Rewrite of “Historicus” to Federal Gazette”

Briana D’Amelio, Megan Scully, Marissa Gudauskas and Ashlee Backhus

Benjamin Franklin wrote a satircal piece under the pseudonym Historicus. It is a response to a speech given by Georgia Representative James Jackson, who was pro-slavery. To mock Jackson’s speech, Franklin created a fictional character who was the leader of Algiers named Sidi Mehmet Ibrahim, who “gave” a speech 100 years prior. In the fictional speech given, Ibrahim states that he was “against granting the Petition of the Sect, called Erika.” The Erika were purist who wanted to abolish slavery because they found it to be unjust.

Ibrahim’s fictional speech questioned the Erika as to why they wanted their petition to be accepted. These questions included “Who will cultivate the lands?” and “Who will perform common labors in the city and in the family?” He also says that if the petition were to pass, the land will become of no value for want of cultivation, rents of houses will be reduced by one half, revenues of government arising from its share of Prizes would be reduced, slaves would be set free and they would not convert and embrace Christianity.

Because of Franklin’s opposition against slavery, he was named President of the Pennsylvannia Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery. In this role, he petitioned to promote the abolition of slavery which prompted Jackson to make his speech that focused on aspects of pro-slavery.

Both petitions were ultimately not granted and slavery was not abolished at this time.

This satirical parody was Franklin’s last piece of work before his death. Though Franklin may not have known this was going to be his last written piece of his lifetime, the importance of abolishing slavery was so significant to him that he would have been satisfied knowing that he got to share his last thoughts on a subject that he felt so strongly about. “Although his health was failing, Franklin’s mind and pen remained sharp until the end.”



One thought on “Rewrite of “Historicus” to Federal Gazette””

  1. Great analysis of this piece of satire. You highlighted the historical significance this piece has and how it played into the Congressional debate about slavery and the slave trade in the 1790s. Well done.

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