Philadelphia Reflections

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

9 Volumes

Revolutionary War Era
The shot heard 'round the world.

Constitutional Era
American history between the Revolution and the approach of the Civil War, was dominated by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. Background rumbling was from the French Revolution. The War of 1812 was merely an embarrassment.

Colonial Times
More than half of American history took place before 1776, but after 1492. For Philadelphia, Colonial history lasted about a century.

Colonial Days
More than half of American history took place before 1776, but after 1492. For Philadelphia, the Colonial period lasted about a century.

Philadephia: America's Capital, 1774-1800
The Continental Congress met in Philadelphia from 1774 to 1788. Next, the new republic had its capital here from 1790 to 1800. Thoroughly Quaker Philadelphia was in the center of the founding twenty-five years when, and where, the enduring political institutions of America emerged.

History: Philadelphia and the Quaker Colonies
Philadelphia and the Quaker Colonies

Quaker Philadelphia 1683-1776
New volume 2012-11-21 17:33:18 description

Pre-Revolutionary Ben Franklin
Poor Richard was able to retire at the age of 42, and spent the rest of his life as a rich man, dying at the age of 82 with an eye-popping estate.


Benjamin Franklin

A collection of Benjamin Franklin tidbits that relate Philadelphia's revolutionary prelate to his moving around the city, the colonies, and the world.


Benjamin Franklin: An American Life Walter Isaacson ISBN-10: 0684807610 Amazon
Benjamin Franklin: Some Account of the Pennsylvania Hospital Professor I. Bernard Cohen Library Number:54-11251 Amazon
Benjamin Franklin Carl Van Doren ISBN-13: 978-0140152609 Amazon
Benjamin Franklin Edmund S. Morgan ISBN-13: 978-0300095326 Amazon
Benjamin Franklin Numbers: An Unsung Mathematical Odyssey Paul C. Pasles ISBN-13: 978-0691129563 Amazon

Benjamin Franklin ("Poor Richard") was one of the most remarkable men who ever lived.

Franklin's Public Pledge to Braddock

Ihappened to say I thought it was a pity they had not been landed rather in Pennsylvania, as in that country almost every farmer had his wagon. The general eagerly laid hold of my words, and said, "Then you, sir, who is a man of interest there, can probably procure them for us; and I beg you will undertake it." I asked what terms were to be offered the owners of the wagons, and I was desired to put on paper the terms that appeared to be necessary. This I did, and they were agreed to, and a commission and instructions accordingly prepared immediately. What those terms were will appear in the advertisement I published as soon as I arrived at Lancaster, which being, from the great and sudden effect it produc'd, a piece of some curiosity, I shall insert it at length, as follows:


{Benjamin Franklin}
Benjamin Franklin

"Whereas, one hundred and fifty wagons, with four horses to each wagon, and fifteen hundred saddle or pack horses, are wanted for the service of his majesty's forces now about to rendezvous at Will's Creek, and his excellency General Braddock having been pleased to empower me to contract for the hire of the same, I hereby give notice that I shall attend for that purpose at Lancaster from this day to next Wednesday evening, and at York from next Thursday morning till Friday evening, where I shall be ready to agree for wagons and teams, or single horses, on the following terms, viz.: I. That there shall be paid for each wagon, with four good horses and a driver, fifteen shillings per diem; and for each able horse with a pack-saddle, or other saddle and furniture, two shillings per diem; and for each able horse without a saddle, eighteen pence per diem. 2. That the pay commences from the time of their joining the forces at Will's Creek, which must be on or before the 20th of May ensuing, and that a reasonable allowance is paid over and above for the time necessary for their traveling to Will's Creek and home again after their discharge. 3. Each wagon and team, and every saddle or pack horse is to be valued by indifferent persons chosen between me and the owner; and in case of the loss of any wagon, team, or other horse in the service, the price according to such valuation is to be allowed and paid. 4. Seven days' pay is to be advanced and paid in hand by me to the owner of each wagon and team, or horse, at the time of contracting, if required, and the remainder to be paid by General Braddock, or by the paymaster of the army, at the time of their discharge, or from time to time, as it shall be demanded. 5. No drivers of wagons, or persons taking care of the hired horses, are on any account to be called upon to do the duty of soldiers or be otherwise employed than in conducting or taking care of their carriages or horses. 6. All oats, Indian corn, or other forage that wagons or horses bring to the camp, more than is necessary for the subsistence of the horses, is to be taken for the use of the army, and a reasonable price paid for the same.

