Date of Award

4-28-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

First Advisor

Kinzer, Bruce

Second Advisor

Scott, Will

Abstract

This thesis considers Benjamin Franklin‰Ûªs conception of the British Empire between 1751 and 1776 and the principles that shaped it. Enshrined as one of the most celebrated American Founders, modern scholars have sought to more seriously consider Franklin‰Ûªs years in London and his advocacy for the empire, which have hitherto suffered relative inattention. Franklin‰Ûªs apparent shift from imperialist in the 1750s and 1760s to revolutionary in 1775 is thought to constitute a major shift in his political views. This thesis seeks to confront the view that Franklin‰Ûªs imperialism was consistent with traditional English notions of empire and that his decision to support independence was a radical departure from his established positions. On the contrary, I argue that Franklin‰Ûªs vision for the empire was shaped by his interest in guaranteeing American prosperity, and inasmuch differed from contemporary English views. Franklin believed political, economic, and social conditions in America naturally supported the egalitarian society that developed in the colonies and, in turn, promoted personal and civil virtue. Furthermore, this society possessed a great deal of material and ideological potential, which would ensure the preeminence of the British Empire. This thesis looks to Franklin‰Ûªs views of America to explicate the principles of his political thought. These same principles support the conclusion that Franklin‰Ûªs promotion of independence was fundamentally consistent with his previous political positions. Furthermore, it seeks to distinguish his thought from that of the other American Founders in order to properly situate Franklin within the Founding.

Comments

Includes bibliographical references (p. 104-108)

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