October 6, 1723: Ben Franklin Arrives in Philadelphia

Thursday, October 6, AD 2016

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Philadelphia’s most famous citizen arrived in it 293 years ago, 17 years old,  with only a few coins in his pocket, dirty from his long walk from Boston and eating three large loaves of bread he had just purchased:

I have been the more particular in this description of my journey, and shall be so of my first entry into that city, that you may in your mind compare such unlikely beginnings with the figure I have since made there. I was in my working dress, my best cloaths being to come round by sea. I was dirty from my journey; my pockets were stuff’d out with shirts and stockings, and I knew no soul nor where to look for lodging. I was fatigued with travelling, rowing, and want of rest, I was very hungry; and my whole stock of cash consisted of a Dutch dollar, and about a shilling in copper. The latter I gave the people of the boat for my passage, who at first refus’d it, on account of my rowing; but I insisted on their taking it. A man being sometimes more generous when he has but a little money than when he has plenty, perhaps thro’ fear of being thought to have but little.

Then I walked up the street, gazing about till near the market-house I met a boy with bread. I had made many a meal on bread, and, inquiring where he got it, I went immediately to the baker’s he directed me to, in Secondstreet, and ask’d for bisket, intending such as we had in Boston; but they, it seems, were not made in Philadelphia. Then I asked for a three-penny loaf, and was told they had none such. So not considering or knowing the difference of money, and the greater cheapness nor the names of his bread, I made him give me three-penny worth of any sort. He gave me, accordingly, three great puffy rolls. I was surpriz’d at the quantity, but took it, and, having no room in my pockets, walk’d off with a roll under each arm, and eating the other. Thus I went up Market-street as far as Fourth-street, passing by the door of Mr. Read, my future wife’s father; when she, standing at the door, saw me, and thought I made, as I certainly did, a most awkward, ridiculous appearance. Then I turned and went down Chestnut-street and part of Walnut-street, eating my roll all the way, and, corning round, found myself again at Market-street wharf, near the boat I came in, to which I went for a draught of the river water; and, being filled with one of my rolls, gave the other two to a woman and her child that came down the river in the boat with us, and were waiting to go farther.

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Benjamin Franklin and the First American Bishop

Sunday, July 10, AD 2016

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That you may long continue to be the blessing of your country, is the wish of all its friends: and that you may not only live to enlighten and better mankind, but continue to do so, with freedom from sickness and pain, is the earnest prayer of, Honoured and Dear Sir Your most devoted and obliged servant, John Carroll

Letter from John Carroll to Benjamin Franklin, April 2, 1787

Rome had a problem.  Prior to the American Revolution the Catholic priests in the thirteen colonies, approximately two dozen in number had been under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Bishop Richard Challoner, Apostolic Vicar of London.  Challoner died on January 12, 1781, at the age of 89.  His successor, Bishop James Talbot, interestingly enough the last priest in England to be tried, twice, for saying Mass (each time he was acquitted due to lack of evidence), disclaimed any jurisdiction of the Church in the new United States.  Something had to be done to set up an organizational structure for the Church in America, although knowledge about the situation of the Church there was rare in Rome.   Fortunately in nearby France there resided an American whose advice might be helpful.

Benjamin Franklin, American Minister to France, by 1783 had reached a pinnacle of international fame that no American before him, and few since, have attained.   It was therefore not surprising that when the Vatican was mulling the establishment of an American episcopate, that the idea was hit upon to ask the advice of Dr. Franklin.  Thus is was that the Papal Nuncio to France, Archbishop Giuseppe Doria Pamphili addressed a short note to Franklin:

The 23. July 1783.
Before the revolution which has taken place in N. America, the Catholics and missionaries of those provinces depended in spirituals on the apostolic vicar residing at London. It is well known that this arrangement can no longer take place; but as it is essential that the catholic subjects of the united States should have an ecclesiastic to govern them in what concerns religion. The congregation de propaganda fides, for the establishment and preservation of missions, has come to a determination, to propose to Congress to establish in some city of the und. States of North America, one of their catholic Subjects, with the powers of Apostolic Vicar and with the character of Bishop, or simply in character of Apostolic Prefect. The establishment of a Bishop or apostolic vicar appear’d most convenient, in as much as the catholic subjects of the united States would have it in their power to receive confirmation and orders in their own country, without being obliged for this purpose to betake themselves to a Country under foreign domination and as it might as some times happen, that among the subjects of the united States, there might none be found to take on himself spiritual government, whether as a Bishop or apostolic Prefect, it would be necessary in such a Case that Congress should consent to the person they should chuse to it among the subjects of a foreign nation, most friendly to the und. States.

Giuseppe Doria Pamphili

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8 Responses to Benjamin Franklin and the First American Bishop

  • Fascinating. The few Catholics in the 13 states certainly did not have an easy time of it. Massachusetts was still hostile to anything Catholic, including nearby Quebec ( a rivalry that plays out today with the NHL Bruins and Canadiens). Maryland, founded as a refuge for English Catholics, still had anti Catholic laws on its books. There were undoubtedly more Catholics in the Spanish held territory that became part of the US later.
    Not long after these times, a son of a Russian diplomat and a member of the German aristocracy became ordained as a Catholic priest and came to Maryland. From there he was sent to west central Pennsylvania and became known as the Missionary to the Alleghenies….Dimitri Gallitzin. There exists a cause for his canonization.

