Benjamin Franklin Gates born in 1964 is the main character in the 2004 film National Treasure, and the 2007 sequel National Treasure: Book of Secrets. He is the son of Patrick Henry Gates and Emily Appleton. Ben is also the paternal grandson of John Adams Gates. He is a treasure hunter, a tradition which has been followed by six generations of his family. Officially, he is a cryptologist. Another obvious tradition in his family is that all the males' first and middle names are taken from historical American figures.
His great-great grandfather was Thomas Gates, a hero of the Civil War and was once a stable boy for Charles Carroll of Carrollton. His grandfather, John Adams Gates, told him a story that Thomas Gates had received the news of an incredible treasure hidden by the founding fathers. The only clue was, "The secret lies with Charlotte."
Ben had searched all his life for the treasure. He studied American History in college at Georgetown and also pursued many other licenses such as diving. He has much perseverance, and will do anything to find the treasure that is hidden. He had recruited many men to help him, including Riley Poole, his best friend, and Ian Howe.
His family was always considered a family of lunatics because of their belief in such treasure, but they continued to look for it. Ben's own father, Patrick, believed that the treasure didn't exist either (he spent 20 years of his life searching but never found it), but his grandfather continued to tell him it did.
Ben prepared for his family's traditional work, seeking the lost Knights Templar treasure, from a young age. There is no training school for treasure seekers, but he improvised. While in college, he pursued and gained degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT and American history from Georgetown University. While serving on active duty in the United States Navy (via NROTC), he attended the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center before leaving the service to continue his work.
Ben Gates, with the assistance of Riley Poole and Ian Howe, finally determined that the "Charlotte" the "secret lies with" was a ship. After extensive research and searching not detailed in the film, it is supposed that the ship was wrecked on Canada's Atlantic coast in an area where the wreck was frozen into the polar ice cap.
It was here that they found a carved meerschaum pipe with Templar carvings and a riddle. This is just another clue in the hunt. After a dispute over how best to obtain the next clue, the original manuscript of the Declaration of Independence, Ian and his crew of British mercenaries betray Ben and Riley. A road flare into the Charlotte's cargo of black gunpowder largely destroys the once-intact ship, and to Ian's thinking, kills Ben and Riley.
Stealing the Declaration of Independence
When Ben and Riley realize that Ian is going after the Declaration of Independence, they try to reason with different organizations such as the FBI, but none believe them. They later go to Dr. Abigail Chase, at the National Archives but she doesn't believe them either.
Ben finally decides that if no one will believe them, then they must steal it in order to stop it from getting into the wrong hands.
While Ben is in the middle of stealing the Declaration, Ian arrives with his Men and see Ben as he walks down a hallway with the Declaration in hand. One of Ian's Men starts shooting at Ben, but he manages to escape from Ian and his Men in an elevator.
Caught by the FBI
After stealing the Declaration of Independence, Special Agent Sadusky, an FBI special agent is put on the case, and when told by another Agent that they got a tip a week earlier, but felt that the information wasn't credible, Sadusky simply replied, "How about now?".
Eventually Ben is captured by the FBI, and taken to Agent Sadusky. When Ben is caught by the FBI, Agent Sadusky wants him to make a deal with Ian, to retrieve the Declaration of Independence. Ian, however, has Ben escape by jumping off of their meeting point.
After they reach their desired location, Ben, Abigail, Riley, Patrick, Ian, and his men find out that it appears to lead to nothing. However, when Ian and his Men leave them there, Ben and Patrick just open a door to what they think is the Treasure Room.
Finding the Treasure
The "treasure room" is empty, but Ben finds another door, opens it, and reveals the true treasure room.
Even though Ben and the rest of his treasure hunting gang are offered 10% of the treasure, but Ben declines, saying it was too much. He takes 1%, and splits it with Riley Poole, with both of them receiving 0.5% each. Riley happens to be disappointed by the percentage decision, even though it is still a lot of money. However, Ben had more than 0.5 percent because he got the money, and he also got Abigail.
Book of Secrets
After attending a special ceremony he speaks about his great-great grandfather, Thomas Gates, who was a civil war hero. Thomas was asked to decode a message by John Wilkes Booth and Micheal O'Laughlin, but upon finding out they were members of the KGC, and refusing to translate the code, he was shot. Knowing he wouldn't survive, he told his son, Charles Carroll Gates, who was only a child at the time, "The debt that all men pay," then died. Charles would tell this to his children to come. However a man named Mitch Wilkinson displays a missing page of the book that accuses Thomas to be the mastermind behind the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
Statue of Liberty
After figuring out that "The debt that all men pay" is the key to decipher a Playfair code which solution is a reference to Édouard Laboulaye, he goes to the Statue of Liberty, in Paris, France, to look at a message. There he befriends two French police officers, who translate the French saying on the statue. Ben then needs to look at the Resolute Desks it refers to.
He goes to Buckingham Palace, and creates a supreme distraction with Abigail, which get them detained in security. They escape and he goes to look at the resolute desk, and finds a special plaque hidden with Olmec markings on it. He goes to his mother at the University of Maryland to figure out what it means. She decodes it, but it is not the entire thing. After attending the Easter Egg Roll, on the White House lawn, a friend of Abigail's lead them into the Oval Office. When Abigail distracts her friend, Ben looks for another plaque and can not find it. Instead there is a marking of the president's book of secrets.
The president's birthday celebration is held at Mt. Vernon. After tripping security, Ben sneaks in and speaks with the president. In an effort to speak privately with the president about the Book of Secrets, Ben intrigues and lures the President into an underground escape tunnel where he traps him. The president tells Ben where the Book of Secrets is, and Ben lets him go. Ben then goes to the Library of Congress and finds the book there. Ben along with friends Riley and Abigail, escape and then must go to Mt. Rushmore.
Ben with his friends and his father go to Mt. Rushmore to try and find the secret city of Cibola. However, Wilkinson is there too, and tries to negotiate with them, considering he has Ben's mother. Wilkinson, Ben, Riley and Abigail, and Ben's parents all enter a secret path into Mt. Rushmore. The go through the tunnels and find the secret Native American city of gold, but flood waters force them to leave. After realizing that one person will have to stand behind while everyone else escapes through a drainage tunnel, Ben says he will. Rising waters end up pushing Mitch behind everyone. He agrees to stay behind in exchange for Ben giving him credit for the find. Thomas Gates is exonerated by the discovery and the President claims Ben saved his life and never kidnapped him. Ben doesn't get into trouble for what he did. Also Ben discusses with the President what he found out on page 47 of the Book of Secrets. What was actually on the page was never actually mentioned. Some people think this may be the start of a third movie. After this, he and Abigail reconcile and restart their relationship.