<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> <b><i>Benjamin Franklin and America's Imperial Vision</i></b> <p> <p> By the time that Benjamin Franklin left for Paris in 1776 to represent the cause of liberty and independence, he was "the greatest man whom the new world yet produced, and he was, with the possible exception of Voltaire, the best-known person in the world." He was also the New World's foremost expert on and advocate for empire—first for that of the British, then for that of the Americans. While Franklin's boundless ambitions for territorial expansion may not have been predictable, his preoccupation with empire and liberty was. <p> Franklin's life spanned a century during which the frequency and intensity of imperial conflict produced the modern global system. He was born in the first month of 1706, in the midst of the War of the Spanish Succession, which colonists in America knew as Queen Anne's War. The initial stage of this global struggle among empires, the War of the League of Augsburg or King William's War, had ended less than a decade before. Like its predecessor, Queen Anne's War pitted the British and lesser, declining, or aspiring empires in Europe against France and Spain for the purpose of preventing a union of the French and Spanish thrones following the death of Spain's King Charles II. In the North American theater, French and British forces, each with Indian allies, launched a series of attacks against the other's border settlements. The Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 restored peace to the continent. Britain received Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and a series of fur-trading posts in the Hudson Bay area; France retained control of Cape Breton and the islands along the St. Lawrence River. The British also wrested control of the <i>asiento</i>, thereby undermining the Spanish monopoly on the slave and additional trade with the West Indies. While the treaty recognized Louis XIV's Bourbon grandson as the King of Spain, it divided much of the Spanish Empire between the Holy Roman Empire, the Duchy of Savoy, and various Italian kingdoms. The British came away with Gibraltar and Minorca. Reflective of the settlement and suggestive of geopolitical developments a century later, the Treaty of Utrecht for the first time explicitly referred to the concept of a "balance of power." <p> As a child Franklin lived in Boston throughout the conflict, and much of the fiercest fighting took place in his home state of Massachusetts. As a grown man he followed attentively the next phase in this collision of empires, the inconclusive War of the Austrian Succession (King George's War) that extended to North America in 1744 and lasted until 1748. Not until several years later did Franklin become personally involved in promoting British expansion at the expense of the French. Long before that, nevertheless, he had traveled sufficiently north, south, east, and west to understand the stakes. What is more, no one with the intellectual curiosity of Benjamin Franklin could ignore the contemporary seismic shifts among empires. In the aftermath of Utrecht the rapid decline of the Spanish and Holy Roman empires was manifest; the Portuguese Empire was a vestige of its past, and the Dutch Empire was reduced almost to insignificance. To the East, the Ottoman Empire stagnated, and the Russian Empire, suffering from a series of short-lived and ineffectual czars and czarinas, continued to slumber. The future would belong to the British or the French. America would be pivotal in determining which. <p> In this atmosphere Franklin made a name for himself. Like the colonies, although Franklin's beginnings were modest, he was endowed with exceptional assets. His father immigrated to Boston from Banbury, England. Josiah Franklin probably arrived in 1683 at the age of twenty-five, along with his wife, a son, and two daughters. He had made a comfortable living in England as a dyer, but his nonconformist views on religion were seriously at odds with Charles II's Catholic-leaning leadership of the Church of England. In Boston he joined the Congregationalist Old South (Third) Church. The religious aspect of his migration thus met his expectations. Unable to earn a sufficient income manufacturing dye, however, he turned to soap and candles. His hard work paid off. In short order Josiah was more than able to provide for his family. But he had little time for them. Anne died in 1689, while giving birth to her seventh child. Less than a year later, Josiah married Abiah Folger. Born on January 6, 1706, Benjamin was the eighth of ten children born to Josiah and Abiah, the fifteenth of Josiah's total of seventeen. <p> Franklin could never remember a time when he could not read. Josiah sent him to school on the premise that he could better serve the church if he were literate. Yet because he could not afford to educate Benjamin to the extent necessary for him to enter the clergy, he decided two years of schooling was adequate. At age ten Benjamin went to work for his father. <p> Two years later Josiah apprenticed Benjamin to his older brother, James. A printer with ambitions of his own, James could use Benjamin's assistance more than Josiah needed it. The younger brother helped with typesetting pamphlets, and even with some of the composition; he also became James's primary street vendor. After three years James launched the <i>New England Courant</i>, Boston's first newspaper. The two extant "papers" simply reprinted news from abroad. James intended the <i>Courant</i> to publish articles of opinion as well as local "features." He expected Ben's contributions to this venture to be the same as previously. But Ben had