  • “the last priest in England to be tried, twice, for saying Mass (each time he was acquitted due to lack of evidence)”

    The last prosecution in Scotland for being a priest was of Bishop Hugh MacDonald, Apostolic Visitor of the Highland District. He was tried before the High Court of Justiciary on the 5th of January 1756.

    The indictment bore that “That the pannel was held and repute to be a Jesuit, priest, or trafficking Papist, or had changed his name and surname ; and that these, or part of them, together with his refusing to purge himself of Popery, by taking the formula prescribed by and annexed to the Act, 3 Sess. 8. and 9. Parl. 1, King William III, when it should be tendered to him by any of the Lords of Justiciary, being found proven by the verdict of an assize, he ought to be banished forth of this realm, with certification that if ever he return thereto, being still a Papist, he shall be punished with the pain of death”

    His real offence, in the eyes of government was blessing the Jacobite standard, when Prince Charles Edward raised it at Glenfinnan on 19 August 1745.

    Duly convicted and banished, he ignored the sentence and continued to discharge his duties until his death on 12 March 1773. Government knew well where he was, but winked at it.

  • “tried, twice, for saying Mass (each time he was acquitted due to lack of evidence)”

    Yeah, I’ve been to Masses like that…

  • Mr. Paterson-Seymour, my mother is a McLuckie, a Sept family of the grand and noble Clan Lamont, who recognizes as its chief a Catholic priest from Australia.
    My great-great grandfather George McLuckie left Scotland for Western Maryland in 1866.
    It appears that despite their best efforts the Scots never eradicated the Church.

  • Penguin Fan

    Argyll and the Isles, where Clan Lamont had their seat, was one of the great Catholic centres, along with the West Highlands.

    The other main centre was the Gordon lands in Aberdeenshire in the North-East.

    Until after the ’45, government power north of Stirling was negligible; people were Catholic, Episcopalian or Presbyterian by clans. This explains why there were so few Catholic martyrs in Scotland, in contrast to England and Wales.

    The proto martyr was a Father Frank a monk, who was stabbed to death in the sacking of the Trinity Friars monastery in Aberdeen, on 4 December 1559. Next was another monk, a Father Robson about whom there is very little known, who was hanged for saying mass in Glasgow. The third was John Ogilvie, a Jesuit missionary who was badly treated, assaulted and eventually entrapped in an argument about the Pope having power to depose kings. He was convicted of treason and hanged in Glasgow on 28 February 1615. He, too, had been guilty of saying mass. The murder of Cardinal Beaton was purely political.

    The British government treated the Highland clergy with great savagery after the failure of the ’45.
    Of the priests who had accompanied the Prince, Rev Mr Colin Campbell of Morar was murdered on the field of Culloden; unarmed, he was shot down by Hessian mercenaries, whilst trying to rally the fugitives for one last charge. Rev Mr Allan MacDonald, rector of the seminary at Scalan, near Glenlivet was imprisoned for a year in a military garrison and then ordered to leave the country. Scalan itself was burned on the orders of the Duke of Cumberland, as a “nest of traitors.”
    Rev Mr Aeneas McGillis of Glengarry was put to the horn (outlawed) and fled the country.
    Of those who had stayed at home, but had “prayed for the Pretender,” Rev Mr Neil McFie of the Rough Bounds, Rev Mr Alexander Forrester of Uist and Rev Mr James Grant of Barra were bundled on board ship and deported to France, without the formality of a trial.
    Rev Mr William Harrison of the Rough Bounds was later captured carrying Jacobite dispatches and similarly deported.

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Fortnight For Freedom: Benjamin Franklin

Monday, June 27, AD 2016

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During the Constitutional Convention, on June 28, 1787, Benjamin Franklin, dismayed by the lack of progress since the convention convened on May 25, 1787, and alarmed at the acrimony of the debates, rose and delivered a memorable address:

 

Mr. President

The small progress we have made after 4 or five weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other,”our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes and ays, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, some we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of Government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. ”Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human Wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move, that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of the City be requested to officiate in that service.

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Practical Joker of the Founding Fathers

Thursday, March 31, AD 2016

 

 

 

Throughout his life Benjamin Franklin enjoyed practical jokes and literary hoaxes.  Here from 1730 is a report, almost certainly written by him, about a completely illusory witch trial.  Franklin was 26 when he wrote this, only 38 years after the all too real Salem Witch Trials:

Burlington, Oct. 12. Saturday last at Mount-Holly, about 8 Miles from this Place, near 300 People were gathered together to see an Experiment or two tried on some Persons accused of Witchcraft. It seems the Accused had been charged with making their Neighbours Sheep dance in an uncommon Manner, and with causing Hogs to speak, and sing Psalms, &c. to the great Terror and Amazement of the King’s good and peaceable Subjects in this Province; and the Accusers being very positive that if the Accused were weighed in Scales against a Bible, the Bible would prove too heavy for them; or that, if they were bound and put into the River, they would swim; the said Accused desirous to make their Innocence appear, voluntarily offered to undergo the said Trials, if 2 of the most violent of their Accusers would be tried with them.

