“We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident. . . .”
This is the story of how America became a Beacon of Hope and a Temple of Liberty for her citizens and for all of humanity, and the leadership role of Benjamin Franklin in bringing this about. This story, on the surface, deals with slavery, but that is not the real subject. The central question is, “What does it mean to be an American?” and what are the principles that define the nature of our Republic? Are those principles universal? Do they encompass each of us?
Today’s dupes of the globalist oligarchy scream against “systemic racism” in the United States, and demonize many of the founders of the American Republic as slave owners. What juvenile minds can not comprehend is that what Benjamin Franklin, and many others, are accused of is properly situated as a footnote in their larger battle to overthrow a British imperial system built on human slavery. At a time when human slavery was universal throughout the earth and accepted in popular culture, and the British Empire was seizing millions of slaves out of Africa, Franklin and others led the fight to stop this. They broke with the imperial slave system and battled to rid the world of the horror of slavery, in all of its forms—to bring into existence a sovereign nation in which,—for the first time in human history—“All Men are created Equal.”
In this report, we shall take up the subject of Benjamin Franklin’s leadership in this fight, but first a few words must be said about the reality of American slavery at the time of the Revolution.
The British Empire Created American Slavery
Between 1700 and 1775, the British Empire transported about 45,000 slaves across the Atlantic Ocean every year. This traffic was authorized and conducted under the authority of the British Crown, the Privy Council and the Board of Trade. It was official imperial policy. More than 90 percent of the slaves were sent to the British colonies in the Caribbean, where a gigantic slave labor plantation economy was constructed. There the African captives toiled under Satanic conditions, suffering a murderous death rate.
Initially, very few of the slaves were sent to the 13 North American colonies. In 1675, for example, there were only 4,500 slaves in the colonies, and even by 1700, there were fewer than 20,000. But then, following the Peace of Utrecht in 1713 (which ended the War of Spanish Succession), Britain’s rulers decided to graft their West Indies slave labor system onto the 13 colonies. Between 1700 and 1775, more than 325,000 slaves were transported by the Royal Africa Company and other royally-sanctioned operations into the North American colonies, with 140,000 arriving between 1755 and 1775.
The deluge of slaves occurred at exactly the same time that British authorities were attempting to outlaw manufacturing, colonial currencies and other initiatives in the colonies to create a productive future-oriented economy.
The fate of the colonies, as dictated from London, was to be integrated into a global British slave-labor empire. The colonists fought back. They created a revolution as to how human society should be ordered, and upon what principles it must be based. In doing so, with Franklin playing a critical role, the British-imposed slave system became abhorrent in the eyes of the majority, and its abolition became a necessary step to complete the purpose of the Revolution.
Benjamin Franklin was born and grew to maturity in a culture dominated by this British imperial slave labor system. Slavery, indentured servitude, and other forms of forced labor were considered the “natural order” of things. As a youth Franklin himself had suffered a form of indentured servitude, in that at the age of 12 he was “apprenticed” to his brother for a term of nine years, during which time he earned no wages. If he ran way he could be hunted down, arrested and forced to return. If he refused to work, he could be jailed until his “apprenticeship” ended at the age of 21. Such was the imperial culture and economic system of the times.
As an adult Franklin, himself, owned two household slaves and their four children. However, in his Last Will and Testament, drawn up in 1757, he freed them all upon his death. When one of the boys ran away, Franklin made no attempt to apprehend him, and he stipulated that his daughter would be prohibited from inheriting the bulk of his estate if she did not first free her one household slave.
In the 1730s Franklin became close to the popular Methodist preacher George Whitefield, who among other things was an outspoken critic of slavery. In 1740 Franklin published a pamphlet by Whitefield which excoriated slavery. Franklin’s writings in the 1730s and ‘40s abound with reflections on the quality of Reason which sets humanity apart from the lower beasts, and as his essays concerning the Native Americans attest, he recognized this creative potential exists within all human beings.
