chapter  16
24 Pages

Creating landscapes of civil society

AFEW MILES north of Portland, Maine, along what in the colonial period was called King's Highway, is a large stone with the letter "B" and number "136" carved in it. A memorial plaque nearby tells the reader that in 1761 Benjamin Franklin, then postmaster general for the British colonies in North America, directed that mile markers-this one 136 miles north of Boston-be set along postal routes (Fig. 16.1). Because postal routes carried heavy loads of newspapers, they ensured wide and, for the period, rapid sharing of news and opinion, much as the Internet does today. This diffusion of information and sharing of ideas was fundamental in organizing the social movement that became the American Revolution, and it continues to sustain American civil society to this day.