Accordingly the Time and Place was agreed on, and advertised about the Country; The Accusers were 1 Man and 1 Woman; and the Accused the same. The Parties being met, and the People got together, a grand Consultation was held, before they proceeded to Trial; in which it was agreed to use the Scales first; and a Committee of Men were appointed to search the Men, and a Committee of Women to search the Women, to see if they had any Thing of Weight about them, particularly Pins. After the Scrutiny was over, a huge great Bible belonging to the Justice of the Place was provided, and a Lane through the Populace was made from the Justices House to the Scales, which were fixed on a Gallows erected for that Purpose opposite to the House, that the Justice’s Wife and the rest of the Ladies might see the Trial, without coming amongst the Mob; and after the Manner of Moorfields, a large Ring was also made. Then came out of the House a grave tall Man carrying the Holy Writ before the supposed Wizard, &c. (as solemnly as the Sword-bearer of London before the Lord Mayor) the Wizard was first put in the Scale, and over him was read a Chapter out of the Books of Moses, and then the Bible was put in the other Scale, (which being kept down before) was immediately let go; but to the great Surprize of the Spectators, Flesh and Bones came down plump, and outweighed that great good Book by abundance. After the same Manner, the others were served, and their Lumps of Mortality severally were too heavy for Moses and all the Prophets and Apostles.

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One Response to Practical Joker of the Founding Fathers

  • “…which were fixed on a Gallows erected for that Purpose…”

    The jest is complete when we find the gallows created before the trial. This is not your ordinary Darryl Issa investigation folks.

Finished Peace, Unfinished Peace Portrait

Wednesday, January 20, AD 2016

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The negotiations that led to the Treaty of Paris which ended the Revolutionary War, were long, contentious and complicated, involving not merely the peace treaty between Great Britain and the United States, but also separate treaties between Great Britain and France, Spain and the Netherlands.  Benjamin Franklin, who led the American team, and who deserves the title of greatest American diplomat, made it clear from the outset that the United States would not make any peace with Great Britain without its ally France also coming to terms with Great Britain.  He also demanded Canada.  By such wily ploys, Franklin outthought the British negotiators at every turn, and quickly got them to concede American Independence in hopes that the Americans could prevail upon France to be reasonable in its demands. 

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One Response to Finished Peace, Unfinished Peace Portrait

  • Never hear of Henry Laurens, so I have to look him up (thanks again for the stimulus Don). Quite a history. His estate is now in large part a Trappist monastery.

Benjamin Franklin Describes First Manned Flight

Thursday, January 7, AD 2016

 

 

 

It is appropriate that Benjamin Franklin, perhaps the greatest scientist, although the term would not be coined for another fifty years, of his time, was present to describe the first manned flight in a hot air balloon which occurred on November 21, 1783 in Paris:

TO SIR JOSEPH BANKS

Passy, Dec. 1, 1783. Dear Sir:-

In mine of yesterday I promised to give you an account of Messrs. Charles & Robert’s experiment, which was to have been made this day, and at which I intended to be present. Being a little indisposed, and the air cool, and the ground damp, I declined going into the garden of the Tuileries,2 where the balloon was placed, not knowing how long I might be obliged to wait there before it was ready to depart, and chose to stay in my carriage near the statue of Louis XV., from whence I could well see it rise, and have an extensive view of the region of air through which, as the wind sat, it was likely to pass. The morning was foggy, but about one o’clock the air became tolerably clear, to the great satisfaction of the spectators, who were infinite, notice having been given of the intended experiment several days before in the papers, so that all Paris was out, either about the Tuileries, on the quays and bridges, in the fields, the streets, at the windows, or on the tops of houses, besides the inhabitants of all the towns and villages of the environs. Never before was a philosophical experiment so magnificently attended. Some guns were fired to give notice that the departure of the balloon was near, and a small one was discharged, which went to an amazing height, there being but little wind to make it deviate from its perpendicular course, and at length the sight of it was lost. Means were used, I am told, to prevent the great balloon’s rising so high as might endanger its bursting. Several bags of sand were taken on board before the cord that held it down was cut, and the whole weight being then too much to be lifted, such a quantity was discharged as to permit its rising slowly. Thus it would sooner arrive at that region where it would be in equilibrio with the surrounding air, and by discharging more sand afterwards, it might go higher if desired. Between one and two o’clock, all eyes were gratified with seeing it rise majestically from among the trees, and ascend gradually above the buildings, a most beautiful spectacle. When it was about two hundred feet high, the brave adventurers held out and waved a little white pennant, on both sides their car, to salute the spectators, who returned loud claps of applause. The wind was very little, so that the object though moving to the northward, continued long in view; and it was a great while before the admiring people began to disperse. The persons embarked were Mr. Charles, professor of experimental philosophy, and a zealous promoter of that science; and one of the Messieurs Robert, the very ingenious constructors of the machine. When it arrived at its height, which I suppose might be three or four hundred toises, [A toise was a distance of about 2 meters] it appeared to have only horizontal motion. I had a pocket­glass, with which I followed it, till I lost sight first of the men, then of the car, and when I last saw the balloon, it appeared no bigger than a walnut. I write this at seven in the evening. What became of them is not yet known here. I hope they descended by daylight, so as to see and avoid falling among trees or on houses, and that the experiment was completed without any mischievous accident, which the novelty of it and the want of experience might well occasion. I am the more anxious for the event, because I am not well informed of the means provided for letting themselves down, and the loss of these very ingenious men would not only be a discouragement to the progress of the art, but be a sensible loss to science and society.

