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Benjamin Franklin - Statesman

Franklin Of all the founding fathers, Franklin has the unique distinction of having signed all three of the major documents that freed the colonies from British rule and established the United States as an independent nation: the Declaration of Independence, Treaty of Paris, and United States Constitution. He assumed many roles during the years leading up to the establishment of an independent United States: propagandist and pamphleteer, ambassador and diplomat, negotiator and conciliator, and eloquent advocate for liberty and justice.

The Crisis. London printed; New York: Reprinted by John Anderson, 1776.

One of the most strongly pro-American newspapers of the Revolutionary period, The Crisis was first issued in London and quickly reprinted in New York as London editions arrived there. Beginning in January 1775 the editor, possibly William Moore,
proclaimed: "The Altar of Despotism is erected in America, and we shall be the next victims to its lawless power."

Gift of Dorothy Jackson

Joseph Galloway.
Letters to a Nobleman, on the Conduct of the War in the Middle Colonies. The fourth edition. London: 1780.

Letters to a Nobleman describes the 1777-78 campaign of the British General Sir William Howe. Galloway charged in this pamphlet that the failure of the British in the Revolutionary War was due to entirely to the gross incompetence and negligence of the commanding officers, particularly Howe.

Examination of Doctor Benjamin Franklin

Great Britain. Parliament, 1766. House of Commons.
The Examination of Doctor Benjamin Franklin, Relative to the Repeal of the American Stamp Act in MDCCLXVI. London: J. Almon, 1767.

The widespread opposition to the Stamp Act in America was mirrored in a heated debate in England over the tax. Franklin and pro-American interests worked for the repeal of the act and Franklin was called before the House of Commons to testify on its effect on the colonies. He provided detailed responses to friendly leading questions from the repeal group and deftly turning hostile queries into opportunities to make new points, and his appearance was a triumph. Within days, the Stamp Act was repealed, but the issue of taxation would soon arise again and lead directly to the Revolutionary War.

Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790.
The Interest of Great Britain Considered, with Regard to her Colonies: and the Acquisitions of Canada and Guadaloupe. London: Printed for T. Beckett, 1760.

Franklin argues in this collection of essays that the colonies should be treated as vital and equal partners of the imperial system since they are economically and militarily important. He called for the British crown to annex Canada from the French after the French and Indian War. Many in the British leadership hoped to trade what they perceived as a vast fur-bearing wasteland for what they saw as more useful, such as the sugar-rich island of Guadaloupe. Franklin's plan was ultimately accepted and proved to be of enormous value to the British Empire.

William Pulteney,
Thoughts on the Present State of Affairs with America: and the Means of Conciliation. London: Printed for J. Dodsley and T. Cadell, 1778.

This work also contains "Letters of Dr. Franklyn published in the London Chronicle from the 6th to the 8th of February, 1766."

As unofficial Ambassador of the colonies to England, Franklin argued that its citizens were loyal subjects of the British monarchy and should have more representation in decision making, including choosing governors and matters of taxation.

This copy was owned by John Dickinson of Delaware and includes his autograph signature.

Thomas Hutchinson, 1711-1780.
Copy of Letters Sent to Great Britain by his Excellency Thomas Hutchinson; Boston: Printed by Ede and Gill, 1773.

Thomas Hutchinson was the English-appointed governor of Massachusetts. While appearing to support colonists in their complaints against the British, he was working to undermine the American cause. In a series of letters, Hutchinson encouraged the dispatch of more troops to Boston and called for "an abridgment of what are called English Liberties" in America. The letters came into Franklin's possession while he was in England acting as colonial agent for Pennsylvania. Franklin sent the information on to colonial leaders in Boston, but requested that they not be published or circulated. When the letters appeared in the Boston Gazette in 1773, the public outcry was enormous. Hutchinson fled the colony; Franklin was called before the British Privy Council for leaking the letters and soon left for America. This pamphlet is considered to be one of the most inflammatory publications of pre-Revolutionary America.

Wånskaps och Handels tractat emellan Hans Maj:t Konungen af Swerige och the Förente Staterne i Norra America. Stockholm: Tryckt i Kongl. tryckeriet, 1785.

This is the treaty of amity and commerce concluded between the King of Sweden and the United States of North America. Articles are printed in Swedish and French in parallel columns with the U.S. ratification text in Swedish and English. Articles are signed by Gustave Philip, comte de Creutz and B. Franklin.

Robert Sayer and John Bennett (Firm)
The American Military Pocket Atlas. London: Printed for R. Sayer and J. Bennett, 1776.

This collection of maps was issued for the use of British officers at the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

Mercy Otis Warren, 1728-1814.
History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution. Boston: Printed by Manning and Loring, For E. Larkin, 1805.

This was the first important historical work by an American woman. Warren was a friend of Franklin and many members of revolutionary groups in Massachusetts, and she used her knowledge of their personalities to illuminate her writings. She argued against the Constitution until its supporters agreed to add a Bill of Rights.

United States. Continental Congress, 1774.
Extracts from the Votes and Proceedings of the American Continental Congress, held at Philadelphia on the 5th of September, 1774: Containing the Bill of Rights, a List of Grievances, Occasional Resolves, the Association, an Address to the People of Great-Britain, and a Memorial to the Inhabitants of the British American Colonies published by order of the Congress. Philadelphia: Printed by William and Thomas Bradford, October 27th, 1774.

