No, I was not a President. I never was, and never will be. (Unless somebody starts a campaign to make this 308-year-old time traveler from the 18th century into a viable candidate for the next election).
It’s a sad commentary on the state of education, however, particularly for U.S. History classes, that there is such a misconception that I served as president. I’m honored, but I’m also concerned that today’s students tend to gloss over that early part of our nation’s history….so much so, in fact, that many youngsters (and adults) cannot correctly name the first few presidents of our country. That is, except for George Washington. I will readily admit that he has achieved some distinction in that regard.
Ben’s feelings about the presidency
I do have mixed feelings about not being able to include U.S. president on my list of accomplishments. It would have been a great honor, certainly, but I think my advanced age and various infirmities would not have been a good foundation for the quite stressful, demanding expectations of this office.
People may not know that while I did not serve as U.S. president, I was “president” (equivalent to governor, today) of the Pennsylvania assembly. And for that I was very thankful. After numbers of years being criticized, debated, or rebuffed in my various political and diplomatic undertakings, it was a real pleasure to finally be elected and thought of with such high regard by my fellow Pennsylvanians.
So, when I have harsh things to say about the present governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, it is not without prior experience myself functioning in that particular office… even though it happened in another state, with a more “brotherly” reputation. But I digress.
Ben behind the scenes
More important than serving in the actual role of president, many of the ways that the U.S. government is organized today are a direct result of my ideas and suggestions during those many years in public service, most significantly during the years the country functioned under the Articles of Confederation, and ultimately during the drafting the U.S. Constitution.
So, perhaps more so than any other of the Founding Fathers (with the possible exception of Thomas Jefferson), I had a major impact on how the United States came into existence and what form of government we all collaboratively “invented” following the Revolution. I may not have served as president, but through my behind-the-scenes work, I probably had just as big a role.
Another fact people may not be aware of is that I had an opportunity to be president of the constitutional convention, but wisely decided to abstain from this responsibility in favor of another. I actually nominated George Washington for that position! (And we know that George went on from here to become president of the country).
I also coined the motto we now see on our dollar bills, “E Pluribus Unum,” out of many, one. More than any other statement about this country’s origin, this, in my mind, sums it all up best. Because when we set out to establish this new nation, it was an extraordinary, herculean effort to bring everyone together (13 separate colonies and many, many different opposing points of view), and we certainly managed to carry that off – making one country out of many little political parts.
Your humble servant,