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Ben Franklin and the Turkey

Wednesday, November 25, AD 2015

After the American Revolution, former American officers in that struggle created a fraternal organization called the Society of Cinncinatus, named after the Roman consul and dictator, a constitutional office of the Roman Republic in emergencies, who saved Rome through his efforts in the fifth century BC and then retired to his humble farm.  The Society selected as its symbol a bald eagle.  In a letter to his daughter Sally Bache on January 26, 1784, no doubt with his tongue placed firmly in his cheek, Dr. Franklin indicated that he thought another bird would have been a better choice.

Others object to the Bald Eagle, as looking too much like a Dindon, or Turkey. For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen as the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perch’d on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him. With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping and Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country, tho’ exactly fit for that Order of Knights which the French call Chevaliers d’Industrie. I am on this account not displeas’d that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For in Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America. Eagles have been found in all Countries, but the Turkey was peculiar to ours, the first of the Species seen in Europe being brought to France by the Jesuits from Canada, and serv’d up at the Wedding Table of Charles the ninth. He is besides, tho’ a little vain and silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.

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3 Responses to Ben Franklin and the Turkey

  • While he is a dastard by nature, the bald eagle is far more photogenic (see paintings of him clutching arrows, etc.) than the wild turkey. And, the brave, warlike eagle myths endure.
    .
    Unlike the bald eagle, the wild turkey is hugely intelligent and prospers without stealing from, or assistance from, anything or anybody. Ask any turkey hunter about the big bird’s intelligence. The domestic turkey, that we eat, not so smart: rumor has it that they need to be taught how to drink water.
    .
    Tomorrow, offer up praise and gratitude to God. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • There is an old rhyme (quoted by Rudyard Kipling in Puck of Pook’s Hill)
    “Turkeys, heresy, hops and beer
    Came into England, all in one year.”
    The year is 1524, of which St Thomas More remarked, “Heresy and beer came hopping into England that same year.” The pun is based on the fact that beer (as opposed to ale) was flavoured with hops.
    Now there is a Scottish rhyme
    “On St Thomas the Divine
    Kill all turkeys, geese and swine.”
    It must predate the Reformation of 1569, when saints’ days and the keeping of Yule (as Christmas was called here) were both abolished. The St Thomas referred to is the Apostle, whose feast falls on 21 December. Our ancestors obviously did not believe in hanging their poultry.

  • It was surprising for me to learn that the selection of the American bald eagle as the nation’s symbol came as a result of its choice as the symbol of the Society of Cinncinatus.
    That society, incidentally the nation’s oldest patriotic organization, is open only to American AND French descendants of participants in the Revolutionary War ; it was an omission for the author of this article not to have mentioned that the “…former American officers in that struggle created a fraternal organization called the Society of Cinncinatus …” WITH THEIR FRENCH ALLIES WHO WERE ALSO FORMER OFFICERS IN THAT STRUGGLE ! [From the society’s website : “…Hereditary members of the Society of the Cincinnati are qualified male descendants of commissioned officers who served in the Continental Army or Navy and their French counterparts…”]

    Incidentally, President George Washington, when the Continental Armies (and their French allies) had defeated the British, and again when his terms in office as President of the United States were completed, retired to his farm in Virginia to lead the life of a gentleman farmer. Even in his lifetime, there had been comparisons between George Washington and the legendary Cincinnatus, as for example in Lord Byron’s “Ode to Napoleon” – in which Washington is referred to as “the Cincinnatus of the West”.

Benjamin Franklin and Daylight Savings Time

Monday, November 2, AD 2015

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Throughout his illustrious, and hectic, career, Benjamin Franklin found time to write anonymous satirical pieces which he wrote as a form of relaxation.  Here is one written in 1784 in which he suggests the adoption of a rudimentary form of Daylight Savings Time:

To THE AUTHORS of
The Journal of Paris

 

MESSIEURS,

You often entertain us with accounts of new discoveries. Permit me to communicate to the public, through your paper, one that has lately been made by myself, and which I conceive may be of great utility.

I was the other evening in a grand company, where the new lamp of Messrs. Quinquet and Lange was introduced, and much admired for its splendour; but a general inquiry was made, whether the oil it consumed was not in proportion to the light it afforded, in which case there would be no saving in the use of it. No one present could satisfy us in that point, which all agreed ought to be known, it being a very desirable thing to lessen, if possible, the expense of lighting our apartments, when every other article of family expense was so much augmented.

I was pleased to see this general concern for economy, for I love economy exceedingly.

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6 Responses to Benjamin Franklin and Daylight Savings Time

  • I hate daylight savings time.

