The Americanization Of Benjamin Franklin Essay Contest

Selected Bibliography

The Library of Congress online catalog contains more than a hundred subject headings for books related to Benjamin Franklin. To find works on any of these topics, select Browse, and enter the words
Franklin Benjamin into the search box; then choose the Subjects beginning with option. You will get the list of Franklin-related subject headings. Click on any heading to see a list of titles that have that subject heading; and click on any of the titles to access the book's bibliographic record.

From among the hundreds of Franklin-related titles in the Library of Congress collections, the bibliography below highlights the most significant modern editions of works by Franklin and a selection of biographies and other works particularly useful to scholars and general readers embarking on the study of this inexhaustibly intriguing American.

Labaree, Leonard W., et al., eds. The Papers of Benjamin Franklin. 37 vols. as of January 2006. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959- .
LC call number: E302 .F82 1959 [Catalog Record]

Lemay, J. A. Leo, ed. Benjamin Franklin: Writings. New York: Library of America, 1987.
LC call number: E302 .F82 1987 [Catalog Record]

-----, and P.M. Zall, eds. Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds, Criticism. A Norton Critical Edition. New York: Norton, 1986.
LC call number: E302.6.F7 A2 1986a [Catalog Record]

Smyth, Albert Henry, ed. The Writings of Benjamin Franklin. 10 vols. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1905-7.
LC call number: E302 .F82 1907 [Catalog Record]

Aldridge, Alfred Owen. Benjamin Franklin, Philosopher and Man. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1965.
LC call number: E302.6.F8 A46 [Catalog Record]

Brands, H.W. The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin. New York: Doubleday, 2000.
LC call number: E302.6.F8 B83 2000 [Catalog Record] [Publisher’s description]

Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.
LC call number: E302.6.F8 I83 2003 [Catalog Record] [Publisher’s description]

Lemay, J.A. Leo. The Life of Benjamin Franklin. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006- .
LC call number: E302.6.F8 L424 2006 [Catalog Record]

Morgan, Edmund S. Benjamin Franklin. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002.
LC call number: E302.6.F8 M86 2002 [Catalog Record]

Parton, James. The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin. 2 vols. New York: Mason Brothers, 1864.
LC call number: E302.6.F8 P27 [Catalog Record]

Van Doren, Carl. Benjamin Franklin. 3 vols. New York: The Viking Press, 1938.
LC call number: E302.6.F8 V3 [Catalog Record]

Wood, Gordon S. The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin. New York: Penguin Press, 2004.
LC call number: E302.6.F8 W84 2004 [Catalog Record]

Wright, Esmond. Franklin of Philadelphia. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1986.
LC call number: E302.6.F8 W89 1986 [Catalog Record]

Aldridge, Alfred Owen. Benjamin Franklin and Nature’s God. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1967.
LC call number: E302.6.F8 A45 [Catalog Record]
A study of Franklin’s religious beliefs.

-----. Franklin and His French Contemporaries. 1957; reprint Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1976.
LC call number: E302.6.F8 A47 1976 [Catalog Record]
Franklin in relation to French culture.

Buxbaum, Melvin H. Benjamin Franklin: A Reference Guide. 2 vols. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1983-88.
LC call number: Z8313 .B89 1983 E302.6.F8 [Catalog Record]
A bibliography of Franklin scholarship.

Cohen, I. Bernard. Benjamin Franklin’s Science. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990.
LC call number: QC16.F68 C64 1990 [Catalog Record]
Franklin the scientist, and his scientific achievements.

-----. Franklin and Newton: An Inquiry into Speculative Newtonian Experimental Science and Franklin’s Work in Electricity as an Example Thereof. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1956.
LC call number: QC7 .C65 [Catalog Record]
Franklin’s scientific work as an extension of Newtonian principles.

Dray, Philip. Stealing God’s Thunder: Benjamin Franklin’s Lightning Rod and the Invention of America. New York: Random House, 2005.
LC call number: E302.6.F8 D69 2005 [Catalog Record]
Franklin’s science in his life, thought, and political career.

Lemay, J.A. Leo, ed. Reappraising Benjamin Franklin: A Bicentennial Perspective. Newark : University of Delaware Press, 1993.
LC call number: E302.6.F8 R29 1993 [Catalog Record]
Scholarly essays on many aspects of Franklin at the bicentennial of his death.

Lopez, Claude-Anne. Mon Cher Papa: Franklin and the Ladies of Paris. Rev. ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.
LC call number: E302.6.F8 L8 1990 [Catalog Record]
Franklin’s feminine friendships, intellectual, literary, and romantic.

-----, and Eugenia W. Herbert. The Private Franklin: The Man and His Family. New York: Norton, [1975].
LC call number: E302.6.F8 L82 1975 [Catalog Record]
Franklin and his family relationships, broadly defined.

