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Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Franklin in Ireland

I thought often of the happiness of New England, where every man is a freeholder, has a vote in public affairs, lives in a tidy warm house, has plenty of good food and fuel, with whole clothes from head to foot, the manufactory perhaps of his own family. Long may they continue in this situation!

But if they should ever envy the trade of these countries, I can put them in a way to obtain a share of it. Let them with three-fourths of the people of Ireland live the year round on potatoes and butter milk, without shirts, then may their merchants export beef, butter and linen. Let them with the generality of the common people of Scotland go barefoot, then may they make large exports in shoes and stockings. And if they will be content to wear rags like the spinners and weavers of England, they make cloths and stuffs for all parts fo the world.

Farther, if my country men should ever wish for the honour of having among them a gentry enormously wealthy, let them sell their farms and pay racked rents; the scale of the landlords will rise as that of the tenants is depressed, who will soon become poor, tattered, dirty and abject in spirit.

Had I never been in the American colonies, but was to form my judgement of civil society by hat I have lately seen, I should never advise a nation of savages to admit of civilisation. For I assure you, that in the posession and enjoyment of the various comforts of life, compared to these people every Indian is a gentleman; and the effect of this kind of civil society seems only to be the depressing multitudes below the savage state that a few may be raised above it.

(letter to Joshua Babcock, Jan. 13th 1772; quoted in Brands, H.,The First American: New York, 2000)