Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Benjamin Franklin :Topic 6 : Blog 1970 : Blog 4348 : Blog 4349 : Blog 3771 :
A collection of Benjamin Franklin tidbits that relate Philadelphia's revolutionary prelate to his movi ng around the city, the colonies, and the worldBlog 2331: Blog 4349: Topic 6 :

Articles of Confederation
The Articles of Confederation were written by John Dickinson, modified by others. Officially unratified for five years, the country was ruled under them in Philadelphia, for thirteen. They taught many lessons, which we sometimes forget we had experienced.

Haddonfield (all 36) volume 38
Indian King Tavern Haddonfield is a bit of a secret. It's Philadelphia's "Main Line, East"

Westphalia: Church Politics Adjusts Boundaries, Then Everything Changes
In 1648, the Treaty of Westphalia created the modern nation-state.

A Minor Politician
In 2013 I ran for the New Jersey Assembly, unsuccessfully. Daughter Miriam was my campaign Manager. I learned a lot from the experience. For example, I had 700,000 constituents. Maybe I shook hands with a couple hundred.

Prohibitory Act of the British Parliament -- 1775
This is the British Act which started the Revolutionary War. The two Legislative bodies should have known better than to react in haste, but the British Parliament in London and its opponent the Continental Congress in Philadelphia -- started a Revolutionary War. Apparently Lord North issued a Prohibitory Act and John Adams responded to it, but the real hotheads were Charles Townsend and William Bradford. Everybody involved thought Independence was an improbable outcome.

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Boundary Disputes Before 1776 : New Blog 2334 Set by King or his courts.: Blog 2334 ; Topic 703 :

{4 Corners of Pennsylvania}
Four Corners of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania always had its best lawyer in William Penn. Until 1776, the boundaries between the American colonies were settled in London, either by the King or the British courts.: After 1787, disputes over boundaries were settled in the United States Federal Courts, acting under Section III brieflyof the Constitution. Generally speaking, boundaries were originally created by treaties, Kings, and briefly by Congress. Boundary disputes were then settled in the courts, first in England, and briefly in Federal Courts. Between 1776 and 1787, however, the Articles of Confederation governed. The immediate problem was that the Articles were not finally ratified until 1781. A technical problem was that surveying instruments were improving during this period. The judicial problem was that a body of law was evolving about when to use the deepest channel of a river or when to use the half-way point between the two banks of a river, and whether to use just one bank of the river or the other. The political problem was that major immigration made everyone less care-free about boundaries of the land which were steadily growing more valuable. The American period under the Articles of Confederation were just one big argument about state borders.

A century earlier, when British kings were handing out charters to those adventurous enough to accept them, there was plenty of cheap land if someone could defend it. The common approach to granting charters was to pick two points along the Atlantic, and from there to extend lines westward as far as they could go. When the lines bumped into lines given to other colonies, there were countless lawsuits and occasionally little wars.

Only the three Quaker colonies of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware were formed late enough in the colonial period to enjoy practical ways even to define a western border. Virginia, the largest colony, officially extended itself to include what is now Kentucky and West Virginia, and had reasonably defensible claims to all the land of the Northwest Territory, on the western side of the defined Pennsylvania western border, all the way north to the Great Lakes. When the Indians finally woke up to what was happening, they rebelled under the leadership of Pontiac and Tecumseh and were helped in their massacres of white settlers by the French, later by the British.

Peaceful rectangular Pennsylvania experienced armed nibbles at each of its four corners; from Maryland in the southeast, Virginia in the southwest, Connecticut in the northeast. On its northwestern corner, Pennsylvania had the award of the Erie connection to the Great Lakes to settle an overlapping conflict between Connecticut and New York.

The Articles of Confederation, composed mostly with common defense against England in mind, were deliberately inadequate to govern disputes between allies within the revolters. Discovering remarkable subsidence of such disputes after the installation of the Constitution, this might well have become a major reason for replacing the Articles of Confederation if it had been foreseen. But that was scarcely the case. The American colonists simply had no idea the Union would make such disputes immediately seem trivial if still remaining fairly numerous. When the advantages of peaceful unification are considered by other nations on other continents, consideration really should highlight the sense of delight America felt at the discovery of this unexpected bounty. At a minimum, it helped us ignore the many fumbles we also experienced.

William B. Willcox, the editor of volume 22 of Yale's collected works of Benjamin Franklin, prefaces that 706-page book about Franklin's pre-Revolution activities with a long essay of his own. In it he attributes Franklin's frenzy to his early perception that war with England was inevitable, while it is equally arguable that failure to mention it (and land speculation) was due to the secrecy he learned as Grand Master of the Masons. Certainly George Washington was a Mason, Mozart was a Mason, and Franklin frequently used this wide and powerful association to advance his friendships with people far above a printer's social status. And yet neither mentions freemasonry. The index to this collected work about it, although 47 pages long, makes no mention of Masons (or related phrasings), in spite of Grand Master Franklin's portrait hanging next to the portrait of Washington in the Masonic Temple of Philadelphia. Franklin's strange silence may well prove the insignificance of the matter, while freemasonry might just as well be regarded as proof of exaggerated secrecy, and the undeniable land wealth of his estate as proof of land speculation. "Poor Richard" indeed. He died one of the richest landholders in America. To cite a later editor who says, "Franklin is always straight in what he says, he just doesn't tell us everything".

Originally published: Thursday, August 30, 2012; most-recently modified: Thursday, September 24, 2020


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