  • Ir has become a biannual pain in the neck. Its only utility is a reminder to change the battery in the smoke detector.

  • I forgot to change the batteries in the smoke detectors

  • Ernst, When we get rid of daylight savings time, all you will have to do is ask me and I will remind you to change them. ~Bill

  • I LOVE Daylight Savings Time. Love it, love it, love it.

    I HATE Standard Time. HATE, HATE, HATE! I HATE the bright but low in the sky sun shining in my face when I drive home from work – and glaring through the window at my compter screen at work. I HATE the lack of daylight I need to clean up the mountains of leaves from the four maple trees in my yard (and the leaves of the neighbors’ trees).

    So some want year round standard time? Sunrise at 4AM in June in the North?
    To hell with that.

  • Back when I worked, I “dimly” recall, my daily drive to the eighty-mile away office in the dark, and back home in the dark. And in the interest of full disclosure, the morning sun dare not break through the drawn shades of my otium. So what say we abolish standard time and have daylight savings time all the time, and call me to remind you to change those smoke detector batteries but don’t call too early. –zzzzzzzzzzzz 😉

Benjamin Franklin on Chess

Monday, September 28, AD 2015

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Benjamin Franklin had ceaseless energy to match his brilliant mind.  In 1779 while our ambassador to France, and involved in ceaseless negotiations to make sure that the new found alliance did not founder, he found time to write a brief monograph on chess, perhaps his favorite game:

The game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired or strengthened by it, so as to become habits, ready on all occasions.

1. Foresight, which looks a little into futurity, and considers the consequences that may attend an action; for it is continually occuring to the player, ‘If I move this piece, what will be the advantages or disadvantages of my new situation? What use can my adversary make of it to annoy me? What other moves can I make to support it, and to defend myself from his attacks?

2. Circumspection, which surveys the whole chessboard, or scene of action; the relations of the several pieces and situations, the dangers they are respectively exposed to, the several possibilities of their aiding each other, the probabilities that the adversary may make this or that move, and attack this or the other piece, and what different means can be used to avoid his stroke, or turn its consequences against him.

3. Caution, not to make our moves too hastily. This habit is best acquired, by observing strictly the laws of the game; such as, If you touch a piece, you must move it somewhere; if you set it down, you must let it stand. And it is therefore best that these rules should be observed, as the game becomes thereby more the image of human life, and particularly of war . . .

And lastly, we learn by Chess the habit of not being discouraged by present appearances in the state of our affairs, the habit of hoping for a favourable change, and that of persevering in the search of resources. The game is so full of events, there is such a variety of turns in it, the fortune of it is so subject to sudden vicissitudes, and one so frequently, after long contemplation, discovers the means of extricating one’s self from a supposed insurmountable difficulty, that one is encouraged to continue the contest to the last, in hopes of victory from our own skill, or at least of getting a stalemate from the negligence of our adversary . . .

If your adversary is long in playing, you ought not to hurry him, or express any uneasiness at his delay. You should not sing, nor whistle, nor look at your watch, not take up a book to read, nor make a tapping with your feet on the floor, or with your fingers on the table, nor do anything that may disturb his attention. For all these things displease; and they do not show your skill in playing, but your craftiness or your rudeness.

You ought not to endeavour to amuse and deceive your adversary, by pretending to have made bad moves, and saying that you have now lost the game, in order to make him secure and careless, and inattentive to your schemes: for this is fraud and deceit, not skill in the game.

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4 Responses to Benjamin Franklin on Chess

Current Tax Payment Act of 1943

Monday, April 15, AD 2013

The above 1943 Donald Duck cartoon, The  Spirit of ’43,  was funded by the Department of the Treasury in 1943.  It highlighted a major problem for the Federal government.  Prior to World War II very few Americans paid any income tax and there was no withholding.  With the increased taxes to pay for World War II, most full time non-agricultural American workers were going to be paying income tax and few were saving to pay the tax bill when it came due.

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Ben Franklin and the Turkey

Tuesday, November 20, AD 2012

 

 

 

After the American Revolution, former American officers in that struggle created a fraternal organization called the Society of Cinncinatus, named after the Roman consul and dictator, a constitutional office of the Roman Republic in emergencies, who saved Rome through his efforts in the fifth century BC and then retired to his humble farm.  The Society selected as its symbol a bald eagle.  In a letter to his daughter Sally Bache on January 26, 1784, no doubt with his tongue placed firmly in his cheek, Dr. Franklin indicated that he thought another bird would have been a better choice.

Others object to the Bald Eagle, as looking too much like a Dindon, or Turkey. For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen as the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perch’d on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him. With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping and Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country, tho’ exactly fit for that Order of Knights which the French call Chevaliers d’Industrie. I am on this account not displeas’d that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For in Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America. Eagles have been found in all Countries, but the Turkey was peculiar to ours, the first of the Species seen in Europe being brought to France by the Jesuits from Canada, and serv’d up at the Wedding Table of Charles the ninth. He is besides, tho’ a little vain and silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.

