Ben Franklin: a Founding Father of the United States

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The crisis precipitated by the Stamp Act (1765) pushed that effort into the background and propelled Franklin into a new role as chief defender of American rights in Britain. At first he advised obedience to the act until it could be repealed, but news of violent protest against it in America stiffened his own opposition. After repeal of the Stamp Act, Franklin reaffirmed his love for the British Empire and his desire to see the union of mother country and colonies "secured and established," but he also warned that "the seeds of liberty are universally found and nothing can eradicate them."

He opposed the Townshend Acts (1767) because such "acts of oppression" would "sour American tempers" and perhaps even "hasten their final revolt." When the British Parliament passed the Tea Act (1773), which hurt the colonial merchants, Franklin protested in a series of finely honed political essays, including "An Edict by the King of Prussia" and "Rules by Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced to a Small One." As these satires circulated in England, Franklin wrote his sister: "I have held up a Looking-Glass in which some of the Ministers may see their ugly faces, and the Nation its Injustice."

In 1773, Franklin's friends in Massachusetts, against his instructions, published letters by Gov. Thomas Hutchinson that Franklin had obtained in confidence. Apparently exposed as a dishonest schemer, Franklin was denounced before the Privy Council in January 1774 and stripped of his postmaster general's office. Although he continued to work for conciliation, the Boston Tea Party and Britain's oppressive response to it soon doomed such efforts. In March 1775, Franklin sailed for home, sure "the extream corruption . . . in this old rotten State" would ensure "more Mischief than Benefit from a closer Union" between Britain and its colonies.

From April 1775 to October 1776, Franklin served on the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety and in the Continental Congress, submitted articles...
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