Thursday, October 21, 2010

Benjamin Franklin and Slavery

At the age of 81, Benjamin Franklin became the president of the Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and the Relief of Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage. The society, founded by Philadelphia Quakers was one of the first abolitionist organizations in America.

Franklin had not always been such an ardent abolitionist, and is known to have owned two slaves, George and King, who worked as personal servants.

Benjamin Franklin began life as an apprentice, legally bound to a master for a set term. He did not care for the restrictions and ran away from the master, settling in Philadelphia. As an up and coming businessman, however, Franklin had no problem with the institution of slavery. His newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette regularly ran notices regarding the purchase and sale of slaves.

Franklin’s views gradually changed as he grew older. After about 1770 his writings became progressively more anti-slavery, and in a letter to the London Chronicle he called slavery "a constant butchery of the human species by the pestilential detestable traffic in the bodies and souls of men."

By 1789 Franklin had freed his slaves and become a fervent abolitionist.

Who were the slaves of the Founding Fathers? What do their individual stories tell us about the Founding Fathers as men?

No comments: