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Benjamin Franklin is FAT!!!1 :ROFL:
January 5, 2006 7:58 AM   Subscribe

The War on Franklin (Orig. from the NYTimes). It's only fitting as we approach the tercentennial of the birth of the First American, Benjamin Franklin, that there is an ongoing debate as to whether we should "sacrifice essential liberties for a little temporary safety" and if we deserve either. To be sure, Franklin is likely the seminal Colonial American, who's philosophy, inventions, self-determination, self-improvement, entrepeneurship, and witicisms underpin most elements of modern American society, politics, and culture, as well as having edited our founding document, the Declaration of Independence. But Franklin the man was also self-involved, a neglectful spouse and parent, and (likely) a serial philanderer, as well as having never held elected office. (History erases many of the sins of the Foundering Fathers). Surely increasing criticism of both the man and his relavency is soon to follow. Perhaps we can all strive to emulate Franklin's greatest skill - the art of compromise.
posted by rzklkng (75 comments total)

 
Diclaimer: I'm a Philadelphian, upenn, etc.
posted by rzklkng at 8:00 AM on January 5, 2006


Oh god, not a philanderer!?!?!?!?/1/111one
posted by Paris Hilton at 8:00 AM on January 5, 2006


And as I just heard on the radio yesterday, he's now a shill for Freemasonry recruiting as well.
posted by genefinder at 8:12 AM on January 5, 2006


And the next person that quotes Ben Franklin’s warning about security and liberty is going to get a pie in the face – or my boot up their ass. Ben Franklin didn’t have to worry about a goddamn nuclear weapon going off in Philadelphia while he was romping between the sheets with some harlot. He could afford to be smug. We can’t.

I find it amusing - and a bit paradoxical - that when the Soviet Union had tens of thousands of megaton ICBMs pointed at the United States, no one was ready to trade security for liberty.

Yet the exceedingly remote threat that some "terrorist" might get lucky enough to explode one crude device in Philadelphia (which could use a good bombing) is excuse to exchange any liberty for the perception of security.
posted by three blind mice at 8:13 AM on January 5, 2006


Sounds like a great guy, we should elect someone like him president.
posted by Balisong at 8:13 AM on January 5, 2006


The history house link hurt my head until I realized it wasn't clever.
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:19 AM on January 5, 2006


Oh god, not a philanderer!?!?!?!?/1/111one
posted by Paris Hilton at 11:00 AM EST on January 5


I haven't laughed that hard in.. er.. hours.
posted by Plutor at 8:20 AM on January 5, 2006


And as I just heard on the radio yesterday, he's now a shill for Freemasonry recruiting as well.

Correction: Freemasons don't recruit.

(Which is not to say Masons aren't demonstrably proud to count Ben Franklin, George Washington, John Paul Jones, John Hancock, Paul Revere, John Marshall, the Marquis de Lafayette and other heroes of early America among it's members, they are, and justifiably so.)

But recruiting? No. To be one, ask one.

posted by edverb at 8:22 AM on January 5, 2006


JOHN ADAMS: I'll not appear in the history books anyway, only you. "Franklin did this, and Franklin did that, and Franklin did some other damned thing. Franklin smote the ground, and out sprang: George Washington, fully grown and on his horse. Franklin then electrified him with his miraculous lightning rod, and the three of them -- Franklin, Washington, and the horse -- conducted the entire Revolution all by themselves."

BEN FRANKLIN: [contemplative pause] I like it.

-- 1776
posted by Gator at 8:24 AM on January 5, 2006


Franklin was a complex character who sometimes came up a bit short in the personal virtue department, once commenting, "That hard-to-be-governed passion of youth had hurried me frequently into intrigues with low women that fell in my way." When he married, another woman was already pregnant with his child--a son he took into his home and had his wife raise.

