Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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CONTENTS

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pp. vii-viii

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NOTE ON SOURCES

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p. ix

All references to Franklin’s Autobiography are to the Leonard Labaree edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964). Unless otherwise noted, all other citations from Franklin’s writings are to The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, edited by Leonard W. Labaree et al. The digital edition, sponsored by the American...

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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p. xi

I had the good fortune to be introduced to Ben Franklin in a fine seminar given many years ago at the University of Chicago by Ralph Lerner and Amy Kass. The idea for this book arose from a Liberty Fund conference on Franklin organized more recently by Michael Zuckert. For their stimulating observations and...

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INTRODUCTION

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pp. 1-14

Benjamin Franklin is and has always been the most American of Americans. He embodies the best of what we are and what we aspire to be. He is a wellspring of homespun wisdom, a selfmade man, hopeful, clever, skeptical, and wry, a fierce lover of liberty and plain dealing, thoroughly independent, and forever...

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CHAPTER 1. THE ECONOMIC BASIS OF LIBERTY

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pp. 15-48

If Franklin stands in broad agreement with Socrates and other classical thinkers on the importance of virtue for happiness, the most arresting difference lies in the prominent place he gives to moneymaking. Classical proponents of republicanism looked askance at commerce and the profit motive. Many of them...

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CHAPTER 2. THE VIRTUOUS CITIZEN

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pp. 49-90

Franklin thought long and deeply about the virtues needed for self-government and for private happiness. He began by reflecting upon the qualities he himself needed to develop in order to prosper; soon he was working out a systematic program of moral improvement for himself and launching an informal pro-...

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CHAPTER 3. PHILANTHROPY AND CIVIL ASSOCIATIONS

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pp. 91-126

Franklin’s advocacy of virtue begins with qualities needed for individual happiness, but it always aims at a broader social good. Franklin shares with his early modern predecessors an insistence on the convergence of private and public interests in a well-ordered polity, but he places less emphasis than they on the...

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CHAPTER 4. THOUGHTS ON GOVERNMENT

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pp. 127-184

We have now examined Franklin’s reflections on the economic and moral foundations of liberty and the most fundamental civic expressions of that liberty in free associations, which in turn teach the skills necessary for self-government. In doing so, we have largely followed the progression of Franklin’s own interests...

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CHAPTER 5. THE ULTIMATE QUESTIONS

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pp. 185-223

Franklin’s political project rested on a faith in the power of reason to grasp moral truths and to guide human society. This man who, in Turgot’s famous phrase, snatched lightning bolts from heaven and scepters from tyrants was confident that people could live more happily when not overawed, either by hereditary...

NOTES

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pp. 225-261

RECOMMENDED READINGS

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p. 263

INDEX

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pp. 265-277