Beginning in 1758-1760, Franklin became closely associated with several individuals who were leading the anti-slavery fight in the colonies. One of these was Anthony Benezet of Philadelphia. Others were leaders of an organization called The Dr. Bray Associates. In November, 1758, Franklin and members of the Associates opened a school for black children in Philadelphia. In 1760, under Franklin’s direction, three additional schools were opened, in New York City, Williamsburg, Virginia, and Newport, Rhode Island. This was 27 years prior to the creation of Alexander Hamilton’s and John Jay’s African Free School in New York. In subsequent years, not only did Franklin keep in constant touch with the four schools, he also supplied books and other necessities required for the classrooms.
Why did Franklin do this? Was it simply a moral question of right and wrong? The key is to be found in a visit that Franklin made to the school in Philadelphia, in the autumn of 1763. While there, he examined and quizzed the children, and the next day he wrote:
“I then have conceived a higher opinion of the Natural Capacities of the black Race, than I have ever before entertained.... The students have made considerable Progress in Reading for the Time they had respectively been in School. Their apprehension is as quick, their Memory as Strong, and their Docility in every Respect equal to that of the White Children...”
In other words, in terms of the power of intellect, the black and white children were equal. They were endowed with Reason, creative minds and all the capabilities which set mankind apart from the lower beasts. As such, they were all children of God, endowed with “certain Unalienable Rights.” From this day forward, Franklin’s views and actions on slavery take on a sharper, more determined quality.
In an August, 1772 letter to Anthony Benezet, written from London, Franklin says:
“I am glad to hear that the Disposition against keeping Negroes grows more general in North America. Several Pieces have been lately printed here against the Practice, and I hope in time it will be taken into Consideration and suppress’d by the Legislature. Your Labours have already been attended with great Effects. I hope therefore you and your Friends will be encouraged to proceed. My hearty Wishes of Success attend you.”
Naming the Empire as the Enemy
In 1772, in an essay titled “The Somerset Case and the Slave Trade,” Franklin places the blame for the spread of slavery in the American colonies entirely on the British government. Two years earlier, in January, 1770, Franklin had published a piece titled “A Conversation on Slavery.” It is written as a dialogue between an Englishman, a Scotchman, and an American. In the dialogue, the Englishman and the Scotchman, using the language of London-based abolitionists, attack the hypocrisy of the American colonists for rebelling against London in the name of “liberty,” while continuing to hold slaves. The American responds:
“As to the Share England has in these Enormities of America, remember, Sir, that she began the Slave Trade; that her Merchants of London, Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow, send their Ships to Africa for the Purpose of purchasing Slaves. If any unjust Methods are used to procure them; if Wars are fomented to obtain Prisoners; if free People are enticed on board, and then confined and brought away; if petty Princes are bribed to sell their Subjects, who indeed are already a Kind of Slaves, is America to have all the Blame of this Wickedness? You bring the Slaves to us, and tempt us to purchase them.... This you have not only done and continue to do, but several Laws heretofore made in our Colonies, to discourage the Importation of Slaves, by laying a heavy Duty, payable by the Importer, have been disapproved and repealed by your Government here, as being prejudicial, forsooth, to the Interest of the African Company.”
The American also attacks the de facto slavery within Britain itself, demonstrating that the entire British oligarchical system is based on slavery:
“I mean the Slavery in your Mines. All the Wretches that dig Coal for you, in those dark Caverns under Ground, unblessed by Sunshine, are absolute Slaves by your Law, and their Children after them, from the Time they first carry a Basket to the End of their Days. They are bought and sold with the Colliery, and have no more Liberty to leave it than our Negroes have to leave their Master’s Plantation....
“The Sailor is often forced into Service, torn from all his natural Connections. The Soldier is generally bought in the first Place for a Guinea and a Crown at the DrumHead: His Master may sell his Service, if he pleases, to any foreign Prince, or barter it for any Consideration by Treaty, and send him to shoot or be shot at in Germany or Portugal, in Guinea or the Indies. He is engaged for Life; and every other Circumstance of my Definition agrees with his Situation.....