The First American is a great book on Franklin. If anyone was or ever will be American, it is Ben. He was an innovator, a thinker, a playboy, an philosopher, an ambassador and someone the likes of which we'll never see again.
posted by AspectRatio at 8:24 AM on January 5, 2006


Putting aside whether Franklin was the source of the quote or not, the now-cliched liberty/security quote is thrown about without a full understanding of it with such frequency that it is now ruined.

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

As a simple tool in textual construction, the quotation is not critical of giving up non-essential liberties in any regard, nor is it critical of giving up essential liberty for permanent safety. The quote does not say that "those who give up any liberty in a fools hope for security, don't deserve either"---but that is how it is vapidly and unthinkingly used. It is thrown about when people suggest things like if they aren't allowed to use the subway unfrisked, they don't deserve safety--as if using public transportation is an essential liberty.

The proper modifiers are too often ignored, and that phrase has become a meaningless cliche in modern dialogue.
posted by dios at 8:25 AM on January 5, 2006


I'm gonna go downtown and kick the crap out of every 300 lb. tri-corner hat wearing Ben Franklin impersonator that I see. I think I might be suffering from tricentenial overload and that will be my defense.
posted by fixedgear at 8:25 AM on January 5, 2006


dios, I read that without scrolling down and immediately knew it was an administration apologist you.
posted by rzklkng at 8:27 AM on January 5, 2006


thrown about without a full understanding of it with such frequency that it is now ruined

Bullshit. I so ruined the pledge of allegiance in grade school.

Wooo this story smells like O Reilly and Bush just had sex.

And it ain't smell good.
posted by nervousfritz at 8:28 AM on January 5, 2006


And, dios, much like the Constitution, Franklin's is a flexible philosophy. As this nation has progressed, our liberties have grown - surrendering them to a boogieman is not a "plan for victory", rather it is the hallmark of weaklings who long for a strong daddy.
posted by rzklkng at 8:32 AM on January 5, 2006


Ben's philandering did not begin, I believe, till he was outsourced to France, where such things, as unAmerican as they are, always at hand. He did have an illegitiate son, so that makes him very contemporary, but then Tommy Jefferson also spread his DNA outside his marriage.
posted by Postroad at 8:33 AM on January 5, 2006


dios, I read that without scrolling down and immediately knew it was an administration apologist you.

Congratulations.
posted by Witty at 8:33 AM on January 5, 2006


My ancestors were German printers in Philadelphia. Franklin did his best to put them out of business by refusing to unlock his hold on the colonial paper supply (he was the first notable vertically-integrated media entrepreneur in North America). He even tried to put out his own German-language newspaper, but the Germans he paid to edit it were apparently borderline illiterate, so it didn't go so well.

He was, first and foremost, an entrepreneur, and most of his public statements and activities should be read and understood within that context. I'm afraid I can't forgive him for his slights against my family -- so maybe, I'm a little biased.
posted by Parlour Tricks at 8:35 AM on January 5, 2006


The proper modifiers are too often ignored, and that phrase has become a meaningless cliche in modern dialogue.

I dunno. When it's quoted without without the modifiers, it invariably serves to identify the 14-year-old libertarian fanboys pretty quickly, which saves some time.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:35 AM on January 5, 2006


stop derailing the thead ...
unless of course that what everyobody wants

the quote is still valid, since the current debate is over ESSENTIAL Liberties, and whether those liberties will only be given up TEMPORARILY

smacks self for continuing to derail thread</small
posted by forforf at 8:36 AM on January 5, 2006


grrr ... and smacks self again for bad html skills
posted by forforf at 8:36 AM on January 5, 2006


Can we afford the Constitutional absolutist position on these things?

A strange proposition, given the fact that in any constitutional republic the Constitution is the absolute law. There absolutely nothing above it. There are no loopholes or exceptions when the constitution says something must or must not be so.

Your high falutin sense of the Constitution will be meaningless in the face of tens of thousands of dead and the country in shambles.

Where we learn that the right is more than willing to trade not only liberty but the whole democracy concept and the law for some tens of thousands of dead. It's all it takes, someone kills some people and the Constitution is rendered meaningless.
posted by nkyad at 8:36 AM on January 5, 2006


It is thrown about when people suggest things like if they aren't allowed to use the subway unfrisked, they don't deserve safety--as if using public transportation is an essential liberty.

