Central Institute of American Historical Studies

Benjamin Franklin holds the unique distinction of being the only founding father of the United States to sign the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and the Treaty of Paris. These three documents are exemplary of Franklin’s ability to contribute deeply into the text, processes and development of these foundational papers and yet claim very little – if any at all responsibility for the final product they produced.        

Benjamin Franklin was and still is often seen as a very mysterious man. His personal aura of mystery was probably not one of perceived evil or a malicious nature, but rather more of a hidden personal identity. At times he seems like he’s a Christian. At times he seems like he’s a scoundrel. At times he seems like he’s a Luciferian.[1] At times he seems like he’s a Rosicrucian.[2] He seemed to always be able to be a chameleon in every environment he walked in to.  Franklin understood what personality he should project that would get the results he discerned were needed for the moment he was experiencing.  

This ability to accept and go with change no doubt also contributed to the massive decision he made to truly become an American by renouncing his British citizenship. This change affected not only him, but the Nation he was helping to found. His change of citizenship is probably one of the most definable and distinctive transitions in Franklin’s personal biography. His notorious ability to change and blend into the fabric of whatever culture he was in at the moment was probably one of his most impressive strengths and also one of his own personal weaknesses. 

His contrasting public and personal lifestyle also had a direct impact on his family – specifically his son William. Franklin’s relationship to his only son William was never really harmonious. He was not the steady and dependable role model that William may have needed.[3] Benjamin Franklin’s extended travels to England and France throughout his life, no doubt left William in a fatherless condition for most of the time. The two were never able to reconcile their political differenes. Franklin died remaining as a staunch American patriot. William remained a loyalist even after the Revolutionary War was over. Neither of the two made any attempt to look beyond ther political positions.    

Franklin died on April 17, 1790 and was buried in the cemetery at Christ Church in Philadelphia. Some reports of his funeral say that nearly 20,000 people attended the services, including approximately 20 different clergy men from all of Philadelphia’s congregations, who led the funeral procession while walking side by side together. Considering Franklin’s lack of enthusiastic participation in the Christian community, this host of local clergy was actually quite a tribute to a man that was not only an international diplomat, but also a man who invested greatly in his own local world of Philadelphia.

Mr. Franklin rests beside his common law wife Deborah. His simple epitaph reads: “Benjamin Franklin, Printer”. A tradition that still is practiced on occasion in Philadelphia calls for a bride on her way to a church to be married, to stop and toss a coin onto the top of Franklin’s grave. 

[1] Pinto, Christian J. Secret Mysteries of America’s Beginnings (Antiquities Research Films, 2010 DVD) narration

[2] Pinto, Christian J. Secret Mysteries of America’s Beginnings (Antiquities Research Films, 2010 DVD) narration

[3] Skemp, Shiela L. William Franklin Son of a Patriot, Servant of a King (New York, Oxford University Press, 1990) p.3


Central Institute of  American Historical Studies
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