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6 Responses to Ben Franklin and the Turkey

  • Well, whenever I think of Franklin’s suggestion regarding our national bird, the thought always occurs to me that if it had gone through, our fighter pilots today would be flying F-15 Turkeys. 😉

  • When I was in the Army Tommy, we often associated the Air Force with turkeys. 🙂

  • If the Turkey was the National Bird, I guess we would not or could not eat it, I don’t know. Turkeys are wild birds in a number of places in this country.

  • For the record, on Veteran’s Day, Fox had this guy on their with a “Bald Eagle”, envision Falconry or Falconing but with a Bald Eagle. I’m sure one can find their song or cry online as most birds do have that online at bird sites.

    Interestingly, per the Ben Franklin quote above, “You may have seen him perch’d on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk…” , I once came upon a “Young Bald Eagle” on a tree stump right next to the river! So Franklin’s quote makes some sense to me, young Bald Eagles so they say are still all brown and this one was, I guess young Bald Eagles don’t have that white head yet.

  • Oh, and I wanted to add on a humble thank you for allowing these posts. It is appreciated.

  • Interesting that Franklin uses the French name « Dindon » originally « coq d’Inde » or “Cockerel of the Indies” Later, a turkey cock became « Dindon » and the hen, « poule d’Inde » became « dinde »

Benjamin Franklin’s Speech on Signing the Constitution

Friday, September 21, AD 2012

A woman to Benjamin Franklin at the close of the Constitutional Convention:

“Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”

  Benjamin Franklin “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

September 17 of this week was the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution on  September 17, 1787 at the close of the Convention.  The speech of Benjamin Franklin on this occasion has always struck me as being chock full of wisdom.  Here is the text of his address:

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3 Responses to Benjamin Franklin’s Speech on Signing the Constitution

  • Thank you, Donald! Statesmen like that are sorely needed today.

  • It is worth recalling that several of the Founding Fathers expressed grave reservations about the Constitution.

    Washington that at one period of the deliberations the Constitution promised to satisfy his ideas, but that the great principles for which he contended had been changed in the last days of the convention. He meant the law, which required a majority of two-thirds in all those measures, which affected differently the interests of the several States. He said “that he did not like throwing too much into democratic hands.”

    “It is my own opinion,” said Hamilton, “that the present government is not that which will answer the ends of society, by giving stability and protection to its rights, and it will probably be found expedient to go into the British form.” “A dissolution of the Union, after all, seems to be the most likely result.” Like Washington, he was suspicious of democracy, “There are certain conjunctures when it may be necessary and proper to disregard the opinions which the majority of the people have formed. There ought to be a principle in government capable of resisting the popular current. The principle chiefly intended to be established is this, that there must be a permanent will.”

    Jefferson, by contrast, was a Jacobin, pure and simple – “Every people may establish what form of government they please; the will of the nation being the only thing essential. I subscribe to the principle that the will of the majority, honestly expressed, should give law. I suppose it to be self-evident that the earth belongs to the living; that the dead have neither powers nor rights in it. No society can make a perpetual Constitution or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation. Every Constitution then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of thirty-four years.”

    The wonder is that men of such different principles should have reached an agreement at all.

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6 Responses to John Cleese, Benjamin Franklin, CS Lewis and Extremism

  • John Cleese, Ben Franklin, C.S. Lewis and the idea of extreme moderation:
    There’s something in this at the end of the day, after the great initial morning amusement of the three pieces. I would like the sound of saying that I am a Moderate and have that political affiliation – as John Cleese(!) said moderates are on the end of both sides, wise old Ben Franklin called himself an extreme one (was that after the electricity?), and Screwtape railed at diversion to values higher than the self. America could have candidates for election appealing to Moderates for whom truth, justice, prudent fiscal management, and virtues (value of ideas beyond civilized rhetoric) exceed agendas of special interests.

  • These days, moderation as a political philosophy isn’t going to work in our society. What we call “conservatism” and “liberalism” prescind from views of human nature that involve radically differing assumptions and are mutually incompatible. Trying to build a “moderate” political philosophy is like trying to construct a building using two different floorplans. You might end up with a building, but it’s not likely to be very stable nor very useful.

  • You raise a good point, Jonathan. The liberal and conservative labels are just that; labels. I’m reminded here of how words don’t really have fixed meanings. And the meanings ascribed to them change, too. I prefer to think in terms of biblical categories. One question I might ask is “What ought we to do in light of Scripture?” Or “What would Jesus do?” assuming we of course take into account our place within the narrative of God.

  • Incidentally, I’d like to raise another idea that Lewis bequethed. The “eternal now” which he used ot describe God’s vantage point in relation to us. Lewis spoke of God as beyond time. It’s as though everything is simultaneous to him. That ought to be of great assistance to those who’ve spent their time problematizing the paradox of God’s sovereignty and our free-will. I would recommend Dr. Richard Land to anyone who’s interested in that application.

  • Moderation in all things, except charity and virtue.

  • 8/18 11:40 – “These days, moderation as a political philosophy isn’t going to work in our society. What we call “conservatism” and “liberalism” prescind from views of human nature that involve radically differing assumptions and are mutually incompatible.”

