Benjamin Franklin and the Ends of Empire

ISBN : 9780199384198

Carla Mulford
448 Pages
164 x 239 mm
Pub date
Jul 2015
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Benjamin Franklin and the Ends of Empire provides a painstaking study of the Founding Father's stances on government, imperialism, and fiscal policy, ultimately emphasizing how his opinions on these matters evolved over the course of his lifetime. Carla Mulford uses Franklin's prodigious literary output-which includes letters, pamphlets, newspaper articles, journal entries, and drafted speeches-to demonstrate how his views shifted, with special attention to the role played by Great Britain in his decision-making process before, during, and after the Revolution. The book begins with Franklin's progressive early writings on mercantilism, freedom of conscience, and freedom of the press, considering how they were shaped by his English-born parents and their decision to leave their tumultuous homeland in the seventeenth century. Franklin's young adult and middle years, when he became heavily involved with Pennsylvania politics, see a sharply conservative shift in his attitudes toward empire and monetary policy. Mulford draws on letters and issues of Poor Richard's Almanack from these years to reveal the beginnings of a conservative turn in his thought, highlighting his surprising support for the politics of imperialism. Franklin's mature years as the colonies' chief representative and cultural ambassador in Britain and Europe form the content of the next two chapters, which elucidate Franklin's disenchantment with the British colonial administrations overseeing the Thirteen Colonies. Mining Franklin's autobiography, the book's last chapters cover Franklin's ultimate rejection of Great Britain and his condemnation of imperialism, especially with regard to Ireland and India. Overall, Mulford's monograph offers fresh, nuanced interpretations of the central issues that preoccupied Franklin throughout his life.


Chapter 1: "This obscure Family of ours was early in the Reformation": On Family Memory
Chapter 2: "I had such a Thirst for Knowledge": Franklin's Boston Youth
Chapter 3: Franklin's Imperial Imaginings: "Coined Land" and Global Goals
Chapter 4: Pennsylvania Politics and the Problems of Empire
Chapter 5: "People in the Colonies ... better Judges": Observing Empire at Midcentury
Chapter 6: Franklin in London's Theatre of Empire
Chapter 7: Love of Country
Chapter 8: Rebellion to Tyrants, Obedience to God
Chapter 9: "I intended well, and I hope all will end well": Franklin's Last Years
Bibliography of Printed Sources

About the author: 

Carla Mulford is Associate Professor of English at Pennsylvania State and the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Benjamin Franklin. She is also the founding president of the Society for Early Americanists.

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