"Note.--My son, William Franklin, is empowered to enter into like contracts with any person in Cumberland county. "B. FRANKLIN."


To the inhabitants of the Counties of Lancaster, York and Cumberland.

"Friends and Countrymen,

{General Braddock}
General Braddock

"Being occasionally at the camp at Frederic a few days since, I found the general and officers extremely exasperated on account of their not being supplied with horses and carriages, which had been expected from this province, as most able to furnish them; but, through the dissensions between our governor and Assembly, money had not been provided, nor any steps taken for that purpose.

"It was proposed to send an armed force immediately into these counties, to seize as many of the best carriages and horses as should be wanted, and compel as many persons into the service as would be necessary to drive and take care of them.

"I apprehended that the progress of British soldiers through these counties on such an occasion, especially considering the temper they are in, and their resentment against us, would be attended with many and great inconveniences to the inhabitants, and therefore more willingly took the trouble of trying first what might be done by fair and equitable means. The people of these back counties have lately complained to the Assembly that a sufficient currency was wanting; you have an opportunity of receiving and dividing among you a very considerable sum; for, if the service of this expedition should continue, as it is more than probable it will, for one hundred and twenty days, the hire of these wagons and horses will amount to upward of thirty thousand pounds, which will be paid you in silver and gold of the king's money.

"The service will be light and easy, for the army will scarcely march above twelve miles per day, and the waggons and baggage-horses, as they carry those things that are absolutely necessary to the welfare of the army, must march with the army, and no faster; and are, for the army's sake, always placed where they can be most secure, whether in a march or in a camp.

"If you are really, as I believe you are, good and loyal subjects to his majesty, you may now do a most acceptable service, and make it easy to yourselves; for three or four of such as can not separately spare from the business of their plantations a waggon and four horses and a driver, may do it together, one furnishing the wagon, another one or two horses, and another the driver, and divide the pay proportionately between you; but if you do not this service to your king and country voluntarily, when such good pay and reasonable terms are offered to you, your loyalty will be strongly suspected. The king's business must be done; so many brave troops, come so far for your defense, must not stand idle through your backwardness to do what may be reasonably expected from you; wagons and horses must be had; violent measures will probably be used, and you will be left to seek for a recompense where you can find it, and your case, perhaps, be little pitied or regarded.

"I have no particular interest in this affair, as, except the satisfaction of endeavoring to do good, I shall have only my labor for my pains. If this method of obtaining the wagons and horses is not likely to succeed, I am obliged to send word to the general in fourteen days; and I suppose Sir John St. Clair, the hussar, with a body of soldiers, will immediately enter the province for the purpose, which I shall be sorry to hear, because I am very sincerely and truly your friend and well-wisher, B. FRANKLIN."


Ireceived of the General about eight hundred pounds, to be disbursed in advance-money to the wagon owners, etc.; but, that sum being insufficient, I advanced upward of two hundred pounds more, and in two weeks the one hundred and fifty wagons, with two hundred and fifty-nine carrying horses, were on their march for the camp. The advertisement promised payment according to the valuation, in case any wagon or horse should be lost. The owners, however, alleging they did not know General Braddock, or what dependence might be had on his promise, insisted on my bond for the performance, which I accordingly gave them.

--Chapter XVI, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Quotes from B. Franklin, Curmudgeon

Ben Franklin

~ I guess I don't so much mind being old, as being fat and old.

~ Many foxes grow Grey, but few grow good.

~ If it is the design of Providence to extirpate these savages in order to make room for the cultivation of the earth, it seems not improbable that rum may be the appointed means.

~ A countryman between two lawyers is like a fish between two cats.

~ Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.

~ The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it, yourself.

~ The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

~ The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve, nor will he ever receive, either.


Those who govern, having much business on their hands, do not generally like to take the trouble of considering and carrying into execution new projects. The best public measures are therefore seldom adopted from previous wisdom, but forced by the occasion.

