Problems of Patrimony: Benjamin Franklin and Ann Sargent Gage
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.
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