The Story of Benjamin Franklin

by James Baldwin

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Chapter XV: The Last Years

In 1776 delegates from all the colonies met in Philadelphia. They formed what is called the second Continental Congress of America.

It was now more than a year since the war had begun, and the colonists had made up their minds not to submit to the king of England and his council.

Many of them were strongly in favor of setting up a new government of their own.

A committee was appointed to draft a declaration of independence, and Benjamin Franklin was one of that committee. On the 4th of July, Congress declared the colonies to be free and independent states. Among the signers of the Declaration of Independence was Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania.

Soon after this Dr. Franklin was sent to Paris as minister from the United States. Early in the following year, 1777, he induced the king of France to acknowledge the independence of this country. He thus secured aid for the Americans at a time when they were in the greatest need of it. Had it not been for his services at this time, the war of the Revolution might have ended very differently, indeed.

It was not until 1785 that he was again able to return to his home.

He was then nearly eighty years old.

He had served his country faithfully for fifty-three years. He would have been glad if he might retire to private life.

When he reached Philadelphia he was received with joy by thousands of his countrymen. General Washington was among the first to welcome him, and to thank him for his great services.

That same year the grateful people of his state elected him President of Pennsylvania.

Two years afterwards, he wrote:

"I am here in my niche in my own house, in the bosom of my family, my daughter and grandchildren all about me, among my old friends, or the sons of my friends, who equally respect me.

"In short, I enjoy here every opportunity of doing good, and everything else I could wish for, except repose; and that I may soon expect, either by the cessation of my office, which cannot last more than three years, or by ceasing to live."

The next year he was a delegate to the convention which formed the present Constitution of the United States.

In a letter written to his friend Washington not long afterwards, he said: "For my personal ease I should have died two years ago; but though those years have been spent in pain, I am glad to have lived them, since I can look upon our present situation."

In April, 1790, he died, and was buried by the side of his wife, Deborah, in Arch street graveyard in Philadelphia. His age was eighty-four years and three months.

Many years before his death he had written the following epitaph for himself:

"The Body
  Benjamin Franklin, Printer,
  (Like the cover of an old book,
  Its contents torn out,
  And stripped of its lettering and gilding,)
  Lies here food for worms.
  Yet the work itself shall not be lost,
  For it will (as he believed) appear once more
  In a new
  And more beautiful Edition,
  Corrected and Amended
  The Author."


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