While we still have a first amendment, I'd just like to point out that you're a fascist and an apologist.
posted by Rothko at 8:37 AM on January 5, 2006


Anyone who is a friend of Caslon Antiqua is a friend of mine.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:42 AM on January 5, 2006


Rothko : "While we still have a first amendment, I'd just like to point out that you're a fascist and an apologist."

Rothko, is it really necessary to derail any thread where dios post, regarless what he says?
I know it should be Meta, but I refrain from going Meta over one single comment if it can be avoided
posted by nkyad at 8:43 AM on January 5, 2006


Quick, everyone get out of the thread! It's derailing!
posted by geoff. at 9:09 AM on January 5, 2006


I like the counterpoint nkyad. It's good to see both sides, and where their seams start to split.
posted by parallax7d at 9:11 AM on January 5, 2006


Dios is correct in remembering that there are essential and NOT essential liberties, temporary and not temporary safeties. It follows logically that there are also those who wouldn't give up any liberty for any safety and those who would give up any liberty for any safety. The quote does NOT say that the former are better then the latter, but strongly suggest that the latter don't deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Therefore it is necessary to determine inequivocably what is an essential liberty and what constitutes a temporary safety, as we can't just afford to give up any freedom for any safety..that's Benjamin Franklin opinion in my respected opinion.

Evidently using public transportation, the freedom of ... depends on what one considers to be an essential freedom. Certainly there are occasions in which being free to use it could become a matter of life or death, for instance a citizen chasing a terrorist would need this freedom to reach the terrorist before the bomb explodes !

Therefore, given that we don't know when terrorist could strike, public transportation is a necessary freedom. We certainly can't afford to expect the bomb to explode, we must pre-empt this by increasing the freedom of anybody to use public transportation at any give time.
posted by elpapacito at 9:17 AM on January 5, 2006


good god, we don't have enough stuff currently to get pissed about? Let's dig up some dead people too. Hey! I hear Hitler [GODWIN!!!] was gay, let's have a fun discussion on that shall we?

jumping jesus christ on a pogo stick.

-everyone has faults- Washington, Clinton, Taft, Sanger, Martin Luther King jr... etc. Can we learn from the good parts and set aside the bad parts? Do we need revisionist history on someone that has been dead for this long?


and a little unsolicited advice, responding to a libertarian authoritarian is a fruitless pursuit.
posted by edgeways at 9:19 AM on January 5, 2006


Please tell me the historyhouse link info is a complete and utter fabrication.

I could not locate any of the source material linked to - I'm thinking it is like 'the onion' of pop history?
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:20 AM on January 5, 2006


Interesting how Franklin's reputation rises and falls over the decades. For the some on the right, this deistic, philandering, internationalist, and abolitionist lover of potty jokes is a very uncomfortable Founding Father. I wonder if his current popular resurgence points to a change in our politics?
posted by LarryC at 9:21 AM on January 5, 2006


Balrog, note the date on the History House link.
posted by LarryC at 9:24 AM on January 5, 2006


I find it amusing - and a bit paradoxical - that when the Soviet Union had tens of thousands of megaton ICBMs pointed at the United States, no one was ready to trade security for liberty.

tbm, your memory is faulty, or too short. Debate raged through the forties, fifties, sixties and seventies over this issue. It is one of the fundamental 'problems of democracy'. Every society must come up with a trade-off of liberty vs. security that most of that society's members feel comfortable with. Probably no two nations will arrive at quite the same mix of these two values.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:27 AM on January 5, 2006


I'd just like to point out that you're a fascist and an apologist.

You sure do have a hardon for dios, but to call him a fascist is to dilute the word of any meaning.
posted by me & my monkey at 9:30 AM on January 5, 2006


*facepalm*
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:31 AM on January 5, 2006


He's a something libesomethingian!

