Tag Archives: Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin on the increase of mankind

People increase in proportion to the number of marriages, and that is greater in proportion to the ease and convenience of supporting a family. When families can be easily supported, more persons marry, and earlier in life.

In cities, where all trades, occupations and offices are full, many delay marrying, till they can see how to bear the charges of a family; which charges are greater in cities, as Luxury is more common: many live single during life, and continue servants to families, journeymen to Trades, &c. hence cities do not by natural generation supply themselves with inhabitants; the deaths are more than the births.”

The great increase of Offspring in particular families is not always owing to greater fecundity of Nature, but sometimes to examples of industry in the Heads, and industrious education; by which the children are enabled to provide better for themselves, and their marrying early is encouraged from the prospect of good subsistence.

If there be a sect therefore, in our nation, that regard Frugality and Industry as religious duties, and educate their children therein, more than others commonly do, such sect must consequently increase more by natural generation, than any other sect in Britain.

The importation of foreigners into a country that has as many inhabitants as the present employments and provisions for subsistence will bear, will be in the end no increase of people; unless the new comers have more industry and frugality than the natives, and then they will provide more Subsistence, and increase in the country; but they will gradually eat the natives out. Nor is it necessary to bring in foreigners to fill up any occasional vacancy in a country; for such vacancy (if the Laws are good, 14, 16) will soon be filled by natural generation. Who can now find the vacancy made in Sweden, France or other warlike nations, by the Plague of heroism forty Years ago; in France by the expulsion of the Protestants; in England by the settlement of her Colonies; or in Guinea, by one hundred years exportation of slaves, that has blacken’d half America?

Read the whole thing. Don’t miss the punchline.

The key to North American intellectual life

The figure of Benjamin Franklin is indelibly associated with Creole nationalism in the northern Americas. But the importance of his trade may be less apparent. Once again, Febvre and Martin are enlightening. They remind us that ‘printing did not really develop in [North] America during the eighteenth century until printers discovered a new source of income — the newspaper.’ Printers starting new presses always included a newspaper in their productions, to which they were usually the main, even the sole, contributor. Thus the printer-journalist was initially an essentially North American phenomenon. Since the main problem facing the printer-journalist was reaching readers, there developed an alliance with the post-master so intimate that often each became the other. Hence, the printer’s office emerged as the key to North American communications and community intellectual life.

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities.