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Benjamin Franklin and the Ends of Empire$
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Carla J. Mulford

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199384198

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199384198.001.0001

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“People in the Colonies . . . better Judges”

“People in the Colonies . . . better Judges”

Observing Empire at Midcentury

(p.142) Five “People in the Colonies . . . better Judges”
Benjamin Franklin and the Ends of Empire

Carla J. Mulford

Oxford University Press

Franklin theorized that British subjects in the colonies ought to have the same rights and obligations as British subjects in England, and he argued that the American colonies were reaching a point where their diverse produce and peoples could, if left free to pursue their goals, reach a point of political self-determination. Like European geographic demographers of his era, Franklin was interested in ethnicity and the contributions that people of different backgrounds might make to a commonwealth. This chapter discusses Franklin’s midcentury views about agriculture, the environment, population, and imperial idealism. As Franklin’s “Observations concerning the Increase of Mankind” and his letters to William Shirley clarify, he was even in the 1750s considering that the colonies’ potential for self-rule was strong. Indeed, his writings from this era reveal many of Franklin’s mature views of the potential for an American empire free of British intrusion.

Keywords:   “Observations concerning the Increase of Mankind,”, agriculture, British imperial policy, French imperial policy, environmental degradation, “salutary neglect,”, Iron Act of 1750, Currency Act of 1751

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