I can't remember the exact details.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:36 AM on January 5, 2006


I'd just like to point out that you're a fascist and an apologist.

No, he is, just like almost every other neo-con supporter, a coward. He wants to destroy the freedom of this country because A TERRORIST MIGHT HURT HIM! WAAA! TERROR! WAAAA!.

The neo-cons in power are just using the excuse, but there's a reason they keep screaming TERROR. They know that the moment people stop being afraid, thier bullshit policies become unsustainable. They need fear.

If we were really trying to save lives, we'd be working on stopping the things that kill the most people. Terrorism is *so far* from the top ten that it isn't even worth thinking about.

Alas, this country is full of rank cowards who live in deathly fear that THE MUSLIMS WILL KILL THEM.

And cowards like Dios keep quaking. Remember that every time you see him spout off -- he's saying it, because his every waking moment is full of fear.
posted by eriko at 9:38 AM on January 5, 2006


I find it amusing - and a bit paradoxical - that when the Soviet Union had tens of thousands of megaton ICBMs pointed at the United States, no one was ready to trade security for liberty.

Really?

"Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?"

Loyalty oaths

COINTELPRO

Why we have FISA
posted by me & my monkey at 9:38 AM on January 5, 2006


Watch out, eriko. You said "neo-con." That means you hate the Jews.
posted by brundlefly at 9:47 AM on January 5, 2006


Sorry guys, but I'm a facist. Really sorry, honest.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:48 AM on January 5, 2006


As a simple tool in textual construction, the quotation is not critical of giving up non-essential liberties in any regard, nor is it critical of giving up essential liberty for permanent safety.

Similarly, "I have a dream" does not imply that anyone else should have one, or suggest that it should be fulfilled.

Dios: The simple tool in textual construction.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:03 AM on January 5, 2006


as well as having never held elected office

O-freakin'-NOES.

I can see how some people would find aspects of Franklin's lifestyle objectionable or at least unsuitable for rolemodelry, but that complaint isn't making much sense to me. Why on earth is not holding elected office a "sin of the Founding Fathers"?
posted by mendel at 10:06 AM on January 5, 2006


I'm scared of eriko.
posted by Witty at 10:10 AM on January 5, 2006


"Benjamin Franklin, the only President of the United States who was never President of the United States" - Firesign Theatre
posted by tommasz at 10:17 AM on January 5, 2006


You sure do have a hardon for dios, but to call him a fascist is to dilute the word of any meaning.

That's because he's not an essential fascist.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 10:23 AM on January 5, 2006


eriko, exactly. These links must have been missed.
posted by rzklkng at 10:56 AM on January 5, 2006


mendel, that's the bitch about appointed judges, that they weren't elected by the people. I'm just stretching for the most likely "talking points" against Franklin.
posted by rzklkng at 10:57 AM on January 5, 2006


In the US, Ben Franklin is more influential than Jesus. God helps them that help themselves.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:07 AM on January 5, 2006


That's because he's not an essential fascist.

Essentially.
posted by Rothko at 11:12 AM on January 5, 2006


cogent posts me & my monkey. But there was a different, albeit as paranoid, attitude in the cold war than in the war on terrr.
Paranoia has always been one of the hallmarks of American politics. Typically it’s been xenophobic rather than self-doubting/hating though. Joe Middleclass tended to get upset when the finger was pointed his way. Now, not so much.

Franklin seemed to be as much a ball-buster as most extroverted geniuses.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:25 AM on January 5, 2006


"When I went to France with Silas Deane and Dr. Arthur Lee to negotiate a French-American alliance for the war, the mission involved more than diplomacy. We gathered intelligence, distributed propaganda, coordinated aid from America's secret allies, and recruited new people to the cause. I also had my share of counterintelligence woes when I discovered that several of my employees, including a secretary and a courier, were British agents"

