Things That I Love About America: Benjamin Franklin and His Work In the Pennsylvania Abolition Society

During the Fourth of July I try to recount some of the things that I love about this country. One of the things that I love about this country is Benjamin Franklin and his work in the Pennsylvania Abolition Society.

Benjamin Franklin is my favorite Founding Father. He had a wonderful sense of humor and was a great intellect and pragmatic politician. He was a successful printer who had a great sense of civic responsibility to his community, helping to create the first libraries, hospitals and firehouses in Pennsylvania. He was a great inventor who had great scientific insights into the properties of electricity. And he was a great ambassador who persuaded France to aid the American colonies in its fight for independence against England.

One of the lesser known parts of Franklin’s life is his fight against slavery. At first, Franklin held the same racist views about African Americans as his fellow white Americans. One day, however, Franklin observed a school with both black and white students and noticed that the black children were just as smart as the white children. This changed Franklin’s views on race.

In 1785 Franklin was voted President of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, which was dedicated to the abolition of slavery in the United States and created schools to train freed African Americans in a trade. Franklin began writing essays attacking slavery and of the importance of integrating blacks into American society. During the Constitutional Convention, Franklin had advocated for the inclusion into the Constitution a statement of principle that the U.S. would be dedicated to gradually abolish slavery and end the slave trade, but he was persuaded to withdraw his proposition due to opposition from the Southern representatives.

In 1790, Benjamin Franklin sponsored a petition by the Quakers to ask Congress to abolish slavery and end the slave trade. James Madison led the effort to table to petition. Franklin died soon after the petition was tabled.

The petition read in part:

“That from a regard for the happiness of Mankind an Association was formed several years since in this State by a number of her Citizens of various religious denominations for promoting the Abolition of Slavery & for the relief of those unlawfully held in bondage…

…From a persuasion that equal liberty was originally the Portion, It is still the Birthright of all men, & influenced by the strong ties of Humanity & the Principles of their Institution, your Memorialists conceive themselves bound to use all justifiable endeavours to loosen the bounds of Slavery and promote a general Enjoyment of the blessings of Freedom. Under these Impressions they earnestly entreat your serious attention to the Subject of Slavery, that you will be pleased to countenance the Restoration of liberty to those unhappy Men, who alone, in this land of Freedom, are degraded into perpetual Bondage, and who, amidst the general Joy of surrounding Freemen, are groaning in Servile Subjection, that you will devise means for removing this Inconsistency from the Character of the American People, that you will promote mercy and Justice towards this distressed Race, & that you will Step to the very verge of the Powers vested in you for discouraging every Species of Traffick in the Persons of our fellow men.

Philadelphia February 3, 1790

B. Franklin
President of the Society”

Here is a link to the full petition

Here is a 2015 fictionalized interview of Benjamin Franklin and his work for the Pennsylvania Abolition Society.

About angelolopez

I’ve wanted to be an artist all my life. Since I was a child I’ve drawn on any scrap of paper I could get a hold of. When I went to San Jose State University, I became more exposed to the works of the great fine artists and illustrators. My college paintings were heavily influenced by the humorous illustrations of Peter De Seve, an illustrator for the New Yorker magazine. I also fell under the spell of the great muralists of the 1930s, especially Thomas Hart Benton and Diego Rivera. I graduated with a degree in Illustration. Angelo Lopez has had illustrations published in Tikkun Magazine, the Palo Alto Daily News and Z Magazine. From April 2008 to May 2011, Angelo's cartoons were regularly published in the Tri-City Voice, a weekly newspaper that covers the Fremont, Hayward, Milpitas, Neward, Sunol and Union City areas in California. He did a political webcomic starring his cartoon character Jasper for the progressive blogsite Everyday Citizen. Since December 2011, Angelo does a regular weekly political cartoon for the Philippine News Today, a Filipino American newspaper based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Angelo is a member of the Sunnyvale Art Club, and the Northern California chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. During the 1990s, he was a member of the part-timer workers SEIU unit in the city of Sunnyvale. Angelo won the 2013, 2015 and 2016 and 2018 Sigma Delta Chi award for editorial cartooning for newspapers with a circulation under 100,000. He has also won the 2016 RFK Book and Journalism Award for Editorial Cartoons. Angelo won first prize for the Best of the West contest in 2016 and third prize in 2017. Angelo is married to Lisa Reeber. They enjoy taking walks, watching movies and hanging out with their nieces.
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