Benjamin Franklin was a noted diplomat and statesman for the United States during its nascent and revolutionary years.  He first made a name for himself at the Albany Congress of 1754 as one of the first patriots to push for the unification of the colonies, and during negotiations related to the French and Indian Wars.  In 1776, on the outbreak of the American Revolution, he served on a three-man commission to France charged with the crucially important task of gaining French support for the American independence struggle.  Fortunately for the future United States, French diplomats and aristocrats were fascinated and charmed by his intellect, style, prudent moderation, and embodiment of Enlightenment ideals as expressed in the New World.

Franklin’s diplomacy, combined with the stunning American victory at the Battle of Saratoga--which proved to any remaining skeptics that the colonists could win--convinced King Louis XVI to recognize and conclude an alliance with the new American republic in 1778.  This feat made Franklin the first American minister to be received by any foreign government.  It was from his position in Paris that Franklin carried out American diplomacy elsewhere in Europe.  In 1782 he rejected repeated British appeals to end the war in exchange for a measure of autonomy.  Holding to the colonists’ demand for outright independence, his goal was achieved the following year, when England signed the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783.  When Thomas Jefferson arrived in Paris in 1785, the French Foreign Minister, Vergennes, asked, "It is you who replace Dr. Franklin?" Jefferson replied, "No one can replace him, Sir; I am only his successor.”

  • Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. London: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1931.
  • Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York: Simon and Shuster, 2003.
  • McCormick, Blaine. Ben Franklin: America’s Original Entrepreneur. Irvine, CA: Entrepreneur Press, 2005.
  • Wood, Gordon S. The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin. New York: Penguin Press, 2004.