On April 17 in 1790, Benjamin Franklin died at 84 years old. Just two weeks earlier, John Adams wrote about how Franklin’s legacy would outshine his own:
“The History of our Revolution will be one continued Lye from one End to the other. The Essence of the whole will be that Dr Franklins electrical Rod, Smote the Earth and out Spring General Washington. That Franklin electrified him with his Rod—and thence forward these two conducted all the Policy Negotiations Legislation and War.”
Adams went on to say that “if this Letter should be preserved, and read an hundred Years hence” that the reader would say that it was simply Adams’s envy that “could not bear to think of the Truth” and led him to speak such blasphemy against Franklin and Washington.
It took closer to 200 years for biographers like John McCullough (and HBO) to help restore the legacy of John Adams and his role in the revolution. But Adams’s point was prescient, and that’s why you don’t see his face on US dollars, quarters, or hundred dollar bills.