bigger plans: to write a "column" himself. He came up with a strategy. Using the pseudonym "Silence Dogood," a middle-aged widow, during the evenings for six months beginning in 1722, the sixteen-year-old Franklin wrote more than a dozen letters offering advice on subjects ranging from the public drunkenness to higher education to the treatment of women. They would mysteriously appear under the door of the print shop, and James, recognizing their potential for boosting sales, did not let their anonymity deter him from publishing them. They became so popular that Ben decided to admit his authorship. James's resentment for having to share credit with Benjamin was palpable. <p> Yet even as the relationship between the two brothers deteriorated, circumstances forced them together. Ben used sarcasm in many of his Dogood letters to criticize Boston's Puritan leaders, Increase Mather and his son Cotton most of all. The two legendary Puritan clergymen were at the center of a controversy over smallpox. The Mathers, especially Cotton (Increase died in 1723), supported inoculation. Much of Boston's medical profession opposed it; in their view, Cotton Mather's faith in inoculation was analogous to his belief in witchcraft. Whether James agreed or not is ambiguous, but he appreciated that doing battle with the Mathers would sell papers. By 1722 the <i>Courant's</i> scathing criticism of them, and by extension the Puritan canon, landed James in prison. Ben kept the presses rolling. The next year the <i>Courant</i> resumed its attack on Cotton Mather. The Massachusetts General Council barred James from publishing the <i>Courant</i> without its approval. <p> James circumvented his sentence by assigning authority to publish the paper to Benjamin. For this purpose he released his brother from his contract as an apprentice. He insisted, however, that in secret they conclude another. Ben's tenure as publisher started in February; the paper's circulation increased almost immediately. James's resentment grew with the <i>Courant's</i> sales, as did Ben's over his continued subservience. With three years remaining on his new contract and reckoning that its secrecy and probable illegality would deter James from enforcing it, Ben broke his indenture and fled from Boston. Chafing under what he considered his condition of servitude, he resolved that greater space afforded greater liberty. This act would prove emblematic of his life story, and that of America. <p> The French and British had settled into an uneasy truce in the colonies when Franklin ran away to gain his freedom. This peace worked to his benefit, and he took full advantage. Journeying south to Philadelphia, he found employment and a connection with Pennsylvania's governor, Sir William Keith. For the first but not the last time, a provincial governor disappointed Franklin. Keith promised to provide the credit and introductions necessary for Franklin to purchase in London the equipment he needed to establish his own print shop. He reneged on both counts. The skilled and self-reliant Franklin, nevertheless, earned the seed money required to return to the United States to set up his own shop. By the end of 1730 he had purchased the <i>Philadelphia Gazette</i>; but he dreamed bigger. He organized the Junto, a collection of young intellects who gathered regularly to discuss matters from ranging from politics to science to art, and he became the husband of Deborah Read Franklin and father of William (who was illegitimate; later Deborah gave birth to Franklin's second son, Francis, who died in 1736). <p> Franklin's accomplishments over the next two decades are the stuff of legends. In his case the legends are true. Within a few years he had turned the <i>Gazette</i> into one of the colony's leading newspapers, under the pseudonym Richard Saunders begun to publish his celebrated <i>Poor Richard's Almanack</i>, and won the concession for printing Pennsylvania's paper currency. Before the decade was out he was wealthy as well as wise. He was also Philadelphia's most public-spirited citizen. Franklin was either responsible for or instrumental in founding Philadelphia's fire department and police force; its public library and hospital; and the American Philosophical Society, the Library Company of Philadelphia, and the Academy of Philadelphia, which grew into the University of Pennsylvania. And then there were his scientific experiments, most dramatically those with electricity. To contemporaries on either side of the Atlantic, Franklin became "the very incarnation ... of a new and enlightened spirit." <p> Franklin's ambitions; his civic-mindedness; and his intellect, belief system, and insatiable curiosity explain his emergence in the 1750s as the colony's "most articulate and vigorous lobbyist for aggressive imperial action against France." His business expanded so that Franklin's printing "empire" eventually enveloped branches of the <i>Gazette</i>, interests in other papers, agreements to sell <i>Poor Richard's Almanack</i>, and the concession to print currency in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Delaware, Antigua, Dominica, and Jamaica. He probably had financial connections to Georgia and North Carolina as well. By his fiftieth birthday no "other man in America had had seen so much of it as Franklin had first hand or had so wide an acquaintance among its influential men." <p> Franklin may have been the least provincial of America's leading colonials. What is more, even as Franklin's personal network grew from colony to colony, he became engaged in promoting increased intercourse among all the colonies. Beginning with his 1737 appointment as postmaster of Philadelphia, Franklin rose over the