Problems of Patrimony: Benjamin Franklin and Ann Sargent Gage

Carol J. Singley

in Adopting America: Childhood, Kinship, and National Identity in Literature

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199779390
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199895106 | DOI:
Problems of Patrimony: Benjamin Franklin and Ann Sargent Gage

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Competing impulses toward biological and adoptive kinship appear in the writings of Benjamin Franklin and Ann Sargent Gage. The self-made Franklin chose to acknowledge his illegitimate son, William, risking social approbation and demonstrating an attachment to blood; whereas the prominent Bostonian Daniel Sargent disowned his illegitimate daughter, Ann, and arranged for her adoption. Gender as well as social class played a role in each man’s decision. Ironically, Franklin lost his connection to William when the latter became a Loyalist during the American Revolution, whereas Ann, who struggled to reclaim her patrimony, eventually found her voice and gained a modicum of recognition. Both stories document the stigmas attached to illegitimacy during the early republic and offer new representations of adoptive kinship in relation to genealogy.

Keywords: Benjamin Franklin; autobiography; Ann Sargent Gage; Daniel Sargent; Ralph Waldo Emerson; Mary Moody Emerson; Elizabeth Peabody; illegitimacy; England; American Revolution; gender

Chapter.  14239 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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