In Franklin’s life as a citizen and public servant before the Stamp Act Crisis, does he show signs of his future role as a leader of the independence struggle?
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Let's look at the facts:
The Stamp Act Crisis happened in 1765. Franklin was born in 1706.
When Franklin was 15, his brother, James, founded the New England Courant, the first independent newspaper in the colonies. Franklin began writing letters to the newspaper, under the pseudonym 'Mrs. Silence Dogood'. The letters contained a great deal of sharp satire about colonial life.
In 1727, Franklin, then 21, created 'Junto', an 'issues of the day' discussion group, explicitly concerned with bettering communities (for instance, they started the Library Company of Philadelphia). As it is the case with all groups of thinkers and intellectuals discussing 'issues of the day', political issues were a frequent topic.
In 1728, when Franklin and Hugh Meredith started publishing the Pennsylvania Gazette, Franklin used it to promote local reforms and initiatives he supported.
In 1743, he formed the American Philosophical Society and in 1749, he became president of the Academy of Philadelphia (having been involved in its works since the very beginning).
In the late 1740's, he became involved in politics: as Justice of the Peace for Philadelphia (1749), then as a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly (1751). As joint deputy postmaster-general of North America (1753), he reformed the postal service.
In 1754, he headed the Pennsylvania delegation to the Albany Congress and proposed a Plan of Union for the colonies. In 1756, Franklin organized the Pennsylvania Militia.
In 1757, he was sent to England by the Pennsylvania Assembly as a colonial agent to protest against the political influence of the Penn family, the proprietors of the colony. The main reason for this was that the Penns were able to overturn legislation established by the Assembly and they were extempt from from paying taxes on their land.
While in London, Franklin became a member of the Club of Honest Whigs; he also became more and more interested in the Revolution Controversy (a British debate about the French Revolution, in response to Edmund Burke's work). After his return to the colony, Franklin led the "anti-proprietary party" in the struggle against the Penn family, and was elected Speaker of the Pennsylvania House in May 1764.
After losing his seat, he returned to England to continue the political struggle against the Penns.
This is where we find Benjamin Franklin at the time of the Stamp Act Crisis. Thinking about the outlined facts, you can then ask the following questions:
-Which of his achievements showed his personal qualities as a political leader?
-At what point did he become involved in politics? You may notice he had already a quite impressive political career behind him at the moment of the Stamp Act. What had he achieved, as a politician, before it?
-You may notice that he was familiar with the issues the colonies struggled with. How did his political battle against the Penn family influence his political ideals? How about his experience as a member of the Assembly, before being sent to England? (Think about the fact that British rule approved of the Penns overturning Assembly legislation)
-How did his time in England and the Club of Honest Whigs influence his political ideals? Think mostly about how debating the French Revoluion influenced his ideas on the concept of a revolution itself and on Enlightened and Romantic ideas of nationalism and self-determination).
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