Ideological Origins of the American Revolution
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was one of the most celebrated of America's Founding Fathers, a man who enjoyed success as an inventor, scientist, printer, politician, and diplomat. He helped to draft both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.
Franklin and a few others managed to bring a reluctant Pennsylvania on board to pass a unanimous vote for American independence on 2 July 1776 in the Continental Congress. He also served as president of the Pennsylvania state convention, which adopted the Constitution of Pennsylvania—one of the most progressive until it was changed in 1790. Sometimes referred to as America's first "yuppie," Franklin certainly vested his faith in the virtue and independence of the ordinary people who became a kind of precursor to the middle class of the nineteenth century. He also championed the virtues of thrift and the Protestant work ethic as a means of achieving success. In lieu of the slaves, servants, and European aristocrats who embodied the rigid hierarchies of the Old World, eighteenth-century republicans like Franklin looked toward the people who owned property, possessed an intrinsic sense of morality, and were willing to subordinate their own interests for the interests of the community. Inspired by friend and philosopher David Hume, Franklin changed Jefferson's language in the Declaration of Independence from "we hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable" to "we hold these truths to be self-evident." The change reflected a statement grounded in reason and rooted in the principles of the scientific revolution, rather than the notion that the equality of all men was an article of religious faith.