Was Benjamin Franklin a Federalist


© History Oasis

The story of Benjamin Franklin, a towering figure in the annals of American history, is one of boundless curiosity, unyielding determination, and unwavering conviction.

His role in the development of federalism in the United States is no exception.

Franklin's beliefs and actions contributed significantly to the foundation of the nation's system of government, even though he never explicitly categorized himself as a federalist. To appreciate the depth and breadth of Franklin's impact, we must delve into the historical, political, and philosophical context of his time.


Iroquois Confederation
© History Oasis

One of the most fascinating aspects of Franklin's life is his engagement with the Iroquois Confederation, a powerful Native American confederacy in what is now the northeastern United States.

The Iroquois had established a decentralized and democratic political system based on consensus-based decision-making, a concept that intrigued Franklin. As he studied their political organization and observed their system of laws and customs, he recognized the potential for applying these principles to the fledgling United States.

The influence of the Iroquois Confederation on Franklin's thinking cannot be overstated. It informed his perspective on political and social issues and played a pivotal role in shaping his ideas about the structure and principles of the United States government.


Benjamin Franklin thinking about the Union
© History Oasis

Franklin's fascination with the concept of union was rooted in his understanding of the potential strength derived from unity.

This interest first manifested in 1754 when he proposed a union of all the colonies as a means to bolster the British Empire against the French. Franklin's vision for this union was both strategic and pragmatic; he sought to foster cooperation within the empire, guarantee collective security, and promote economic development.

In doing so, he anticipated that the colonies would benefit from shared resources and a unified front against external threats.

The Albany Plan of Union, as this proposal came to be known, was groundbreaking in its time. It called for a unified colonial government with a president-general appointed by the British Crown and a legislative body comprising representatives from each colony.

Although the plan was ultimately rejected by the colonial governments and the British Crown, it laid the groundwork for future discussions about intercolonial cooperation and unity.

As tensions with Britain escalated in the years leading up to the American Revolution, Franklin's focus shifted toward uniting the North American colonies against the British.

He recognized that the colonies' best chance of success in their struggle for independence lay in their ability to present a united front.

To this end, he became a vocal advocate for collaboration and cooperation among the colonies.

During his tenure as a colonial diplomat, Franklin proposed several mechanisms for colonial representation in London.

One such proposal was the creation of a "General Congress" comprising delegates from all the colonies. This body would represent the colonies' interests, present their grievances to the British government, and negotiate on their behalf.

Franklin believed that by giving the colonies a voice in London, they would be better equipped to address their concerns and work toward a more equitable relationship with the British Crown.

In addition to his proposal for a General Congress, Franklin advocated for a unified colonial army and a colonial treasury.

These proposals reflected his unwavering commitment to the concept of union, even in the face of adversity.

He understood that by pooling their resources and coordinating their military efforts, the colonies would be better positioned to defend themselves against British aggression.

Similarly, a centralized treasury would provide the financial stability necessary to support the colonies' collective interests and ensure their long-term prosperity.

As the American Revolution unfolded and the need for a united front became increasingly apparent, Franklin's early advocacy for intercolonial cooperation and unity proved prescient.

His tireless efforts to promote the concept of union laid the foundation for the eventual establishment of the United States, a nation whose strength and resilience continue to be defined by its federal system of government.


the Constitutional Convention
© History Oasis

In 1787, Franklin participated in the Constitutional Convention, where he submitted a draft of the Articles of Confederation. He played a significant role in the development of the three-branch system of government and the Great Compromise, which established the bicameral legislative structure of the United States.

Franklin's support for the ratification of the United States Constitution was unwavering.

He recognized the need for a strong federal government to ensure the stability and prosperity of the young nation.

His pragmatic approach is epitomized by his statement at the Constitutional Convention:

"There are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them. For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise."

This quote underscores Franklin's willingness to compromise for the greater good of the nation.


Benjamin Franklin
© History Oasis

Franklin's ultimate goal was to create a federal system of government that promoted human liberation and cooperation.

By dividing power between the central government and the regional governments, he believed that individuals would enjoy greater freedom to govern themselves while still being part of a larger, unified community.

Franklin also maintained that a federal system would encourage collaboration among the different regions, allowing them to work together to address common problems and advance the common good.

Franklin's vision of federalism emphasized the importance of a strong central government to regulate commerce, provide defense, and ensure the welfare of the citizens.

He was convinced that a central government was necessary to establish stability and prosperity for the nation. By setting policies and standards, the government could create a fair and stable business environment, thereby fostering economic growth through investments in infrastructure and other projects that would benefit the nation as a whole.

Additionally, Franklin understood that a united and well-equipped military was vital for protecting the country from foreign threats and maintaining peace and stability within its borders.

He also believed that the government had a responsibility to provide for the basic needs of its citizens, such as education, healthcare, and social services, to guarantee that all Americans had the opportunity to live fulfilling and productive lives.


Statue of Liberty
© History Oasis

Franklin's commitment to federalism and his belief in the principles of liberty, democracy, and equality had far-reaching implications.

He argued that the success or failure of the United States would have a significant impact on the reputation of freedom for generations to come.

If the United States could successfully establish a new form of government rooted in these principles, it would serve as a powerful example to other nations around the world, demonstrating that it was possible for a country to be governed by the will of the people, rather than by a monarchy or other authoritarian system.

Conversely, Franklin feared that the failure of the United States would have dire consequences for the reputation of freedom.

If the nation were to collapse or succumb to authoritarian rule, it would be viewed as a failure of the principles of liberty and democracy, casting a long shadow over the prospects for freedom worldwide.

In conclusion, Benjamin Franklin's role in the development of federalism in the United States cannot be overstated.

Although he never explicitly categorized himself as a federalist, his beliefs and actions undeniably played a pivotal role in shaping the nation's system of government.

His engagement with the Iroquois Confederation, his advocacy for colonial union, and his participation in the Constitutional Convention all contributed to the establishment of a federal system that has endured for centuries.

Franklin's legacy as a pioneering federalist endures, and his vision of a balanced, cooperative government remains an inspiration to this day.