subsequent decades to the position of joint postmaster general of the colonies (and, by decree of the Continental Congress in 1775, the United States' first postmaster general). In this regard the "Father of the American Postal Service" was from the beginning "intercolonial" in his vision. Franklin "made the postmasters and riders from Maine to South Carolina aware of the unity and vitality of the postal service.... No one man before him had ever done so much to draw the scattered colonies together." The lesson Franklin drew from his multiple undertakings was that unity was an "indispensable prerequisite for power and efficiency." Over the following decades he would add liberty to the list. <p> Franklin believed that he owed his successes to Britain's empire in America, and he eagerly sought to pay back that debt by serving it. Having in 1748 sold his printing business to pursue his scientific and other endeavors, he ran for election to the Pennsylvania Assembly. He initial year as Philadelphia's representative was 1751, the first of almost forty years in public service. It was also when he turned his considerable mind and energy to the problem of empire that would engage him for the rest of his life. <p> Franklin sold his printing business the same year that the Peace of Aix-la-Chappelle brought to an end the third phase of the struggle for global supremacy, King George's War. On the North American continent the primary consequence of the short-lived truce between the French and the British was to accelerate the collision of their two empires even as it eviscerated the Indian buffer between them. The cessation of hostilities allowed for increased colonial migration westward across the Appalachian Mountains, spurred on by land speculators whose home colony frequently claimed title to what was disputed land. This expansion, then, was as disorganized as it was competitive. It also increasingly alienated and antagonized the Indians by following "a path that led more toward apartheid than cultural engagement with the native peoples." <p> French colonials had the support of their state, which sought to cement the foothold of Louis XV's empire between the St. Lawrence and Mississippi Rivers by thwarting British migration through its influence over Indian tribes and the network of forts that it constructed. The British colonials came to fear French "encirclement." Franklin was directly involved in the intensifying crisis. On the one hand, although not as avid a speculator as, for example, George Washington or his own son William (by then the governor of New Jersey), Franklin was not "a playful or disinterested student" of what was taking place. He had speculative land interests of his own, particularly in the Ohio River Valley. On the other hand, he had the official responsibility of looking out for the interests of Pennsylvania. Because it did not possess formal claims to the western lands, Pennsylvania was at a disadvantage relative to those colonies that did—notably, Virginia. The synergy among these considerations produced in 1751 the "first systematic expression of Franklin's expansionism." <p> This expression, and the plan for western empire that evolved from it, reveal that Franklin's project was "less personal than imperial." Notwithstanding his well-deserved reputation as an Enlightenment thinker, Franklin's perspective on the problems confronting the British and his fellow Pennsylvanians evolved more from his "realistic" assessment of geopolitics than his faith in human reason and progress. His multifaceted life experience taught him that "few in public affairs act from a mere view of the good of their country." In other words, polities as well as people behaved according to "their present general interest, or what they take to be such." Further, although religion was an important facet of Franklin's worldview, he rejected the rigid Puritanism of his Boston childhood. "Some of the Dogmas of that [Presbyterian] Persuasion, such as the Eternal Decrees of God, Election, Reprobation, &c.," he confessed in his <i>Autobiography</i>, "appeared to me unintelligible." As a consequence of this Deist outlook, secularism inspired his prescriptions for empire more than the missionary zeal often associated with American expansionists. Still, there were providential dimensions to Franklin's counsel that were rooted in his Puritan background. The French and their Indian allies had to step aside or be banished "in order to make room for the [divinely anointed] cultivators of the earth." Franklin's definition of liberty, at least as applied to those who deserved liberty, now enveloped the right to expand. <p> Characteristically, Franklin committed to paper his ideas about future imperial developments once the French threat was eliminated. Drawing on such past theorists as Machiavelli and inspiring future ones like Thomas Malthus, Franklin's <i>Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, etc.</i> synthesized politics, economics, sociology, and demography. The "earliest clear statement of the function of the American frontier," this pamphlet articulated "a large, new conception of the whole of American life." It thus served as the foundation for much of Franklin's subsequent commentary on and prognoses for empire, and inspired generations of Americans to come. <i>Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, People of Countries, etc.</i> is a seminal document in the history of American imperialism. <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>Empire for Liberty</b> by <b>Richard H. Immerman</b> Copyright © 2010 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission of PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.