjamin Franklin are not complementary to his overall achievements, but rather an independent direction of his work for which he can be evaluated as a prominent literary author. Simply listing all works of Benjamin Franklin will take more than one page, especially considering that in addition to literary works, Franklin wrote literary critiques, numerous philosophical treatises, and technical and political projects. Nevertheless, some of his most prominent works should be mentioned, considering their literary value at the time and in a historical perspective.

Benjamin Franklin authored many newspaper sketches, such as the early “Silence Dogood”, written under a pseudonym of a middle-aged woman, “Mount Holly Witches’ Trial”, which ridiculed superstitions, and “The Speech of Polly Baker”, which exposed dual morality. In addition to the latter, Benjamin Franklin founded the “Pennsylvania Gazette”. Using this print medium, he was able to expose his philosophical thoughts to the entire audience through articles and poems. In 1932, he increased his authorship skills by starting a yearly Almanac called, “Poor Richard’s Almanac”. At this point, the pseudo name used was Richard Saunders. It was from “Poor Richard’s Almanac” that Benjamin wrote the “The way to Wealth.” In total, Benjamin sold approximately ten thousand copies every year. In current times, it can be equated to three million copies every (Essig 43).

The literary contributions of Benjamin Franklin are important part of his historical assessment, not because they were the work of one of the Founding Fathers, but because they presented literary value. The latter can be confirmed through the way the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin was evaluated. Leo Lemay wrote, “Franklin’s Autobiography is the first great book in American literature, and in some ways, it remains the most important single book” (Bloom and Hobby 22).

Benjamin Franklin the Scientist

The role of Benjamin rankling as a scientist can be assessed separately from his other achievements. In that regard, Benjamin Franklin was not a part-time inventor whose accomplishments complemented his other roles, a politician, an author, etc. His scientific contributions are stand-alone discoveries, which alone place Benjamin Franklin among the most prominent US figures. Franklin is attributed to several inventions that were designed to make work easier. In fact, he is considered among the greatest scientists and inventors in the United States of America.

The contributions of Benjamin Franklin in the field of electricity cannot be overrated. It was Benjamin Franklin who discovered that vitreous and resinous electricity were completely different phenomena. As a result, he named them negative and positive. Eventually, he was the person to be credited the discovery of the principle of conversion of charge. Finally, it was in Franklin’s name the electrostatic unit of charge was named.

From another, more practical, direction, it is ascertained that Benjamin Franklin is the inventor of the electric rode. With his experiment using a kite, Benjamin Franklin was able to affirm the similarity between electricity and lightning. In his experiment, he was able to develop the lightning rod which can be considered as one of the important discoveries at the time. The significance of such invention can be seen through the fact that the lightning rod, in one form or another is still used in our time. Other Benjamin Franklin’s practical inventions, aside from the lightning rod, include the Franklin stove, a cooking device that improved lives of those who used it. Additionally, Benjamin Franklin invented the flexible catheter and bifocals. Although it is not clear whether he was the inventor of the bifocals, it ascertained that he made great improvements on the glasses. In fact, he used bifocals himself in order to avoid switching from ordinary glasses to reading glasses.

Benjamin Franklin’s scientific contributions were not only in the inventions he made himself, but also to the field of science in general, which he actively promoted. Benjamin Franklin formed the American Philosophical Society, which main role was acting as a medium of exchange where scientists would have an opportunity to communicate their recent discoveries. Benjamin Franklin also founded an educational academy, which grew up to become the University of Pennsylvania (Humes 64). All of the aforementioned achievements alone can be sufficient to denote Benjamin Franklin a great scientist, whose inventions are still timely in our time, and a historical figure in the history of the United States.

Benjamin Franklin the Politician

Benjamin probably most known in the history of the United States as one of its Founding Fathers. Such fact outlines the role Franklin played in the formation of the country, as well as his role as prominent politician. Taking away Benjamin Franklin’s literary and scientific accomplishments, it can be stated that he will be still considered major historical figure for his political accomplishments. Nevertheless, it is his political accomplishments which can be considered as the most influenced by his other contributions.

Benjamin Franklin’s literary skills, which made him in the age of literary art “the greatest letter writer” (Bloom and Hobby 22), played a major role in his participation in drafting and signing several treaties and documents that formed the founding blocks of current America. The Declaration of Independence is without doubt one of the greatest treasures of the United States of America, and Benjamin Franklin is one of the people who assisted drafting this document. Additionally, Benjamin Franklin participated in drafting the United States Constitution in 1787.

Other accomplishment in the political arena can be related to the fame Benjamin Franklin achieved as a scientist. In 1776, Benjamin Franklin and two others were appointed by the as commissioners. The three were to visit France where they participated in the signing of the treaties of Commerce and Defensive Alliance in the year 1978. As a person who was famous in Europe at the time, the political role of Franklin, as a an official representative of the United States in Paris, led to that France was the first among European countries to officially accept the independence of the United States. In the same committee in which he served for 9 years, he negotiated for peace between England and France. The peace treaty was eventually signed in 1783. In both treaties, the fame of Benjamin Franklin as recognizable scientific and literary figure played a decisive role in his political fame.


The contributions of Benjamin Franklin in the history of the United States are very diverse. The present paper focused on three separate directions of the accomplishments of Benjamin Franklin, which are literature, science, and politics. The paper argued that the accomplishments in each of the aforementioned fields are sufficient to cement Benjamin Franklin’s legacy as a prominent historical figure. Nevertheless, the paper shown that the most important accomplishments can be seen in the field of science and literature, the accomplishments and the fame of which made the political career possible. Thus, it can be stated that Benjamin Franklin is famous author and scientists, before he is one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.


Abbott, John. Benjamin Franklin. New York: Dodd, Mead, & Co., 1903.

Augur, Helen. The Secret War of Independence. Boston: Little, Brown, 1955.

Bloom, Harold, and Blake Hobby. The American Dream. Bloom’s Literary Themes. New York, NY: Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2009. Print.

Clark, Ronald. Benjamin Franklin: A Biography. 1983. Reprint Edition, London: Phoenix, 2001.

Essig, Mark Regan. Inventing America: The Life of Benjamin Franklin. Nashville, TN: Rutledge Hill Press, 2006.

Franklin, Benjamin, and Walter Isaacson. A Benjamin Franklin Reader. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003. Print.

Humes, James C. The Wit & Wisdom of Benjamin Franklin. Warsaw, Poland: Gramercy Books, 2001.

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