Middlekauff, Robert. Benjamin Franklin and His Enemies. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1996.
LC call number: E302.6.F8 M644 1996 [Catalog Record] [Publisher’s description]
Franklin and his political enemies.

Miller, C. William. Benjamin Franklin’s Philadelphia Printing, 1728-1766: A Descriptive Bibliography. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1974. [Catalog Record]
LC call number: Q11 .P612 vol. 102 Z232.F8
A systematic record of Franklin’s work as a printer in Philadelphia.

Schiff, Stacy. A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America. New York: Henry Holt, 2005.
LC call number: E183.8.F8 S35 2005 [Catalog Record]
Franklin the diplomat and cultural icon securing America’s independence.

Sellers, Charles Coleman. Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962.
LC call number: N7628.F7 S4 [Catalog Record]
A comprehensive study of Franklin’s imagery.

Talbott, Page, Richard S. Dunn, and John C. Van Horne, eds. Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005.
LC call number: E302.6.F8 B485 2005 [Catalog Record]
Collection of essays accompanying 2006 Franklin Tercentenary exhibition.

Waldstreicher, David. Runaway America: Benjamin Franklin, Slavery, and the American Revolution. New York: Hill and Wang, 2004.
LC call number: E302.6.F8 W25 2004 [Catalog Record] [Publisher’s description]
A study of Franklin’s relationship to slavery and servitude.

Walters, Kerry S. Benjamin Franklin and His Gods. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, c1999.
LC call number: E302.6.F8 W27 1999 [Catalog Record]
A reappraisal of Franklin’s religious beliefs.

Zall, Paul M. Benjamin Franklin’s Humor. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2005.
LC call number: E302.6.F8 Z35 2005 [Catalog Record]
A study of the humor in Franklin’s writing and how he used it.

Adler, David A. A Picture Book of Benjamin Franklin. Illustrated by John and Alexandra Wallner. New York: Holiday House, 1990.
LC call number: E302.6.F8 A28 1990 [Catalog Record]

Davidson, Margaret. The Story of Benjamin Franklin: Amazing American. Illustrated by John Speirs. Milwaukee: Gareth Stevens, 1997.
LC call number: E302.6.F8 D233 1997 [Catalog Record]

Fleming, Candace. Ben Franklin’s Almanac: Being a True Account of the Good Gentleman’s Life. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2003.
LC call number: E302.6.F8 F55 2003 [Catalog Record] [Publisher’s description]

Fritz, Jean. What’s the Big Idea, Ben Franklin? Illustrated by Margot Tomes. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1976.
LC call number: E302.6.F8 F88 1976 [Catalog Record]

Lawson, Robert. Ben and Me: A New and Astonishing Life of Benjamin Franklin as Written by His Good Mouse Amos. 1939; rpt. Boston: Little, Brown, 1988. [Catalog Record]
LC call number: PZ7.L4384 Be 1988

Rudy, Lisa Jo, ed. The Ben Franklin Book of Easy and Incredible Experiments. A Franklin Institute Science Museum Book. Illustrated by Cheryl Kirk Knoll. New York: Wiley, 1995.
LC call number: Q182.3 .B46 1995 [Catalog Record] [Publisher’s description]

Schanzer, Rosalyn. How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.
LC call number: QC16.F58 S33 2003 [Catalog Record] [Publisher’s description]

AuthorBenjamin Franklin
CountryAmerica (British Colonies)

Publication date

1755 (originally written in 1751)

Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, etc. is a short essay written in 1751 by Benjamin Franklin.[1] It was circulated by Franklin in manuscript to his circle of friends, but in 1755 it was published as an addendum in a Boston pamphlet on another subject.[2] It was reissued ten times during the next 15 years.[3]

The essay examines population growth and its limits. Writing as, at the time, a loyal subject of the British Empire, Franklin argues that the British should increase their population and power by expanding across the Americas, taking the view that Europe is too crowded.


