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

By Ralph Frasca | Go to book overview

7
The Political Imperative of the
Pennsylvania German Partnerships

When Benjamin Franklin devised the contract making David Hall the managing partner of the Philadelphia printing house on January 1, 1748, he promised not to be involved in any other publishing ventures for the eighteenyear duration of the contract. However, he violated that covenant repeatedly, setting up other printing partnerships in the same colony and even the same city.1 Franklin's reasons for doing so emanated from his political involvements, his moral convictions, his civic loyalties, and his desire to leave his ideological stamp on German immigrants, whom Franklin thought morally deficient.

Franklin's choice to take “the proper Measures for obtaining Leisure to enjoy Life and my Friends more than heretofore” by turning over the press to Hall and retiring from its daily labors at just forty-one years old opened him to new avenues for public service.2 Indeed, he was probably not as surprised at the public response to his decision as he suggests in his autobiography. He wrote, “the Publick now considering me as a man of Leisure, laid hold of me for their Purposes; every Part of our Civil Government, and almost at the same time, imposing some Duty upon me.” Franklin actually developed political aspirations early in life, less as a way to wealth than as a means of influencing public affairs. He began serving as clerk to the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1736. The Hall partnership allowed him to join the Philadelphia Common Council in 1748, become Grand Master of Pennsylvania in the Freemasons in 1749, and gain a seat in the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1751. As a public servant, he promoted such parochial concerns as clean streets, fire companies, a charity hospital, and a college, and such continental concerns as

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