...To colonial Americans, termination was as normal as the ABCs and 123s.
Though Franklin already had a long and successful career by this point, he needed to find a way to convince colonial book-buyers"who for the most part didn't even formally study arithmetic -- that his version of George Fisher's textbook was worth the investment.
Franklin made all sorts of changes throughout the book, from place names to inserting colonial histories, but he made one really big change: adding John Tennent's The Poor Planter's Physician to the end. Tennent was a Virginia doctor whose medical pamphlet had first appeared in 1734.* By appending it to The Instructor (replacing a treatise on farriery) Franklin hoped to distinguish the book from its London ancestor. Franklin advertised that his edition was "the whole better adapted to these American Colonies, than any other book of the like kind."
In the preface he goes on to specifically mention his swapping out of sections, insisting that "in the British Edition of this Book, there were many Things of little or no Use in these Parts of the World:
In this Edition those Things are omitted, and in their Room many other Matters inserted, more immediately useful to us Americans." One of those useful "Matters" was a how-to on at-home abortion, made available to anyone who wanted a book that could teach the ABCs and 123s.
In this week's leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, "The inescapable conclusion is that a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation's history and traditions."
Yet abortion was so "deeply rooted" in colonial America that one of our nation's most influential architects went out of his way to insert it into the most widely and enduringly read and reprinted math textbook of the colonial Americas"and he received so little pushback or outcry for the inclusion that historians have barely noticed it is there. Abortion was simply a part of life, as much as reading, writing, and arithmetic....