“A Slave, according to my Notion, is a human Creature, stolen, taken by Force, or bought of another or of himself, with Money; and who being so taken or bought, is compelled to serve the Taker, or Purchaser, during Pleasure or during Life. He may be sold again, or let for Hire, by his Master.... He is subject to severe Punishments for small Offences, to enormous Whippings, and even Death, for absconding from his Service, or for Disobedience to Orders. I imagine such a Man is a Slave to all Intents and Purposes.”
In 1776, the draft version of the Declaration of Independence, submitted to Congress by Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, contained the following clause (which was removed at the insistence of delegates from Georgia and South Carolina), charging George III:
“He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce.”
Franklin Takes the Lead
In 1775, less than one year before the Declaration of Independence, the first organization dedicated to the abolition of slavery was founded in America. Named the “Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and the Relief of Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage,” it fell dormant during the Revolutionary War, but it was reorganized in 1784 as the “Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage.” After his return from Paris in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was named president of the society.
The Constitution of the Pennsylvania Society reads, in part:
“It having pleased the Creator of the world, to make of one flesh, all the children of men—it becomes them to consult and promote each other’s happiness, as members of the same family, however diversified they may be, by colour, situation, religion or different states of society. It is more especially the duty of those persons, who profess to maintain for themselves the rights of human nature, and who acknowledge the obligations of Christianity, to use such means as are in their power, to extend the blessings of freedom to every part of the human race; and in a more particular manner, to such of their fellow-creatures, as are entitled to freedom, by the laws and constitutions of any of the United States, and who, not withstanding, are detained in bondage by fraud or violence....”
In the closing months of his life, Franklin launched a relentless campaign for the total abolition of slavery. In November, 1789, he authored an Address to the Public wherein he called for a national policy, not only of emancipation, but a broad effort of education for the freed slaves and their children.
Then, on February 3, 1790, as President of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, Franklin submitted a petition to the U.S. Congress, reading in part:
“That mankind are all formed by the same Almighty being, alike objects of his Care & equally designed for the Enjoyment of Happiness the Christian Religion teaches us to believe & the Political Creed of America fully coincides with the Position. Your Memorialists, particularly engaged in attending to the Distresses arising from Slavery, believe it their indispensable Duty to present this Subject to your notice. They have observed with great Satisfaction that many important & salutary Powers are vested in you for "promoting the Welfare & Securing the blessings of liberty to the ‘People of the United States’. And as they conceive, that these blessings ought rightfully to be administered, without distinction of Colour, to all descriptions of People, so they indulge themselves in the pleasing expectation, that nothing, which can be done for the relive of the unhappy objects of their care, will be either omitted or delayed."
This petition was received favorably by many members of the Congress, but Representative James Jackson of Georgia attacked it savagely. Franklin, then with only three weeks left to live, responded to Jackson with his last published work. Printed in the Federal Gazette on March 23, 1790, Franklin returns to the weapon of satire and scorn he had used so effectively in works such as “An Edict from the King of Prussia” and “Rules by Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced to a Small One.” He tells the story of Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim, “a member of the Divan of Algiers.” Franklin reproduces a speech by the fictional Ibrahim, defending the practice of Muslim Barbary princes to enslave Christians: “If we cease our cruises against the Christians, how shall we be furnished with the commodities their countries produce, and which are so necessary for us? If we forbear to make slaves of their people, who in this hot climate are to cultivate our lands?” Some of the words placed in the mouth of Ibrahim were a direct paraphrase of Jackson’s speech in Congress.
For Franklin, for Washington, Hamilton and others, the American Revolution would never be complete until it had eradicated all traces of the British slave labor system.
- Part I: A Vignette Concerning Benjamin Franklin
- Part II: 1774: Franklin in the Cockpit—Face to Face Against Empire
- Part III: Leadership at a Time of Crisis
- Part IV: Independence
- Part V: Franklin’s Deplorables
- Part VI: Franklin in Paris: December, 1776—July, 1785 The Power of Patriotism
- Part VII: A Nation Built on Discovery