Benjamin Franklin enlists the help of young people to record the happenings leading up to and during the Revolution for his newspaper the Pennsylvania Gazette. First, there is a James Hiller, a patriot who tends to act before he thinks and is, at times, too quick a judge in his search for American heroes. Next is Henri, a French orphan who’s only quest is for food. Lastly, a young woman named Sarah Phillips joins the team; the daughter of an ex-English general with strong views opposing slavery. Together, they travel the colonies witnessing the sacrifices made for freedom.
Sarah Phillips (voiced by Reo Jones)
A bright-eyed girl from England, Sarah travels to the Thirteen Colonies in 1773 in search of her father, Major Phillips, who was last heard exploring the region of Ohio; upon her arrival, she is warmly welcomed by and lives as a guest of Benjamin Franklin. Her mother, Lady Phillips, remains in England and is a good friend to Dr. Franklin. However, with the possibility of a war between the American colonists and the English mother country, she decides that she will become a reporter for Franklin’s newspaper in order to offer a more balanced perspective to the press. Sarah believes firmly in the power of words and equal rights for all, and is never afraid to speak her mind. At the start of the series, she is a firm loyalist, which sparks many arguments between her and James. Later in the series, Sarah has a change of heart and realizes how much she has come to understand the people of the colonies and ends up supporting the Revolution. Some men know the way to her heart – good manners; when this happens, James can seem almost jealous, although near the end of the series she appears to feel “more than friendship” for James. Throughout the series, Sarah and James grow closer. At the end of the series, her mother, Lady Phillips, joins Sarah and her father in the United States and Sarah hopes to explore more of her adopted country.
James Hiller (voiced by Chris Lundquist)
A young boy orphaned in childhood because of a lightning storm that burned his childhood home down with his parents inside. At age fourteen, James greatly admires Benjamin Franklin, whose invention of the lightning rod saved many from the same tragedy. Jealous, street-smart and impulsive, James pursues the revolution from a slightly one-sided perspective – something that prompts Sarah to counter his views. An apprentice in Franklin’s Print Shop, James believes firmly in the American cause and will do almost anything to ensure that the people receive an honest view of what is happening. In the process, he also faces the less positive aspects of the political conflict that eventually forces his patriotic fervor into a new maturity. He highly values his friends, Sarah and Henri. He can be a little protective of Sarah while he attempts to keep Henri out of trouble, acting somewhat like an older brother figure to Henri. He is very laid back and is constantly reminded of his bad etiquette and poor table manners by Sarah, toward whom he shows feelings of what might be “more than friendship”.
Henri Richard Maurice Dutoit LeFevbre (voiced by Kathleen Barr)
An energetic boy from France, Henri’s parents died on the voyage to America when a plague struck the ship and killed half of the people on board three weeks into the trip. The ship’s captain exploited Henri afterwards because he had to pay off his family’s debt to the captain. James and Moses smuggled Henri off the ship and the boy found a home in Benjamin Franklin’s workshop. While he speaks French fluently, Dr. Franklin has insisted that Henri learn to speak, read, and write in both English and French. Henri’s small size has proved more than useful to Sarah and James, though he has a tendency to land himself in all sorts of trouble while not fully understanding the dangers of the war.
Moses (voiced by D. Kevin Williams)
Born in Africa, Moses was brought in chains to America as a slave and sold on the block in Charleston, South Carolina. Because of his ingenuity, Moses learned to read, forge metal, and buy his freedom from his master, thus freeing himself from the slavery of the American south. To keep from being confused for a runaway slave, Moses is required to carry papers proving that he is a free man. He eventually moved to Philadelphia and found work at Dr. Franklin’s Print Shop. His brother, Cato, had not been so fortunate but later escaped, joining the British troops as a soldier to earn his freedom. Cato appears again at the end of the series when he does not tell on an African American Patriot spy, James Armistead, whose spying was crucial to the American victory at Yorktown, which ends the war for American independence. He looks out for Dr. Franklin’s young wards, especially Henri.