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Benjamin Franklin

Joseph Duplessisc. 1785

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

Politician, writer, and scientist Benjamin Franklin was one of the early Republic's most admired individuals. Congress sent Franklin to Paris in December 1776 to gain support from France and Spain for the American Revolution. Savvy to the constantly changing alignments among European powers, Franklin skillfully represented the new nation to the Spanish government, although he never went to Madrid. Through his main contact, the Spanish minister to France, the Count of Aranda, he persuaded Carlos III to send money, equipment, and uniforms to the Americans. In June 1779, Spain joined France in the war against England. Its naval battles against British forces in Florida and the Caribbean were integral to the colonists' victories elsewhere on the Atlantic Coast. With John Jay and John Adams, Franklin signed the Treaty of Paris in 1783, officially ending the war. In 1784 the Spanish acknowledged Franklin's myriad accomplishments by electing him the first American member of the Royal Academy of History.

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