The Private Franklin: The Man and His Family

By Claude-Anne Lopez ; Eugenia W. Herbert | Go to book overview

XXIII
Slaves

The Smallpox has now quite left this City. The Number of those that died here of that Distemper, is exactly 288. . . . 64 of the Number were Negroes; if these be valued one with another at £30 per head, the Loss to the City in that Article is near £2000.
--Pennsylvania Gazette, July 8, 1731

Slavery is . . . an atrocious debasement of human nature. . . . The unhappy man, who has long been treated as a brute animal, too frequently sinks beneath the common standard of the human species. The galling chains that bind his body do also fetter his intellectual faculties and impair the social affections of his heart . . . re-flection is suspended, he has not the power of choice.
"Address to the Public from the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery," November 9, 1789

BETWEEN THE INSENSITIVITY of the first quotation (when Franklin was twenty-five) and the humanity of the second (when he was eightyfour) lies more than a half-century of evolution in his mind, from narrow provincialism and strict functionalism to a commitment embracing the whole of mankind. Change, of course, was in the air: Slavery, once an institution hardly anybody questioned, was troubling a growing number of men of good will. A revulsion had set in, but powerful forces were still exerting their pull in the traditional direction.

When young, Franklin had often run ads for slaves in his newspaper: "A likely Wench about fifteen Years old, has had the Smallpox, been in the Country above a Year and talks English. Inquire of the Printer hereof."1 Or, "A very likely Negro Woman aged about thirty Years who has lived in this City from her Childhood and can wash and iron very well, cook Victuals, sew, spin on the Linen Wheel. She has a Boy of about Two Years old, which is to go with her. . . . And also another Boy aged about Six Years, who is the Son of the abovesaid Woman. He will be sold with his Mother, or by Himself, as the Buyer pleases."2*

____________________
*
Franklin's father Josiah (or perhaps his seafaring brother of the same name) sold slaves at his house on at least one occasion ( Boston News Letter, Aug. 3, 1713).

-296-

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The Private Franklin: The Man and His Family
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • A Subjective Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Prologue: the Sweet Air of Twyford 1
  • I - Son and Sibling 5
  • II - Errata Committed, Errata Corrected 16
  • III - Industry, Frugality, Fertility 30
  • IV - Out of the Home and into the World 42
  • V - "Much of a Beau" 59
  • VI - "The Seeds of Every Female Virtue" 70
  • VII - London 78
  • VIII - Homecoming, Homesickness 93
  • IX - Faith or Deeds? 104
  • X - The Dream and the Nightmare 116
  • XI - Father of the Bride 135
  • XII - The Patriarch of Craven Street 149
  • XIII - "Sorrows Roll Upon Me like The, Waves of the Sea" 158
  • XIV - "Your a Feck Shonet Wife" 166
  • XV - Steering Through Storms 176
  • XVI - "You Are a Thorough Courtier" 190
  • XVII - Tug of War 200
  • XVIII - No Watch for Benny, No Feathers for Sally 218
  • XIX - "Temple, is My Right Hand" 236
  • XX - "Nothing Has Ever Hurt Me So Much" 253
  • XXI - Indian Summer 266
  • XXII - From Seine to Schuylkill 281
  • XXIII - Slaves 296
  • XXIV - "Our Little Fleet of Barques" 308
  • Bibliography 343
  • Index 351
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