"A Likely Young Negro Wench, who is a good Cook, and can
Wash well is to be disposed of. Enquire of the Printer hereof."
"To be Sold. A Likely young Negroe Wench, about 18
Years of Age, speaks good English, and is fit for either Town
or Country. Enquire of the Printer hereof."
"To be Sold. A Likely Molatto Girl, aged about 16 Years,
has had the Small Pox, is fit for either Town or Country, to
be disposed of very reasonable, enquire of the Printer hereof."
"To be Sold, A Likely young Negroe Fellow, about Twenty-
six Years of Age, suitable for any Farming or Plantation
Business, having been long accustomed to it and has had the
Small- Pox. Enquire of the Printer hereof."
"To be Sold. A Negro Man Twenty-two Years of Age, of
uncommon Strength and Activity, very fit for a Farmer, or a
laborious Trade, he understands the best methods of managing
Horses, and is very faithful in the Employment : Any Person
that wants such a one may see him by enquiring of the Printer
"To be Sold. A Likely Negro woman, with a man-child, fit
for town or country business. Enquire of the Printer hereof."
"To Be Sold, A Lusty, young, Negroe Woman, fit for
Country Business, she has had the Smallpox, and Meazles.
Enquire of the Printers hereof.”
"To be Sold. A Prime able young Negro man, fit for labori-
ous work, in town or country, that has had the smallpox : As
also a middle aged Negro man, that has likewise had the
smallpox. Enquire of the printer hereof: Or otherwise they
will be exposed to sale by publick venue, on Saturday the
tenth of April next, at 12 o'clock, at the Indian-king, in Mar-
The Printer of the newspaper The Pennsylvania Gazette, and also the salesman of the ‘Negroes’ above advertised, is none other than Benjamin Franklin, the eldest and wisest among the Founding Fathers of the USA.
Being a printer and publisher for most of his life, Franklin was also a jack of all trades, buying and selling whatever could land him a profit, like the slaves above (the ads probably run circa 1740s).
P. Leicester Ford, one of his biographers of a century ago, tells us that:
Some of these slaves he procured from New England, where, as population grew in density, the need for them passed, leading to their sale in the colonies to the southward; and there was not always a profit, for Franklin, of one purchase of husband and wife, wrote to his mother : "We conclude to sell them both the first good opportunity, for we do not like negro ser- vants," with a result that " We got again about half what we lost." In spite of this prejudice, Franklin took with him two negro servants to England on his second visit, with slight benefit, for one, who "was of little use, and often in mischief," ran off within a year, and the other behaved only" as well as I could expect, in a country where there are many occasions of spoiling servants, if they are ever so good." "He has as few faults as most of them," the philosopher observed, “and I see with only one eye and hear only with one ear; so we rub on pretty comfortably."
Franklin, as he grew in years, came to disapprove heartily of the whole slave system, and he expressed satisfaction " that a disposition to abolish slavery prevails in North America, that many Pennsylvanians have set their slaves at liberty, and that even the Virginia Assembly have petitioned the king for permission to make a law for preventing the importation of more into the colony." When the initial abolition society in
America was formed, he became its president, and his name was signed to the first petition for the abolition of the slave-trade ever sent to Congress, an act which
resulted in his being personally vituperated on the floor of that body, less than a month before his death. The debate on this petition drew from him the last public
paper he ever penned, in which, with his usual "Socratic " cleverness, he took all the arguments advanced by the favorers of slavery, and by putting them into the mouth of an Algerine, as reasons for continuing the holding of Europeans in bondage, made each one become a reason for ending the system.
Though Franklin sometimes took a loss, as described above, slaves turned out to be an excellent long term investment, as another Founding Father found out:
The critical turning point in Jefferson's thinking may well have come in 1792. As Jefferson was counting up the agricultural profits and losses of his plantation in a letter to President Washington that year, it occurred to him that there was a phenomenon he had perceived at Monticello but never actually measured. He proceeded to calculate it in a barely legible, scribbled note in the middle of a page, enclosed in brackets. What Jefferson set out clearly for the first time was that he was making a 4 percent profit every year on the birth of black children. The enslaved were yielding him a bonanza, a perpetual human dividend at compound interest. Jefferson wrote, "I allow nothing for losses by death, but, on the contrary, shall presently take credit four per cent. per annum, for their increase over and above keeping up their own numbers." His plantation was producing inexhaustible human assets. The percentage was predictable. […]
Jefferson's 4 percent theorem threatens the comforting notion that he had no real awareness of what he was doing, that he was "stuck" with or "trapped" in slavery, an obsolete, unprofitable, burdensome legacy. The date of Jefferson's calculation aligns with the waning of his emancipationist fervor. Jefferson began to back away from antislavery just around the time he computed the silent profit of the "peculiar institution."
And this world was crueler than we have been led to believe. A letter has recently come to light describing how Monticello's young black boys, "the small ones," age 10, 11 or 12, were whipped to get them to work in Jefferson's nail factory, whose profits paid the mansion's grocery bills. This passage about children being lashed had been suppressed--deliberately deleted from the published record in the 1953 edition of Jefferson's Farm Book, containing 500 pages of plantation papers. That edition of the Farm Book still serves as a standard reference for research into the way Monticello worked.
Not to mention his turning of Sally Hemings, a fair skinned slave who was also a younger half-sister of his first wife, into his sexual serf since she was a teenager.
Taken together, the historical snippets above still resonate with present day America, a country which, notwithstanding its past, strives like no other to be a better place for minorities - the ‘Franklin side’ - versus the country that still elects someone like Donald Trump - the ‘Jefferson side’.