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

[Of those opposed to slavery,] George Washington belonged, with Mason and Jefferson, in the hardest category — disapproving owners. Theirs was the most difficult position to maintain, psychologically and rhetorically. It would not be maintained over the next sixty years, as southern antislavery rhetoric withered. Practically and politically, disapproving owners were in the hardest position from which to achieve their goals. How do you weaken an institution in which you and all your neighbors are enmeshed? Washington did enough, finally, to free his own slaves, which was more than many owners in his position did. Jefferson never freed all his, nor did any of the other slave-owning presidents.

Richard Brookhiser
Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington (1996)