-from CIA kids homepage
posted by clavdivs at 12:21 PM on January 5, 2006


Those who would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

Dios: If F was discerning between essential and non-essential liberties - surely he would have referred to liberties in the plural. He uses the indefinite article 'a' when referring to 'a little temporary Safety' so clearly he is capable of using discrete units. Thus, when he refers to Liberty he more likely means ones' Liberty, not the individual liberties one possesses.
posted by Sparx at 12:29 PM on January 5, 2006


"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing."
Benjamin Franklin
posted by blue_beetle at 12:43 PM on January 5, 2006


Sparx, that interpretation doesn't hold due to the clause at the end. You seem to be arguing that he was referring to all Liberty, without One doesn't specifically modify the term Liberty with the term Essential, and then refer to it in its generic form unless one wants the modifier to mean something. Essential liberty is intended to be something very definite; the quote was not referring to non-essential liberty or liberty in its entirety. It really is a simplistic interpretive matter. And if one properly understands the context of the quote, one can see that.

FYI, here is the original print:

posted by dios at 12:50 PM on January 5, 2006


But Franklin the man was also self-involved, a neglectful spouse and parent, and (likely) a serial philanderer

Sure, he probably was, but that statement just rings of pious, ivory tower, politically correct revisionist history. The bloke lived in the mid-to-late 18th Century! Judging him in the context of 2006 just strikes me as academically dishonest. It's really not much different than what the Stalinist did when they re-wrote their history books to suit the Communist vision. In Colonial America marriage and children were economic relationships more than the touch-feely nurturefest that spares a parent today from being called "neglectful." And whatever else, Franklin's family was economically well-cared for. Now, perhaps he was even considered neglectful by the standards and context of his age - I don't know - but this "rejudgement" always strikes me as something coming from a clueless grad student searching to invent a new thesis topic.
posted by sixdifferentways at 12:50 PM on January 5, 2006


That second sentence should be "You seem to be arguing that he was referring to all Liberty without modification or limitation.
posted by dios at 12:51 PM on January 5, 2006


I take your point, but I'm not convinced. For a start, the man was pithy - and it reads better without unecessary repetition. But what makes more sense is that Essential and Temporary are juxtaposed against each other - not against their later, simpler forms. I think that's at least as valid an interpretation, and probably moreso, seeing as, I mentioned above, liberty is always referred to in the singular.
posted by Sparx at 1:08 PM on January 5, 2006


That's fucking ridiculous. It's a piece of rhetoric. Franklin isn't going to place "essential" in front of "liberty" each time to defend himself from idiot lawyers centuries in the future from parsing his statement to oblivion if it would diminish the force of the sentence in the present! You're also supposing there's such a thing as "permanent safety," so the word "temporary" somehow becomes a useful distinction. Even if you're dumb enough to believe such a thing, as you seem to be this week, you'd have to get us to believe that Franklin could have believed such a thing as well.

Without that distinction being operative, the force of the parallel structure of the sentence is that temporary -> intrinsic quality of safety, and essential -> intrinsic quality of liberty.
posted by furiousthought at 1:12 PM on January 5, 2006


This could all be moot anyway: from the site Dios got the picture from...

"I also purchased the 10 volume Collected Works of Franklin edited by Jared Sparks, published in 1840. In volume VII there is a letter that Franklin wrote to his friend David Hume 27 September, 1760, in which he says, in response to Hume's praise of the Historical Review, that it was "not written by me, nor any part of it," except for one small section and some of the text attributed to the Assembly when he was serving there. Sparks adds a page long footnote detailing who supported the contention that Franklin was the author, and concludes that it was published under Franklin's direction and with his approval. In his autobiography, Franklin says that he was the publisher. It is now believed that Richard Jackson was the author, with Franklin doing some tweaking."

But anyhow - yes, considering the quote stands alone on the title page of a book I do think it's quite possible that the author (whomsoever that might be) was talking of liberty as a platonic form kind of thing. Epigrams often do. And it makes the contrast with 'a little tempory safety' that much stronger.
posted by Sparx at 1:14 PM on January 5, 2006


One of my pet theories about American lit. is that much of it is ruined by being inflicted on high school students. Walden, Emerson's best essays, and Franklin's autobiography (my personal triumvirate) don't really translate to teens who more than likely still live at home and haven't had first-person experience with self-fashioning--a job, a career, a sense that one can do a lot to shape himself or herself in any manner one chooses.

