Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790) was a major figure of his time. He was known chiefly as statesman, international diplomat and writer, but was also a celebrated scientist, inventor, and businessman. His life summed up the spirit of his age. He devoted his energy and reason to a combination of statecraft, effective management and technical invention. His utopian vision was both ambitious and realistic, his ideas rooted in his belief in reason and democratic freedom.
Franklin was at the heart of the American struggle for independence from the British rule. His original vision was that the colonies should become part of a greater union with Britain, and that all peoples should be equal.
In 1765 the British passed the notorious Stamp Act tax to raise money for their fight against the French and American Indians. British parliament had failed to consult the American colonial assemblies about introducing this tax. Franklin, therefore, was dispatched to England and answered questions in the House of Commons about his fellow countrymen's hatred of the Act. He successfully persuaded parliament that it was in everyone's interest to repeal the Act.
The following year Franklin helped Thomas Jefferson to draft the American Declaration of Independence, and was then sent to Paris to persuade the French to support the American colonies in their fight for independence from Britain. He remained in France for many years as his country's representative.
Benjamin Franklin finally returned to Philadelphia in 1785 to be greeted by peals of bells and the respectful salute of cannon fire.