Benjamin Franklin was absolutely essential in establishing the alliance with France, both in an economic sense and in a military sense. Without the French alliance, the American Republic would have collapsed quickly - many states were in a very sorry state of economic affairs after the Revolution, and the British were simply waiting for those silly colonists to louse things up a bit more before wandering back in and reclaiming their properties. John Adams was a puritan, and very anti-French, stubborn and stupid as hell. He actually claimed that by creating the alliance with France, Franklin was selling the new Republic to France, and they would all become French subjects. History has proven that idiocy entirely false. John Adams travelled to France because he was convinced, before even arriving, that Franklin was just partying and not taking care of any real business. The other leading American politicians found him highly annoying, and allowed him to go simply because he would not shut up about it. He repeatedly insulted the French court, and was forced to return to America after insulting the King so greatly that the court refused to speak further with any American, and was prepared to dissolve all ties with the struggling new Republic. It was Benjamin Franklin who was forced to clean up the mess John Adams made on his trip to France, and it angered Mr. Franklin so severely that he remained bitter about the experience for the rest of his life, and wrote that the jackassed lack of diplomacy in American politics would eventually cause its collapse. He was almost right (and maybe he was right... we are doing a dandy job of alienating most of the world currently). Even if you were to discount all the writings of the time regarding the situation (99% of which stated exactly what I just said above, about John Adams being an annoying ass and causing no end of trouble in France), history speaks for itself. Benjamin Franklin remained in France, and was able to maintain an absolutely crucial alliance with France through ongoing diplomacy. John Adams showed up uninvited, created all sorts of trouble, and was immediately dismissed, both by Franklin and the French court. The French king also asked that America please not send anyone else to work with the court shortly after John Adam's departure. Yes, Benjamin Franklin was a party animal. That was my point. By his very nature, and brilliant intelligence, he was able to stabilize a Republic that was in such chaos, it is miraculous that it was able to survive even a month. It was his popularity with the French court that allowed America to establish international trade, develop its first major military alliance, and prevent invasion by the British Crown. Would you dismiss all this? Are you saying that Franklin did no more than carouse in France? Whatever you may believe about Franklin, his enduring legacy and amazing wit will continue to remain the upmost example of American ingenuity, while John Adams will continue to remain a forgotten footnote, a bitter little puritan with much less impact on the history of our great Republic. Who do most Americans think of when they think of our Founding Fathers? Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton, Washington, and Payne. (I know there were others but most Americans are not familiar with them) Excepting Washington, these men and their brilliant rebellious beliefs kindled the fire that was later to be known as the Age of Enlightenment, quite possibly the greatest evolutionary stage in Western history. And if you were to speak with any history buff, anyone like me who is completely and totally in love with that age, you would find very little debate that Benjamin Franklin (bald-headed, womanizing, party animal that he was) was undoubtedly one of the most influential men of that entire movement. Even with the constant heated (and sometimes fatal) debate that raged between the great minds of the American Republic, Benjamin Franklin remained the most admired of all, and he often used his universal appeal to unify the more feisty elements of the fledgeling republic. You might recall that it was a certain Mr. Franklin who was required to get all those yahoos together for their first Constitutional Convention. Without his support, you would not even have an American Constitution. His diplomatic skill repeatedly saved the hide of the American Republic. So he was a party animal. And he hated wigs and underwear. But he was absolutely essential to the establishment of the Republic. There has never been an American with as much charisma, and such great intellectual and cultural influence worldwide, as Benjamin Franklin. He was the first, and ultimate, American gentleman.
I like how this has thread has suddenly switched from khakis to the founding fathers, but I have to disagree with your characterizations of Franklin and Adams. I admire Franklin, but his most important accomplishments were his inventions and his writing on character and virtue, rather than his political views or accomplishments. Yes, he did negotiate a very important treaty with France, but most of his time in France was devoted to philandering and living it up. As for Adams, he didn't have Franklin's charisma and he could be a stubborn bastard but he certainly wasn't "stupid as hell." The characterization of him as anti-French is also inaccurate; although he didn't care for the extravagance of French society during the so-called "Age of Enlightenment", he certainly recognized the vital importance of an alliance with France. Also, he didn't volunteer to go to France because he thought Franklin was just partying and he "wouldn't shut up about it." He was appointed ambassador by Congress in place of Silas Dean, who had been recalled, and was hesitant to accept the commission because he didn't want to leave his family. When he got there he found that Franklin had indeed spent most of his time carousing and had not even been keeping records of how much was being spent. True, Adams' time in France was sort of a disaster, but let's not forget his numerous accomplishments. His diplomatic efforts in Amsterdam led to the Dutch recognizing American independence and the Dutch bankers extending credit to America. The Dutch alliance was every bit as important as the French alliance to the economic recovery of the country after the end of the war. Adams' writings and activities in the period leading up to the Revolution were also more important than Franklin's in shaping the political thinking of the time. He also gave the key speech in July of 1776, in response to John Dickinson's speech against independence, that moved Congress to vote in favor of independence. Finally, Payne is not typically considered one of the "founding fathers." The term is generally used to mean Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and Franklin. Adams was certainly more important than Payne and I would suspect he is also better known to most Americans.