    Politics have pretty well brought our society beyond the realm of possibilities for moderate activity due to prescinding. How many zeroes in trillion? How can politicians redefine life and God’s place in ours? Moderate charity and moderate virtue led to this outrageous state of affairs, not moderate lawmakers. I guess I was impressed by the graphics of moderates (having a common outlook set apart from the caricatures) in the John Cleese clip, and especially by Ben Franklin happily proclaiming himself an extreme moderate at the time to the ‘boys’ from Massachusetts for what they accomplished.

    A return to being a civilization enriched by holy values, rather than impoverished by outlawing them is due. Extremely civilized debating in government circles minus the bad joking could accomplish something for this nation.

American Swashbuckler: Joshua Barney

Monday, May 10, AD 2010

It is a pity that Errol Flynn during the Golden Age of Hollywood never had the opportunity to do a biopic on Joshua Barney.  Barney’s life was more adventuresome and filled with derring-do than the fictional characters that Flynn portrayed.

The scion of a Catholic Maryland family, Barney was born on July 6, 1759 in Baltimore, one of 14 children.  At 10 he announced to his startled father that he was leaving school.  His father found him a job in a counting shop, but Barney refused to spend his life chained to a desk.  He left his father’s farm at 13 to seek his fortunes on the sea.  He became an apprentice mate on the brig Sydney engaged in the Liverpool trade.  The captain of the brig died suddenly on a voyage  to Europe and  the 14 year old Barney assumed command and successfully completed the voyage.

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One Response to American Swashbuckler: Joshua Barney

Alexander Hamilton's Dying Wish, Holy Communion

Sunday, April 18, AD 2010

Like many intellectual men in Revolutionary America and Western Europe, Alexander Hamilton bought into the Deist ideas of a Creator, but certainly not a Creator who needed a Son to rise from the dead or perform miracles, and certainly not the continuous miracle of the Eucharist. Most leaders of the American Revolution were baptized Anglicans who later in life rarely attended Sunday services, the exception being George Washington.  The first President was the rare exception of a Founding Father who often attended Anglican-Episcopal Services, though he occasionally did leave before Holy Communion, which many intellectuals in the colonies (and most of England) decried as “popery.”

Hamilton was a unique man, who unlike many of the Revolution was not born in the colonies, but in the Caribbean and was born into poverty at that. He was practically an orphan as his father left his mother and she subsequently died from an epidemic. At a young age Hamilton showed so much promise that the residents of Christiansted, St Croix (now the American Virgin Islands) took up a collection to send him to school in New England. As a child, Hamilton excelled at informal learning picking up on what he could from passersby and those who took the time to help him. In August of 1772,  a great hurricane hit the Caribbean. Hamilton wrote about it in such vivid detail that it wound up being published in New York.

It was at this point that the residents of Christiansted answered the local Anglican pastor’s request and enough money was raised to send Hamilton to school in the colonies. While in school, Hamilton would excel and wound up in the Revolutionary Army as a young officer. By the time of Yorktown, General Washington thought enough of the 24 year old to have him lead a charge on one of the redoubts of Yorktown. It was here that the “Young Americans” and their French counterparts on land and sea, overwhelmed the British and the world turned upside down.

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12 Responses to Alexander Hamilton's Dying Wish, Holy Communion

  • Thanks for an excellent and engrossing essay, Dave. There’s always something new to be learned from history, especially when written from a Catholic perspective.

  • Very interesting.

    A few minor points:

    Hamilton is the only non-President on US currency

    Franklin, Sacagawea, Susan B. Anthony, and Salmon Chase.

    Hamilton was a self made man.

    The local community paid for his college education then he married into wealth.

    I disagree with your point about money:

    Hamilton was a strong advocate of agriculture and manufacturing subsidies. Of course the vast majority of people don’t like taxes. But Hamilton and others understood that taxes used for the general welfare were necessary. Those who understand it best often come from disadvantaged childhoods. Hamilton, Obama, Clinton. People from relatively more advantaged backgrounds like the Tea Partiers have a more difficult time comprehending the struggles of the poor.

  • As Thomas DiLorenzo in his book Hamilton’s Curse points out:

    “Hamilton complained to George Washington that “we need a government of more energy” and expressed disgust over “an excessive concern for liberty in public men” like Jefferson. Hamilton “had perhaps the highest respect for government of any important American political thinker who ever lived,” wrote Hamilton biographer Clinton Rossiter.

    Hamilton and his political compatriots, the Federalists, understood that a mercantilist empire is a very bad thing if you are on the paying end, as the colonists were. But if you are on the receiving end, that’s altogether different. It’s good to be the king, as Mel Brooks would say.

    Hamilton was neither the inventor of capitalism in America nor “the prophet of the capitalist revolution in America,” as biographer Ron Chernow ludicrously asserts. He was the instigator of “crony capitalism,” or government primarily for the benefit of the well-connected business class. Far from advocating capitalism, Hamilton was “befogged in the mists of mercantilism” according to the great late nineteenth century sociologist William Graham Sumner.”

    Hamilton the first of the “Rockefeller Republicans” or “Big Government Conservatives.”

  • Sorry for the monetary error Restrained Radical, I mede the necessary correction.