Franklin is just so great on many levels--pithy and sharp in his sentences and aphorisms, but often underappreciated for some of his larger metaphors. Yes, he was an adulterer, and yes, he did a lot of bad things (condemning his bastard son, the governor of NJ at the time, probably being the thing he felt most guilty for), but long before the concept of "relativistic morality" existed, Franklin invented it. His primary metaphor for life is that it's a book, and any good book needs to be edited for clarity. He very much champions the philosophy of do as I say, not as I do, but then again--he built libraries and fire stations, invented hundreds of useful things, achieved amazing feats of statecraft, etc. Basically, he was smart enough to exploit everyone around him, but he practiced a public virtue (that was hardly Platonic, but improved the lives of those around him, with the exception of his bastard children and his mistresses).

He's often taught as a moralistic bore, but this reading totally misses his point--his 13th and final moral statement, on humility, is "Imitate Jesus and Socrates." Pure genius.

And for those apologists trying to twist his statement on "essential liberty"--get fucked. You're exactly the type of twits Franklin spent his life mocking and getting the better of.
posted by bardic at 1:33 PM on January 5, 2006


My favorite moment from the autobiography is early on, when he's a pious vegetarian (a strange bird at the time) and succumbs to hunger pains. He's on a boat, and someone catches and guts a fish. Inside the fish are a number of smaller fishes, so Franklin decides that it's only natural to eat other animals. He writes:

But I had formerly been a great Lover of Fish, & when this came hot out of the Frying Pan, it smelt admirably well. I balanc'd some time between Principle & inclination: till I recollected, that when the Fish were opened, I saw smaller Fish taken out of their Stomachs:--Then, thought I, if you eat one another, I don't see why we mayn't eat you. So I din'd upon Cod very heartily and continu'd to eat with other People, returning only now & then occasionally to a vegetable Diet. So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable Creature, since it enables one to find or make a Reason for every thing one has a mind to do.--"
posted by bardic at 1:40 PM on January 5, 2006


First of all, Franklin didn't write it. In fact, he specifically disavowed writing it. Couple that with the fact that Franklin was a big proponent for Constitutional structure---which was considered counter-libertarian at the time because it took power out of local politics and placed it in a strong national government---and that the quote proceed that position by Franklin, we can safely assume that he himself didn't agree with it, especially in its current absolutist libertarian connotation.

Second of all, it is from a letter that had a particular purpose. The letter was a propaganda piece written by Richard Jackson. This was during the time that there was conflict in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania had political struggles between the King of England, the government of Pennsylvania, and the proprietary estate class (such as the Penn family) for power and influence. The groups disagreed and would throw about their power of the purse in different manners. The specific problem was that the French were arming Indians to fight colonists. Pennsylvania colonists wanted to arm fellow Indians to fight those French-sympathizing Indians. The proprietary estates wanted to prevent that. Franklin and his cohorts petitioned the King to make Pennsylvania a royal government instead of a proprietary one to limit the power of the estates like Wm. Penn's. The Penn's refused to pay the defense tax because they were pacifists (Quakers). The entire letter is written from the point of view that Pennsylvanians have suffered under the abuse of the Penn's and that they need to be "free" from them by having a royal government. Thus, they wanted to subject themselves to more control by the King and not the proprietary influence of the Penn's.

Third, the natural language suggests there are difference between Essential Liberty and something else and between "purchasing a little temporary safety" and some other alternative. It doesn't speak in absolutes or generics in the initial clause, and doesn't suggest that it is an either/or proposition.

Now take this into consideration and ask yourself: was the comment meant to assume that freedom and security are naturally inapposite and that one must always side on the side that maximizes liberty? I think not. The average interpretation of this language wouldn't be consistent with the document with which it was derived.
posted by dios at 1:43 PM on January 5, 2006


I'm still reeling from the fact that everything I learned off that history house website is a complete fabrication.

