From Loyal British Subject to American Patriot: A Reexamination of the Life of Benjamin Franklin

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2018-05

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Abstract

This thesis follows Benjamin Franklin’s evolution from loyal British subject to American patriot by investigating how political, economic, and social systems influenced the shaping of his ideas and beliefs toward the proper role of government. Life in the North American colonies exhibited numerous political, economic, and social changes during Franklin’s lifetime. Focusing on one segment of change while excluding the others gives a narrow focus that discounts how these changes worked together and negates influences one may have had upon another. From the founding of the English colonies on the Atlantic coast, republicanism appeared in theory and gradually in practice. Mercantilism was replaced by more liberal economic traditions that brought budding capitalism. The American colonies never had as structured of a social hierarchy as the mother country. Franklin’s level of acceptance of these changes and how he observed the world around him helped to solidify his acceptance of a break from Great Britain based on his rejection of strict Parliamentary rule. He rose from indentured servitude to public servant, consistently criticized mercantilism, and believed in equality of opportunity. At the same time, if the government was not protecting civil rights, that government should be replaced. Franklin, like many colonists, was loyal to the crown until the eve of the American Revolution when he no longer could find any recourse for reconciliation with Great Britain. His Puritan values of hard work and virtue contributed to his dedication of equality of opportunity for the populace. This allowed him to justify revolution and advocate for independence.

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Franklin, Benjamin, 1706-1790, Social history, Republicanism, Parliamentary practice, Equality, United States—History—Revolution, 1775-1783

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©2018 The Author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Eugene McDermott Library. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.

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