It seemed impossible for him to not want what so many see as the ultimate pinnacle of success. Everything else seemed to be in his favor. He appeared to be the right man, in the right place and at the right time. He could and did cultivate important men to help him, such as those who raised funds for his education and send him to the Colonies just in time to educate himself and participate actively in the Revolution. He wasn’t lacking in confidence or energy. Hamilton passed the New York bar exam after only a few months of study on his own.
But I found no evidence that Hamilton had Presidential ambitions.
There is a second man to wonder about. Benjamin Franklin, the only other person whose face is on U. S. currency without having been President, turns out to be an even bigger mystery.
Franklin has been harder to research. Tracing the course of his life through the early history of our country is more like exploring the lives of a small army.
Franklin was born January 17, 1706, in Boston, the fifteenth child of a candle maker who could only afford to send his son to school for two years. School ended for Benjamin at the age of ten. At 12, he was apprenticed as a printer; at 17 he ran away to Philadelphia. Considering his subsequent meteoric climb to success, it would have been more understandable had his father manufactured not candles but sky rockets.
Before he died April 17, 1790, at the age of 84 (the average age of death in those days was 67), he had successfully pursued careers as printer, writer, philosopher, scientist, politician and diplomat. And he did it without making any important enemies.
Iin Philadelphia, he worked as a printer. By the time he was 20, the governor of Pennsylvania persuaded Franklin to travel to London, supposedly to purchase the machinery for a printing plant. But promised funding didn’t come and Franklin returned to Philadelphia in 1726, when he was only 20 years old, after supporting himself in the printing trade. He found work as a clerk, bookkeeper, and accountant.
At the age of 21, Franklin founded a tradesmen’s club called the Juno. To supply needed books (the members loved to read), Franklin started a subscription library that still exists today. The next year he founded his own publication business.
In 1748, by the time Franklin was 42, he was wealthy enough to retire. He had started a newspaper, served as clerk of the Pennsylvania legislature, started the country’s first volunteer fire company, begun the American Philosophical Society and the publication of Poor Richards Almanac, a collection of wit, wisdom, and financial advice that ran for the next 25 years.
Retirement for Franklin meant leisure time he could devote to science, a life-long passion. He invented the lightning rod, bifocal lenses, the very practical Franklin Stove, and performed his famous experiment with a kite that proved the similarity between electricity and lightning.
Then he turned his interest to politics, although he never was a member of any political party. He was a key mover in the Pennsylvania legislature, serving as councilman, Justice of the Peace and member of the Pennsylvania Assembly before he returned to England in 1764 as a spokesman for colonial rights. He returned to American in 1776, just before the war began.
Franklin sat in the Continental Congress, where he was appointed a member of The Committee of Five to write the Declaration of Independence.
In 1787, The Federal Convention met in Philadelphia to draft the Constitution. Franklin, at 81, was the oldest member by fifteen years.
I had been looking for reasons why Franklin didn’t become President. It wasn’t his age, although he was 70 when the Revolutionary War began. My opinion is that maybe the guy simply didn’t want the job because he had more important things to do. What could being President give him that he didn’t already have?
He was already known as the First American because of his early pro-unity stance for the Colonies. He was recognized as one of the Founding Fathers; the only one to sign not only the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution but also the Treaty of Paris and the Treaty of Alliance with France.
He had achieved fame and fortune while in his forties. He had the respect of not only his fellow Americans but also many Europeans. His name during his lifetime was written indelibly in American history. It has been suggested that he also had his share of adventures that will probably never be included in any textbook. And he did all these things without any of the red tape that accompanies the often thankless work of a public servant.
If he were alive today, I would vote for him for President. I wouldn’t even consider which political party he belonged to.