  • Sorry for the monetary error Restrained Radical, I made the necessary correction (it is awful early in the morning!)

  • Far better for the world if Hamilton had stayed in it and Burr, a true blackguard, had departed it.

  • Thanks Dave great stuff as always!

  • Speaking of Hamilton and Burr, the Creative Minority Report posted a funny account that mentions them in response to the news that George Washington, Hamilton and others failed to return library books: http://www.creativeminorityreport.com/2010/04/george-washington-and-i.html

    “Dueling for Dummies”: what a hoot!

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  • Given that Obama’s grandmother was a bank president and he attended a prestigious private school in Hawaii, I have a difficult time seeing his upbringing as “disadvantaged,” unless you wish to argue that simply being of mixed race automatically places one in the ranks of the disadvantaged.

    People from relatively more advantaged backgrounds like the Tea Partiers have a more difficult time comprehending the struggles of the poor.

    My, tea party haters really need to get their memes straight. One day we’re being characterized as ignorant trailer trash, and the next we’re folks with all sorts of advantages and no sympathy for the poor. It might behoove you to simply attend one yourself and take a good look at the country instead of mindlessly repeating whatever the media line du jour is about the tea partiers. When I went to one, the great majority of people struck me as utterly ordinary; neither toothless hicks nor BMW-driving swells.

    I did not know the details of Hamilton’s last hours. Thank you for a very interesting and informative post, Dave.

  • Donna, thank you for your kind words. I think you succinctly described the way critics of Big Government are described in the Mainstream Media. It does appear critics are either described as the toothless characters one saw chasing Ned Beatty in Deliverance, or a modern version of Mr Howell, upset that more taxes are being heeped upon Lovie and him.

    In truth the alternative “Coffee Party,” that the mainstream media seems to smitten with is indeed the new elite. Gone are Mr & Mrs Howell and their Polo Club Membership. Instead the new elite holds Cocktail Party fundraisers in cosmopolitian neighborhoods in spring, or a large Cape Code home in Marth’a Vineyard in the summer. For the Heinz-Kerry Yachting crowd, maybe a little gnosh in Monaco for the fall.

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Ben Franklin and the Turkey

Friday, November 27, AD 2009

 

After the American Revolution, former American officers in that struggle created a fraternal organization called the Society of Cinncinatus, named after the Roman consul and dictator, a constitutional office of the Roman Republic in emergencies, who saved Rome through his efforts in the fifth century BC and then retired to his humble farm.  The Society selected as its symbol a bald eagle.  In a letter to his daughter Sally Bache on January 26, 1784, no doubt with his tongue placed firmly in his cheek, Dr. Franklin indicated that he thought another bird would have been a better choice.

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7 Responses to Ben Franklin and the Turkey

  • We had ham for dinner on Thanksgiving. We are surrounded by turkeys, starting with Congress, all year long.

  • Eagles are magnificent creatures. No wonder the early writers in the OT refer to eagles often.
    The Australian Sea Eagle is, I believe, a close relative of the American Bald Eagle. While living in Oz during the 80’s, I was out fishing with a friend. As we watched, this sea eagle, only about 50 meters away, swooped down and plucked a fish out of the water – not just a little fish, what the Aussies call a southern salmon (not a true salmon) which would have weighed around 12 pounds.
    Beautiful.

  • Oops!

    4th. line – “livivd” should be “living”.
    (maybe I lived in Oz too long) 😉

  • I fixed it for you Don, although I imagine at least once while you were living in Oz you were livid. Most Aussies I’ve known have been fantastic, but a few have been truculent! 🙂

  • Actually Don, it was quite an enjoyable experience. I do have Aussie cousins, and we moved to Wollongong NSW where they lived, to be with people we know, and within weeks had a great circle of Aussie friends – all with young families, as Sandy & I did then. And, of course, I got called “Kiwi” – (hopefully because I epitomised all those manly qualities other nationals expect of us rugged antipodean outdoors men 😉 ) and the name stuck, hence my combox name.
    I did , of course, cop a lot of stick, as is usual with banter between Aussies and Kiwis, and the Aussies can be more outspoken and course than us more genteel people from the islands to the East :-), but I found, give back as much crap as you cop, and you’re respected – otherwise you keep copping it.
    Only had one punch-up, and that was in a game of Touch Rugby – go figure. Had plenty of robust arguments though, being a builder/labour contractor on some of the building sites around Sydney.
    Have many good friends in Oz – haven’t visited for about 5 years now, but each time I have, I’m sure that within a few days, if I moved back, everything would be the same.
    But I’m not moving – Tauranga, NZ is home and I’ll be buried here; though after, I hope, many more travels.

  • While I agree that he may have been saying it a bit tongue in cheek, he got it right. Given the turkeys in DC (& at lower levels of government as well), the turkey would have been a better symbol.

    PS 1776 is my favorite all time movie.

  • Do you remember the opening game of the World Series in 2001? It was less than a month after 9/11. A beautiful bald eagle soared over the Stadium during the opening ceremony. My eyes misted over and I got a lump in my throat. I’m sure millions of Americans had the same reaction.

    Sorry, Ben, but a turkey running across the field just would not have had the same effect.