Dr. Franklin as the English Saw Him*

BY
CONYERS READ, Ph.D., Litt.D.,
University of Pennsylvania.

Benjamin Franklin during the greater part of a long life regarded himself an an Englishman. Up until the very verge of the American Revolution he insisted that America was a part of England, at least as much a part of it as Scotland was, and that any disposition on the part of either King or Parliament to deprive Americans of their rights as Englishmen was not only wrong in morals but wrong at law. His father was an Englishman born, and his interest in his English family connections is manifest throughout his life, even when he was a great fellow in London and they were poor country folk in Northamptonshire.1 He spent two years in England before he was twenty, and nearly twenty years in England after he was fifty. His love for England was beyond question. His famous letter to Polly Stevenson on the subject in 1763 is almost too familiar to bear repetition,2 and everyone knows his famous panegyric upon Scotland.3 After he was fifty he travelled over a great part of England and visited Scotland and Ireland as well.4 When he was close to sixty he seriously intended to move to England permanently5--and he was ready to consider a permanent appointment in England three years after the passing of the Stamp Act--though somewhat fearful that "old trees can not be safely transplanted."6

Franklin was not only English in his origins and in his sympathies, he was English also in his ways of thought and

____________________
*
This article under the title of "The English Elements in Benjamin Franklin" was published in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, July, 1940.
1
On his visit to his ancestral home, cf. his letter to his wife of 6 September, 1768 in Smyth, Writings," III, 451-4.
2
Smyth, Writings," IV, 193.
3
In his letter to Lord Kames of 3 January, 1760. Smyth, Writings," IV, 6.
4
On this subject, cf. particularly J. Bennett Nolan, Benjamin Franklin in Scotland and Ireland, 1759 and 1771." ( Philadelphia, 1938.)
5
Cf. his letter to William Strahan, 7 December, 1762 in Writings," IV, 182.
6
Writings," V, 144. The quotation comes from a letter to Polly Stevenson written from Philadelphia 14 March, 1764, Writings," IV, 217.

-43-

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Meet Dr. Franklin
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Table of Contents iii
  • Foreword v
  • Meet Doctor Franklin 1
  • Benjamin Franklin as a Scientist 11
  • Self-Portraiture: the Autobiography 27
  • Dr. Franklin as the English Saw Him 43
  • Franklin's Political Journalism in England 63
  • Benjamin Franklin: Student of Life 83
  • Molding the Constitution 105
  • Benjamin Franklin: Philosophical Revolutionist 127
  • Looking Westward 135
  • Benjamin Franklin: the Printer at Work 151
  • Benjamin Franklin: Adventures In Agriculture 179
  • Dr. Franklin: Friend of the Indians 201
  • Concluding Paper 221
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