I have to carefully tweeze all this new, false information out of my brain.

curses.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:45 PM on January 5, 2006


Then of course, there is this little factoid:

Our founding father, Benjamin Franklin
Was famous for his love of spanklin'
He spankled schoolgirls, forty score
Then turned and spankled forty-one
So those who love flogging had best be a thanklin'
Our founding father, Benjamin Franklin.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:25 PM on January 5, 2006


the natural language suggests there are difference between Essential Liberty and something else and between "purchasing a little temporary safety" and some other alternative.

Actually - no it doesn't. Look at the typography. It's ESSENTIAL LIBERTY and TEMPORARY SAFETY. The very setting of the type - something Franklin almost certainly was involved with, identifies them as related in the sentence, in this case by the contrast between essentiallity and emphemerality. Adding separate entities with very similar names is not the 'natural language' interpretation at all and seems way too much of an agenda serving stretch. On the other hand, the argument that handing over one's very freedom for a potentially temporally limited advantage is the height of foolishness is both very forceful and relevent to the history you described, in the sense of freedom of determination.

But I think we both understand each other's positions now, so I'll say it's been fun and move on.
posted by Sparx at 3:20 PM on January 5, 2006


Dios, are you high? You take the time to clarify a the correct quote by Franklin, only to debunk it later on. Did you just find that information? Seriously, I know its easy to pile on Dios these days, but what, honestly, is going through your head?
posted by [insert clever name here] at 5:09 PM on January 5, 2006


(Long-winded warning.)

On a recent trip to Philadelphia, I had an opportunity in the evening to walk down and see Franklin's homesite; then, slightly further on, his grave. Surprisingly humble: a simple low crypt, with minimal type and democratically close to the iron cemetery gates. What really moved me, however, was a few placed pennies and scattered flowers that visitors have left there — Franklin's tomb has become an American shrine.

I consider Benjamin Franklin to be in the same native category as Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali (and a very few etc.'s), who although certainly flawed and all-too human, demanded of themselves and their times the absolute liberty to create their own destiny as individuals. Nothing secure about that; you'll face dangers within and without pursuing such a restless blazon through the daily battlefields.

Define Franklin by a single line or clause? No superior exegetical position exists to allow for that degree of simplification, a diminished perspective to consider everything he achieved or ever attempted to achieve in his life. Better to consider what a Franklin would have done or said in your own times, and adjudge these times, and yourself, accordingly.
posted by Haruspex at 7:00 PM on January 5, 2006


there are those while will for fact, and there are those who will for want.

quaint, yeah, but the fundamental remains who those who elect to participate in discouse...

i want much, and tempatation is plenty to void arguments for the sake of want
posted by jungturk at 7:57 PM on January 5, 2006


gah, my grammar dimishes as function of me intake...
hopefully the point stands, notwithstanding.
posted by jungturk at 7:59 PM on January 5, 2006


All one has to do is read the prolific quotations of Franklin to understand that he spoke quite succinctly. The man intentionally spoke to be understood by a wide audience. He wrote Poor Richard's Almanac for crying out loud! He was charming and charismatic, and chose his words carefully.

Obviously the man did not beat around the Bush. He wasn't a member of the Bush Administration which takes plausible deniability to grand new heights. IMHO, if he said Essential Liberty, he meant that liberty itself is essential. I also believe that he meant that there was no such thing as security, temporary or otherwise. Being free means not being secure in and of itself. As I said this is IMHO!
posted by SweetIceT at 9:02 PM on January 5, 2006


Hm. The history of that quote really is entertainingly muddy. It would be interesting to read the letter by Richard Jackson for the original context of the sentence. In a sense, it doesn't matter, because the quote obviously transcended its source very quickly if Franklin denied having written it in his lifetime. And revolutionaries certainly wouldn't use it to refer back to a letter begging the king for aid as holy writ! I'm more curious about the meme, since the sentiment pops up all over the place in different forms with different authors.

as far as:

was the comment meant to assume that freedom and security are naturally inapposite and that one must always side on the side that maximizes liberty?