Franklin projected an exponential growth (doubling every twenty five years)[4] in the population of the British colonies, so that in a century "the greatest Number of Englishmen will be on this Side of the Water", thereby increasing the power of England. As Englishmen they would share language, manners, and religion with their countrymen in England, thus extending English civilization and English rule substantially.[5]

Franklin viewed the land in America as underutilized and available for the expansion of farming. This enabled the population to establish households at an earlier age and support larger families than was possible in Europe. The limit to expansion, reached in Europe but not America, is reached when the "crowding and interfering with each other’s means of subsistence", an idea that would inspire Malthus.[6]

Historian Walter Isaacson writes that Franklin's theory was empirically based on the population data during his day. Franklin's reasoning was essentially correct in that America's population continued to double every twenty years until the 1850s when it surpassed England's and continued until the frontier disappeared.[7]

Protectionist policies in 1750 led to the prohibition of ironworks in America. Franklin’s essay argued against such policies by advancing the position that labor is more valued in self-owned farming given the availability of land in America. “No man continues long a laborer for others, but gets a plantation of his own.” Growth in the colonies should increase demand for British manufacturing making protectionism unwise, an argument appreciated by Adam Smith.[6][8]

Franklin argued that slavery diminished the nation, undermined the virtue of industry, and diminished the health and vitality of the nation. He argued that slavery was not as cost effective or productive as free labor.[6][8]


The work was cited by Adam Smith in his Wealth of Nations, in Ezra Stiles’s Discourse on the Christian Union, and in Richard Price’s Observations on Reversionary Payments.[9] It also influenced David Hume, Samuel Johnson, and William Godwin. The notion of the population doubling every 25 years influenced Thomas Malthus, who quotes paragraph 22 of the essay, with attribution, in his 1802 work An Essay on the Principle of Population. Through Malthus, the essay is said to have influenced Charles Darwin.[3][4]Conway Zirkle has noted that "Franklin is really the source of Darwin's inspiration, for he gave Malthus the clue to the theory of population we now call Malthusian, and Malthus... gave Darwin the clue which led to the discovery of natural selection."[10]

Controversial paragraphs[edit]

While the essay was an important contribution to economics and population growth, recent attention has focused on the final two paragraphs.

Franklin was alarmed by the influx of German immigrants to Pennsylvania. The German immigrants were lacking in a liberal political tradition, the English language, and English culture. In Paragraph 23 of the essay, Franklin wrote "why should the Palatine Boors be suffered to swarm into our settlements, and by herding together establish their languages and manners to the exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our language or customs, any more than they can acquire our complexion?"[8]

Trimbur finds that Franklin’s main concern over the growth of unassimilated Germans is the threat to English culture and language.[11] This becomes racial when Franklin concocts “categories of his own invention”[11] to deny that Germans are whites. Franklin favored immigration of Anglo-Saxons, who, according to Ormond Seavey, he identifies as the only "White People" among the various peoples of the world. Such views have been condemned as racist in more recent literature.[2]Gordon S. Wood and others note that Franklin viewed this kind of bias as universal: Franklin ends the section with "But perhaps I am partial to the complexion of my Country, for such kind of partiality is natural to Mankind."[5][8]

Recognizing the potential offense that these comments might give, Franklin deleted the final paragraph from later editions of the essay, but his derogatory remarks about the German and Dutch were picked up and used against him by his political enemies in Philadelphia, leading to a decline in support among the Pennsylvania Dutch. Partly as a result, he was defeated in the October 1764 election to the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly.[2] Franklin funded education and charitable institutions to settle and assimilate German immigrants and would in time regain their good will.[8]


  1. ^Houston, Alan (March 30, 2009). "Tracing evolution to a founding grandfather". The Philadelphia Inquirer. 
  2. ^ abcFranklin, Benjamin (edited by Ormond Seavey), Autobiography and other writings, Oxford University Press, 1999, p.251-252.
  3. ^ abHodgson, Dennis (Dec 1991). "Benjamin Franklin on Population: From Policy to Theory". Population and Development Review. 17 (4): 639–661. doi:10.2307/1973600. 
  4. ^ abvon Valtier, William F. (June 2011). ""An Extravagant Assumption": The Demographic Numbers behind Benjamin Franklin's Twenty-Five-Year Doubling Period"(PDF). Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. 155 (2): 158–188. 
  5. ^ abWood, Gordon S. (2004). The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin. Penguin Books. pp. 71–72. ISBN 978-1594200199. 
  6. ^ abcBrands, H. W. (2000). The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin. Doubleday. pp. 245–6. ISBN 978-0385493284. 
  7. ^Walter Isaacson (2003). Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. pp. 150–151. ISBN 0-684-80761-0. 
  8. ^ abcdevan Doren, Carl (1991). Benjamin Franklin. Penguin Books. pp. 216–8. ISBN 978-0140152609. 
  9. ^Mark G. Spencer, ed. (2015). The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of the American Enlightenment, Volume 1. p. 445. ISBN 978-0-8264-7969-3. 
  10. ^Zirkle, Conway (April 25, 1941). "Natural Selection before the 'Origin of Species'". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. Philadelphia, PA: American Philosophical Society. 84 (1): 71–123. ISSN 0003-049X. JSTOR 984852. 
  11. ^ abTrimbur, John (2006). "Linguistic memory and the politics of U.S. English". College English. 68 (6): 575––588. 

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