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American CreedPhilanthropy and the Rise of Civil Society, 1700–1865$
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Kathleen D. McCarthy

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780226561981

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226561998.001.0001

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Forging the Creed

Forging the Creed

(p.13) 1 Forging the Creed
American Creed
University of Chicago Press

Franklin's career heralded a new chapter in a transatlantic philanthropic revolution that began with the Reformation. Public service was both an avocation and a necessity. The commonwealth ideal, the notion that public and private interests were blended under the sanction of a charter, infused Franklin's associational work, providing legal authority and support for a variety of privately initiated civic improvement schemes. It also undergirded the long-standing colonial practice of earmarking public funds for ostensibly private charitable and educational ventures, coupling public and private resources, donations, tax monies, earned income, and voluntarism in order to maintain public services in an era of limited taxes, limited government, and limited surplus cash. Charitable and educational ventures such as Franklin's aroused little controversy; rather than seeking fundamental social or political change, they enhanced the status quo. Through its actions and its ideas, Franklin's generation sparked a revolution within the revolution, creating a civil sphere in which the meaning and practice of citizenship and democracy would continually be tested, contested, and refined. Forged in the idiom of republican manhood, it was about to receive a decidedly feminine reiteration.

Keywords:   public service, democracy, Franklin, educational ventures, civil sphere

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