Eh, I don't believe liberty and security are naturally inapposite myself and I don't think the quote makes such claims either. However, it obviously demands that liberty be maximized when the two are opposed. Why write the second half otherwise? If Franklin Jackson had meant to say, "When trading Liberty for Security, take Care that the Liberty lost be Inessential and the Security gained Worthwhile," that's what they would have said.
posted by furiousthought at 10:45 PM on January 5, 2006


Dios, since we have no way to ascertain whether Franklin did or did not right it, it has no baring on the accuracy and relavence of the comment.

Using some conjecture, from the clavdivs excerpt from "CIA 4 Kids", we see that Franklin engaged in some subterfuge whilst in London, including the production of propaganda. Also, via Richard Minsky:
"I had to spend $1,000.00 to get a copy of the First Edition, which was published anonymously in London, 1759. The quote is on the title page. It is excerpted from a letter from the Assembly to the Governor of Pennsylvania in 1755. The book was produced as propaganda when Franklin was in London petitioning the King to get the heirs of Wm Penn to give the colonists money to buy guns for the Indians so they could defend them against the Indians that the French were arming. "
Although it's quite typical from the cowardly, quivering piles of jelly we call the modern conservative to focus on parsing and semantics, lets focus more on the "spirit" of the quote, as opposed to the "letters".
Franklin's stature and reputation would not be best served as being attached to such "propaganda". It would certainly make sense, given his prolific use of pseudonyms and characters to make such as statement in a voice other than his own.

The entire American Revolution was based on claims of taxation without representation, with the taxes being levied by the crown being justified as keeping the colonies safe for their own good. If you can't find a modern metaphor in that, you should surrender your cerebral cortex.
posted by rzklkng at 6:13 AM on January 6, 2006


Furthermore, Franklin's disavowal of the quote was in 1760, where he, if I recall correctly, was still somewhat respectful of the crown. Neither his nor America's cause would have been helped by attributing HIM to such a statement.
posted by rzklkng at 6:33 AM on January 6, 2006


Dios, since we have no way to ascertain whether Franklin did or did not right it, it has no baring on the accuracy and relavence of the comment.

Well, we have the original source material, and we know that Franklin didn't write that (he was in England at the time). We know that Robert Jackson wrote it the propoganda piece in an intentionally over-the-top and aggresive style in an attempt to persuade people to his cause.

We have a personal disavowal of writing it by Franklin in a personal and private correspondence with David Hume; not sure why we would feel compelled to lie in a personal correspondence with a friend.

We have actions by Franklin which are directly in conflict with the sentiment behind the line.

I don't know how much evidence you need to decide he didn't write it. Insofar as we have these facts above, it seems the preponderance of the evidence suggests he didn't. The only thing you have on the other side are some incorrect attributions.

Dios, are you high? You take the time to clarify a the correct quote by Franklin, only to debunk it later on. Did you just find that information? Seriously, I know its easy to pile on Dios these days, but what, honestly, is going through your head?
posted by [insert clever name here] at 7:09 PM CST on January 5


Some of you assholes are too interested in trying to poke me with a stick and don't actually bother reading what I wrote. In the very first sentence in the first comment I wrote in this thread, I said "Putting aside whether Franklin was the source of the quote or not..." I acknowledged at the outset that the attribution to Franklin is in dispute. I didn't address it there because I wanted to address the quote on its own terms (which I did). It wasn't till it became relavent later as to the context of its creation that I decided to take the time to explain the source in an effort to shed light on why it existed in the first instance. If you are greatly confused by this train of thought, then I submit you are just looking to find something to kvetch about.
posted by dios at 7:18 AM on January 6, 2006


Some of you assholes...

Class act, that.
posted by Haruspex at 6:23 PM on January 6, 2006


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