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Benjamin Franklin and the Politics of Improvement$
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Alan Houston

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780300124477

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300124477.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM YALE SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.yale.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Yale University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in YSO for personal use.date: 20 September 2021

. Slavery

. Slavery

(p.200) 5. Slavery
Benjamin Franklin and the Politics of Improvement

Alan Houston

Yale University Press

This chapter discusses Benjamin Franklin's thought on slavery in America. Franklin enacted the paradox of American slavery in his own life. In June 1776 the Continental Congress took up a resolution stating that the United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States. Franklin's engagement with slavery is masked, moreover, by the apparent clarity of his final public acts. Among all the forms of bound labor in eighteenth-century North America, only slavery received Franklin's sustained reflection. Unlike apprenticeship and indentured servitude, slavery could not be integrated into a narrative of social mobility and individual improvement. There was no route for slaves that led from poverty to prosperity. Franklin's realization that the intellectual capacities of black and white children were equal was an extraordinary imaginative accomplishment.

Keywords:   Benjamin Franklin, slavery in America, Continental Congress, bound labor

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