|At Independence Hall, as the delegates signed the Constitution,
Franklin pointed to the president's chair, which had a sun painted
on it. Franklin eloquently stated before all the representatives:
"I have often...in the course of this session...looked at that...without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting; but now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun."
As sharp as ever, Benjamin Franklin remained a "rising sun" well into his eighties. At the Constitutional Convention's conclusion, Benjamin wrote a French friend, suggesting that the nations of Europe should establish a central authority similar to the national government of the United States of America. In essence, Franklin predicted the formation of the present-day European Union over two hundred years before its actual incorporation. The old Philadelphian lived long enough to hear of the drastic changes resulting from the French Revolution as well. Although concerned about the safety of his dear friends, Benjamin believed the French people had legitimate complaints and were entitled to the rights the French monarchy denied them. In his last political endeavor, Ben Franklin adopted an abolitionist stance. Although the ingenious inventor had owned and sold slaves, he realized it was morally wrong. With less than a month to live, he wrote an article comparing the horrors of American slavery with those of past civilizations.
Benjamin Franklin: A rising sun
Ill and overwhelmed with pain, Franklin knew he had only a short time to live. One of his last visitors was Thomas Jefferson, one of the few people to receive a copy of Franklin's autobiography, which was designed to be a legacy to Benjamin's family and relatives. Although in tremendous agony, Benjamin informed George Washington that he was happy to be alive to see the establishment of the government of his young and vibrant nation. Unable to continue on any longer, Franklin quietly passed away on April 17, 1790, surrounded by his grandchildren. Franklin's funeral, on April 21, was an enormous public spectacle. Over twenty thousand citizens gathered to pay a tribute to the American hero. The most influential civic and business leaders acted as pall bearers in the funeral procession as the beloved Franlin was buried in a plot beside his wife, Deborah, and son, Francis. Across the Atlantic, his friends in England and France agreed to a period of mourning. Franklin, son of a tradesman, had won the respect of people throughout the world. Yet, as directed by his will, his tombstone was engraved simply with the phrase "Benjamin and Deborah Franklin: 1790." Rejecting pomposity, this simple engraving embodies the true essence of Franklin. Despite his enormous talents, Benjamin always considered himself to be a mere common man, a mere common American, a mere common Genius.
Grave of Benjamin Franklin