Benjamin Franklin's Printing Network: Disseminating Virtue in Early America

By Ralph Frasca | Go to book overview

11
Rebellion and Network Loyalties

During and immediately following the Stamp Act crisis, Benjamin Franklin's political opponents continued the attacks on his character that had led to defeat in his 1764 Pennsylvania Assembly re-election bid. They claimed that while he was in England serving as a colonial agent for the Assembly, Franklin promoted passage of the detested Stamp Act for the personal gain of himself and his friends. Philadelphia merchant James Pemberton notified Franklin of “the charge industriously propagated of thy being a promoter of the Stamp Act,” and David Hall warned Franklin that he had “many Enemies” who believed he took an active role in devising the tax.1

The press and the Assembly repeated the accusation. Pennsylvania Journal publishers William and Thomas Bradford printed “An ESSAY, Towards discovering the Authors and Promoters of the memorable STAMP ACT,” branding Franklin as the act's chief architect. After Parliament repealed the tax, Joseph Galloway informed Franklin that Pennsylvania Chief Justice William Allen “publickly Asserted in the House that you were the greatest Enemy to the Repeal of the Stamp Act, of all the Men in England.” Trying to seem unruffled, Franklin wrote to Hall, “It shall be my Endeavour, with God's Help, to act uprightly; and if I have the Approbation of the Good and Wise, which I shall certainly have sooner or later, the Enmity of Fools and Knaves will give me very little Concern.”2 He was concerned, though.

Maintaining his good name was essential to Franklin's success as a statesman and purveyor of virtuous teachings to a mass audience, just as it had been for his success as a printer. An emerging political leader and moral bellwether in colonial America, Franklin had a vested interest in carefully

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