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Ben Franklin as Diplomat
Scholastic Kid Reporter finds that Ben Franklin was more than just a founding father.
By Diane Chavous, Scholastic Kids Press Corps

Ben Franklin re-enactor Ralph Archbold
Scholastic Kid Reporter Diane Chavous, 12, of Pennsylvania, talks to Ben Franklin re-enactor Ralph Archbold at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
(Photo: Sabina Louise Pierce)
Ben Franklin as Diplomat Scholastic Kid Reporter finds that Ben Franklin was more than just a founding father. By Diane Chavous Scholastic Kids Press Corps Benjamin Franklin recently took me on a tour of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He talked to me about his role in writing the U.S. Constitution and his work as a diplomat in France. (I was actually talking to Ben Franklin re-enactor and expert Ralph Archbold, but he was looked so much like Mr. Franklin and knew so much about Mr. Franklin, that I was convinced he WAS Mr. Franklin!)

Ben Franklin went to France after the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. The Declaration was written by representatives of the first 13 colonies to declare independence from Great Britain. Signing that document sparked the Revolutionary War.

France was a sworn enemy of Great Britain. Franklin's job was to convince France to become an ally of the United States in the fight for independence. That step was important for the budding young nation.

"You can say you're free, you can say you're independent, but until another country recognizes you as such and you start making alliances, it doesn't matter a whole lot," Franklin said.

Franklin's official title was Minister of Plenipotentiary. The Minister of Plenipotentiary is a diplomat who negotiates with other nations for things like guns, ships, and money. Franklin was able to enlist France's help in the war against England.

He returned to the U.S. when Thomas Jefferson was appointed to replace him in France.

Eleven years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, Franklin, who was then 80 years old, was instrumental in the writing and passage of the U.S. Constitution.

His life is not just about those two documents, however. Franklin also founded the first volunteer fire department; organized the first library; invented bifocals, the harmonica, and the Franklin stove; and captured electricity. I asked him if he had any advice for kids who wanted to follow in his footsteps.

"I would advise young people to learn to listen," he said, "to try to be of service to their community, to remember that the noblest thing in the world that you can do is to do good, and when you have done well in your life, you then must go out and do good for others."



For more information about Constitution Day, visit the National Constitution Center's Web site at www.constitutioncenter.org.