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

By Ralph Frasca | Go to book overview

4
Communicating Instruction in Philadelphia

“The Author of a Gazette (in the Opinion of the Learned) ought to be qualified with an extensive Acquaintance with Languages, a great Easiness and Command of Writing and Relating Things clearly and intelligibly, and in a few Words,” Franklin wrote in the Pennsylvania Gazette's first issue under his ownership. To hold such a post of public responsibility and importance, the early American printer-editor “should be able to speak of War both by Land and Sea; be well acquainted with Geography, with the history of the Time, with the several Interests of Princes and States, the Secrets of Courts, and the Manners and Customs of all Nations.”1

While self-deprecatingly noting he was deficient in some of these areas, and thus hopeful his readers would contribute informative essays, Franklin at age twenty-three thought himself sufficiently countenanced in the inaugural statement to assume control of one of only seven newspapers in the American colonies. He knew from the outset his partnership with Hugh Meredith would be an unequal one, with Franklin providing most of the vision, guile, and talent. He was unfazed by this responsibility, though, and in fact had relished the opportunity to control since his youth. He proudly observed in his autobiography, “when in a Boat or Canoe with other Boys I was commonly allow'd to govern, especially in any case of Difficulty; and upon other Occasions I was generally a Leader among the Boys.” He viewed the Meredith partnership not as an equal sharing of duties, but as a pragmatic necessity: he had borrowed considerably from Meredith's father Simon to purchase the newspaper and acquire needed supplies. In the bargain, Franklin hoped Hugh Meredith would relieve him of some of the te-

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