Population Politics: Benjamin Franklin and the Peopling of North America (Working Paper #88)
Alan Houston, University of California – San Diego
Abstract: This paper sketches the terrain. It is not a finished portrait, but a preliminary outline. I begin with a discussion of Franklin’s status as “the first American,” and the need to situate him in a broader social, political, and intellectual context. I then turn to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century arguments regarding the causes and consequences of population growth, and Franklin’s distinctive contributions to them. In the final sections of the paper I turn to Franklin’s reflections on race and ethnicity in colonial life. Throughout this paper I seek to emphasize the politics of population. In particular, I am interested in the relationship between population and the construction of commercial society.