|Weary, ill, and yearning to visit Pennsylvania one last time,
Franklin requested leave from his diplomatic duties. In 1785,
Thomas Jefferson was sent to Paris to succede Frankin in his role
as Ambassador to France. As a token of his appreciation, King Louis
XVI generously gave Franklin a portrait of His Majesty inlaid with
over 400 diamonds.
Eager to return home, Franklin boarded a passenger vessel in May of 1785. Despite the debilitating health problems of old age, Franklin's spirits were uplifted when he was greeted by a huge welcoming crowd at Philadelphia Harbor. Pennsylvanians honored their Revolutionary hero and elected him President of Pennsylvania. As usual, Franklin served with distinction. However, by 1787, certain American political leaders were dissatisfied with the Articles of Confederation, the contemporary American system of government. A Constitutional Convention was called in hopes of designing a more efficient form of government with the appropriate balance between state and central authority. Appointed as a delegate from Pennsylvania, Benjamin was the oldest member in attendance on September 17, 1787 and was transported to and from the meeting hall on a sedan chair. Although Franklin did not endorse all aspects of the Constitution, he backed the document and the new form of government it established. Franklin would have preferred a unicameral legislature and multiple executive officers, but these ideas were not adopted. In the end, the support alone of venerable Benjamin Franklin was very influential in the ratification of the Constitution.
Independence Hall: the signing the Constitution
As the negotiations concluded and the Constitution was approved among the delegates, Benjamin Frankin left Independence Hall, Philadelphia, site of the drafting of the Constitution, only to be confronted by the inquiries of a young lady: "Dr. Franklin, what kind of government did you give us?" she asked. "A monarchy or a republic?"
Franklin's witty reply: "A republic, if you can keep it!" As wise Benjamin realized, the responsibility for a successful republic inherently belongs to the citizens.