Extracts is one of the most significant documents of the American Revolution. It includes the most important proceedings of the First Continental Congress, which was held between September 5 and October 26, 1774, and the Declaration of Rights, which was passed by the Congress on October 14, 1774, and asserted the colonists' rights as English subjects. The Declaration is followed by the Association, by which the colonies bound themselves to an agreement regarding non-importation, non-exportation, and non-consumption of British goods. Extracts was first published in Philadelphia while the Continental Congress was still sitting. Printings followed later in 1774 in Albany, Annapolis, Boston, Hartford, Lancaster, New London, New York, Newport, Norwich and Providence.

Thomas Paine, 1737-1809.
Common Sense. Boston: Edes & Gill and T. & J. Fleet, 1776.

Thomas Paine's famous treatise is an eloquent piece of propagandizing demagoguery written for an enraged public. Paine, a transplanted Englishman, understood the frustrations of Americans forced to live under a British political system based on privilege and peerage. He emphasized the image of America as an archetypal New World where people could break away from the rigid structure of the past and starting anew. "The cause of America," Paine wrote, "is in a great measure the cause of mankind." Common Sense did more to fan the flames of rebellion than any other piece of writing during the Revolutionary Era.

Common Sense was published anonymously by Robert Bell in Philadelphia in January of 1776, just over a year after Paine's arrival in America and six months before the Declaration of Independence. Its influence and popularity were staggering. By the end of the year, over twenty different editions had appeared in both America and Britain, and sales topped 100,000 copies. This copy is one of the numerous editions published in 1776.

Alexander Hamilton, 1757-1804.
A Full Vindication of the Measures of the Congress. New York: Printed by James Rivington, 1774.

In the fall of 1773, at age 16, Hamilton entered King's College, which would later be renamed Columbia College. In 1774, as the colonies were swept toward revolution, he left school to begin a career in politics. That year he wrote A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress, which defended the First Continental Congress' proposal to embargo trade with Great Britain.

Although Hamilton had little influence on the writing of the Constitution, he was a driving force for its ratification. Along with John Jay and James Madison, he wrote "The Federalist," a series of essays that defended the yet-to-be-approved Constitution. Hamilton composed more than two-thirds of the 85 essays, which were published in New York newspapers in 1787-88.

John Adams, 1735-1826.
A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America. Philadelphia: Printed for Hall and Sellers, 1787.

In 1785, Adams was appointed diplomatic envoy to Great Britain, a position he held until 1788. His duties in England caused him to miss the Constitutional Convention and the ratifying debates, although he had played a crucial earlier role in drafting the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780. While in London he wrote the three-volume Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America. This work rebutted a French critic of American politics and reiterated Adams's belief that only formal restraints on the exercise of power and the impulses of the people could militate against human evil and societal weaknesses.

The Constitutions of the Several Independent States of America: the Declaration of Independence, and the Articles of Confederation. London: Printed for J. Stockdale, 1783.

This is the first British publication of the Articles of Confederation and the treaty ending the Revolutionary War. The Articles of Confederation, the first constitution of the United States, was drafted in 1777 by the Continental Congress and established a "firm league of friendship" between the thirteen states. Created in the throes of the Revolutionary War, the Articles reflect concerns expressed by the states over a strong central government and established a "constitution" that vested the largest share of power to the individual states.

Great Britain.
Act to Prohibit all Trade and Intercourse with the Colonies of New Hampshire, Massachuset's Bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pensylvania, the Three Lower Counties on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. London: 1775.

This act prohibits trade with the colonies during the war and allows British ships to seize American ships and their cargos.

Gift of the University of Delaware Library Associates

Journals of Congress. Containing the Proceedings In the Year, 1776. Philadelphia: Printed and sold by R. Aitken, 1777.

This copy belonged to Gunning Bedford (1747-1812), a member of the Continental Congress (1783-85) and an attorney general and federal district judge for of Delaware.

Melva B. Guthrie Bequest


The Treaties between His Most Christian Majesty and the Thirteen United States of America. Published by order of Congress. Philadelphia printed, London reprinted for J. Stockdale, 1782.

The treaty between King Louis XVI of France and the thirteen United States of America sets forth economic and trade agreements as well as a treaty of alliance for their mutual defense. Franklin signed the treaty as one of three representatives of the new confederation.


Jonathan Shipley, 1714-1788.
A Speech Intended to have been Spoken on the Bill for Altering the Charters of the Colony of Massachusett's Bay. London: Printed for T. Cadell, 1774.

This pamphlet protests Parliament's "Intolerable Acts" which deprived Massachusetts of the right of self-government in the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party in 1773. In Shipley's words, "Arbitrary taxation is plunder authorized by law." The speech is sometimes attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who may have had a hand in it.

Gift of the University Pierre Ulric Dubuisson, 1746-1794.

Abrégé de la Révolution de l'Amérique angloise, depuis le commencement de l'année 1774 jusqu'au premier janvier 1778. Yverdon, 1779.

This is a detailed narrative of events in America during the period from the arrival of British General Gage in Boston to the recognition of the United States by the French government. In his introductory Avertissement the author states that he had returned to France from a visit to America to find his countrymen excited and curious about the War for Independence but woefully ignorant of its progress, so he was attempting to instruct them.

Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790.
Autograph letter signed, to all Captains…, 10 March, 1779. 2 p.

This fascinating letter was written while Franklin was representing the United States at the Court of France. He asks that American vessels not attack the ships of the British explorer Captain James Cook, who was returning from his voyage in the Pacific. Although the U.S. was at war with the British, Franklin argues that Cook's voyage had significance beyond politics:

The Increase of Geographical Knowledge facilitates the Communication between distant Nations in the Exchange of useful Products and Manufactures and the Extension of Arts whereby the common enjoyments of Human Life are multiply'd and augmented, and Science of other kinds encreas'd to the Benefit of Mankind in general.

Introduction | Printer | Author | Scientist | Abolitionist

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