Segments in this Video

Benjamin Franklin (04:51)


In January 1775, Franklin turned 69. He had been in England for the last decade to bridge the chasm between Parliament and the American colonies. Franklin realized he would never be a respected Briton so he decided to become an American. (Credits)

Boston Tea Party (06:34)

The political protest led to further enforcement and tensions between the colonies and King George III. Franklin and his son William, the governor of New Jersey, made different conclusions about who was to blame. Their relationship suffered.

American Revolutionary War (06:33)

On March 21, 1775, Franklin sailed for Philadelphia with William's son Temple. While at sea, the battles of Lexington and Concord sparked war. Franklin was elected a representative to the Second Continental Congress. William remained a Loyalist.

Siege of Boston (05:43)

British soldiers ransacked Boston and burned Charlestown; the Battle of Bunker Hill saw casualties on both sides. Franklin wrote an angry letter intended for English publication. In October 1775, Franklin met General George Washington. Franklin did not see William for 10 years.

United Colonies (06:19)

William betrayed his father in March of 1776. In June, Patriot soldiers arrested William at the governor's mansion. Franklin edited Thomas Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence. On July 2, the Continental Congress proclaimed American independence.

Franklin in France (12:44)

British ships arrived in New York with soldiers, sailors, and Hessian mercenaries. Franklin was sent to King Louis XVI to negotiate financial assistance. Franklin moved from Paris to a small village and Temple assisted with diplomatic paperwork.

Rebels and Spies (04:12)

Franklin recommended three men fight in America; Count Casimir Pulaski of Poland, Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, and the Marquis de Lafayette. Secretary Edward Bancroft used invisible ink while spying on Franklin.

Victories and Treaties (03:10)

In December 1777, Franklin received news of the Battles of Saratoga and took it to the Comte de Vergennes. On February 6, 1778, Franklin and Vergennes signed two treaties of alliance and Franklin met King Louis XVI at Versailles.

Franklin's Reputation (09:49)

While Franklin negotiated for an alliance with France, he spent time in intellectual circles and the social salons of Paris. John Adams arrived to further diplomatic efforts but departed in the wake of Franklin's extreme popularity.

Associate Board of Loyalists (07:11)

Released in a prisoner exchange, William's anger fueled him to become the head of the organization. The Colonial Army desperately needed supplies. Threats of replacing Franklin angered the Vergennes and he approved an outright gift.

Terrorizing Citizens (06:41)

News of the victory at Yorktown transformed Franklin. Gen. Cornwallis surrendered on October 19, 1781. Franklin drew up non-negotiable demands for peace talks with England while William's guerrilla marauders continued dishonorable acts.

Delegation Success (04:19)

In 1782, a preliminary agreement of peace was signed; France was excluded. Franklin wrote an apology to Vergennes and asked for more money. On September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed.

Franklin's Family (04:03)

In 1785, a hot air balloon carried the world's first airmail letter addressed to Temple from his father. Franklin negotiated William's property rights but the two never reconciled. Jefferson became the new ambassador to France; Franklin and his grandsons sailed to America.

Science on the Ocean (02:09)

On his 8th Atlantic crossing, Franklin focused on scientific observations and theories including continued work about the Gulf Stream. A joyful crowd greeted his arrival.

Constitutional Convention (10:40)

Washington visited Franklin. In May of 1787, they attended the convention to fix the Articles of Confederation; Washington was elected to preside. Despite poor health, Franklin attended every session but one. Debates raged for days, and Franklin helped institute a compromise.

New Democracy (09:18)

By 1790, Franklin was 84-years-old, and the Constitution had been ratified. Quakers presented their petition for the abolition of slavery. It was unsuccessful in moving forward but the conversation became a major public issue.

Franklin's Creed (04:57)

Franklin's health kept him housebound, and he died on April 17, 1790. More than 20,000 people turned out for his funeral procession. Temple eventually published Franklin's unfinished autobiography. Franklin created a trust fund that remains active today.

Credits: Episode 2: An American (1775-1790) - Ken Burns: Benjamin Franklin (02:41)

Credits: Episode 2: An American (1775-1790) - Ken Burns: Benjamin Franklin

For additional digital leasing and purchase options contact a media consultant at 800-257-5126
(press option 3) or

Episode 2: An American (1775-1790) (Ken Burns: Benjamin Franklin)

Part of the Series : Ken Burns: Benjamin Franklin
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $199.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $299.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $199.95



Benjamin Franklin leaves London and returns to wartime Philadelphia where he joins Congress and helps Thomas Jefferson craft the Declaration of Independence. In Paris, he wins French support for the American Revolution then negotiates a peace treaty with Britain. He spends his last years in the new United States, working on the Constitution and unsuccessfully promoting the abolition of slavery.

Length: 114 minutes

Item#: FPT279431

Copyright date: ©2022

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video, Dealer and Publisher customers.