Benjamin Franklin Slaves

benjamin franklin slaves
benjamin franklin slaves

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Benjamin Franklin Slaves









Benjamin Franklin, an active participant in the slave trade, benefited financially from this during his prosperous life. However, his views changed significantly during his stay in London. By the 1780s, he became an outspoken abolitionist, writing a public address defying slavery and urging Congress to act.





Benjamin Franklin arrived in London in 1757 with two African slaves at 36 Craven Street. The Benjamin Franklin House explores the history of Franklin’s involvement in slavery, the enslaved people in his Philadelphia home, and the lives of Peter and King who accompanied him to London during the 18th century.




Benjamin Franklin’s involvement in slavery





Including the buying and selling of slaves are recorded in the large number of documents he left behind. Northern slaveholders often did not record the births, deaths, and marriages of slaves, but it is known that Franklin was a slave owner and benefited from the institution.




The Franklin family owned slaves from 1735 to 1790, at least seven of whom were purchased. Franklin also made financial gains by promoting the sale of slaves and publishing fugitive notices in his newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette.




Franklin had a close association with slavery, as he also published Quaker anti-slavery advertisements. Little is known about the lives of Franklin’s slaves, as their existence is recorded only in surviving tax and financial records.





Because of the somewhat limited information available, it is only possible to speculate on the details of each individual’s time in the Franklin family.




           (1776-1785)Benjamin Franklin in Paris 






During his tenure as United States Ambassador to France
Franklin remained silent on slavery in Paris. However, he was influenced by Enlightenmentist Condorcet’s ideas on Negro slavery.




In 1782, Franklin published ‘A Thought Concerning the Sugar Islands’, which disregarded the armed conflicts in Africa, the casualties, and the harsh conditions of transatlantic transport. He claimed that even a morsel of sugar was stained with blood.





His eight-year stay with anti-slavery French thinkers and abolitionist friends eventually encouraged an open denunciation of slavery and a change in his personal views.

        (1757-1775)Franklin in London            





In 1757, Benjamin Franklin visited London with his son William and two slaves, Peter and King. Peter served as Franklin’s personal servant, while King served William in the same capacity. Both lived on Craven Street and earned a small salary.




Despite being enslaved by Franklin, Peter and the King engaged in London society and European customs, exploring the city and accompanying the father and son pair on travels. Peter remained with Franklin until his departure in 1762, while King fled in 1758.




He later found himself in Suffolk, where he was taken in by a Christian woman who taught him to read and write.





In the 18th century, England had a population of around 15,000 black people, mostly living in major port cities such as London, Liverpool, and Bristol. Most worked in domestic service, both paid and unpaid. Slavery had no legal basis in England, but the law was often misinterpreted.




Black people previously enslaved in overseas colonies were often treated like slaves when taken to England. Some slaves used the opportunity of being on English soil to escape, and notices of ‘fugitive slaves’ were frequently printed in newspapers.





The campaign to end slavery began in the 1760s, supported by both black and white abolitionists. The landmark court case in 1772, where Lord Mansfield ruled that there could be no such thing as a slave living on English soil, sparked the movement to abolish slavery in England.



London played a pivotal decision in shifting Franklin’s relationship with slavery, influenced by abolitionist influences like John Woolman and Anthony Benezet.




Franklin supported black education in colonial American cities and attacked slavery anonymously in print, resulting in the fictionalized ‘Conversations between an Englishman, a Scotchman, and an American’ in 1770.


Franklin and Abolitionism (1785-1790)




Franklin, a leading abolitionist, returned to Philadelphia in 1790 and publicly denounced slavery. He became president of the Philadelphia Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage, also known as the Abolition Society, at the age of 81. Formed in 1774 by Quakers and Anthony Benezet, this organization aimed to end slavery and help enslaved people. Changes in the life of freedom.




It was the first in the Americas and encouraged the formation of abolitionist societies in other colonies. In 1787, Franklin signed a public anti-slavery appeal, stating that a nation built on inalienable rights could not remain true while enabling slavery.



In 1789, Franklin published essays supporting the abolition of slavery, including an address to the public. He criticized the institution as a “gross insult to human nature” and called for resources like education and employment to support the emancipated in society. Franklin’s last public act was to petition Congress on behalf of the American people, requesting that they eliminate the cancer of slavery from American politics and grant freedom to those unhappy in the land. The petition was signed on February 3, 1790, just two months before Franklin’s death.





The House and Senate debated the petition, with the House referring it to a select committee for further consideration. On March 5, 1790, the committee decided that the Constitution prohibited Congress from prohibiting the importation or emancipation of slaves until 1808. Despite these results, Franklin’s final efforts solidified his transformation from slave owner to outspoken abolitionist.





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