Jill Lepore on Franklin’s Sister, Jane

  • Seeing in the title of Congressman Paul Ryan’s economic plan for cutting the deficit an allusion to an essay by Benjamin Franklin, Jill Lepore (The New York Times, 23-Apr-2011) illustrates the difference between the education of Franklin and his favorite sister, Jane. By extension, she describes the sharp contrast between the education of boys and girls in colonial America.
JDN | 25-Apr-2011

In 1789 the South and especially Virginia had been the impelling force in creating the nation. By 1815 the South and slaveholders still seemed to be in control of the national government. President Madison was a slaveholder. So too were Speaker of the House, Henry Clay, James Monroe, the secretary of state, and George W. Campbell, the secretary of the treasury. All Republican leaders of the House were slaveholders. In 1815 the United States had four missions in Europe: two of them were held by slaveholders. The chief justice of the United States was a slaveholder, as were a majority of the other members of the Court. Since 1789 three of the four presidents, two of the five vice-presidents, fourteen of the twenty-six presidents pro tempore the Senate, and five of the ten Speakers of the House had been slaveholders.

Gordon S. Wood
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)