- The greatest monarch on the proudest throne is still obliged to sit on his own arse.


Germany Before Germantown

A breezy summary of European geopolitics, including many rough inaccuracies, will possibly irritate residents of that region who read it but may help Americans understand the history and composition of the Germantown area of Philadelphia.

The Western World was defined as a province of Rome, and all roads led there. A better unifying concept would be, the Alps are the center of Europe and all roads had to go around those mountains. At the northern end of the Italian boot are the Swiss Alps, forcing even Romans to go through what is now Provence in France to get around them. Rivers run off the tops of mountain ranges, of course, and then trickle away to some sea. An old jingle defines the river system of Switzerland as The Rhine, the Rhone, Danube and Po--arise in the Alps, and away they go!"

Rhine River

So northward-bound Romans, Julius Caesar and all, went West around the Alps up the valley of the south-flowing Rhone, eventually portaging over to the north-flowing Rhine River flowing to Rotterdam, which in turn is just across the English channel from mouth of the Thames leading to London, or Londinium as they called it. The crossover between the Rhone and the Rhine was at Strasbourg where the European Parliament now meets. For two thousand years, the main highway from Rome to London was via the Rhone-Rhine-Thames river complex.

Essentially, residents to the West of the Rhone-Rhine were Roman Catholic, and residents to the East were Protestant. At least, that was as true in the Sixteenth Century as reciprocal genocide might accomplish. The head of the Rhine River in Switzerland was Calvinist Protestant, and the mouth of the river in Holland was Reform Protestant. Along the main part of the river, Alsace, Lorraine, Palatine, Luxembourg,divided East and West but for centuries pieces of land shifted control back and forth. The reformation movement started by Martin Luther ended up as the Thirty Years War, from which the region took another hundred years to recover, and more hundreds of years to forget and forgive. You might call it a religious Mason-Dixon line, remembering of course that the American Civil War was mostly fought on the Potomac, not the Mason Dixon.

George Fox

Professional soldiers teach military students that there is no war more remorseless than a religious war. Lots of people, probably thousands, were burned at the stake during the religious wars along the Rhineland. Rape and pillage were common practice. And so, if you lived in a little farming village in this region, and some Englishman named William Penn came around with an offer to emigrate to his peaceful kingdom in America, it sounded wonderful. Religious toleration was an important part of the attractiveness, and nowhere to be found in Europe.

William Penn's mother was Dutch. It is likely he spoke the local languages. For a number of years in his youth he had traveled in the Low Countries and the Rhineland, preaching the ideas of George Fox The Quaker. And then, one day he arrived with a brand new idea. The King of England had given him a huge stretch of uninhabited land in the New World, no doubt influenced by the idea that Quakers were a nuisance and this was a good way to get rid of them. Whatever. Penn was selling land grants, and he could be trusted. Why not give it a try?

Boundary Disputes

{4 Corners of Pennsylvania}
Four Corners of Pennsylvania

When you talk boundaries, a good lawyer is what you need. Pennsylvania had the best in William Penn. Prior to 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 of the Constitution. Generally speaking, boundaries were first created by treaties, by Kings, and by Congress. Boundary disputes were then settled in the courts, first in England, and later 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 when to use just one bank of the river or the other. And 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 was 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 lands 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.

I saw your post in Google Earth Community.

I believe Benjamin Franklin may be the most under-appreciated of the Founding Fathers. I have attached a Google Earth folder I made from the places mentioned in H.W. Brands' biography of Franklin, The First American. It includes historic overlays of Boston and Philadelphia, and the places he lived and visited in Europe. If you're a Franklin fan, I hope you enjoy it.


KML File: Franklin.kmz
Posted by: bob florig   |   Oct 25, 2007 8:23 AM
this is nice to get pictures from!
Posted by: shawn jingre   |   Dec 12, 2006 11:02 AM

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4 Blogs

Franklin's Public Pledge to Braddock
The pacifist Quaker legislature was paralyzed with indecision when General Braddock brought troops from England to defend the western frontier, but lacked horses and wagons. Franklin risked debtors prison by personally pledging to repay local farmers whose wagons were soon lost at Fort Duquesne.

Quotes from B. Franklin, Curmudgeon
As he grew older, Franklin took less trouble to conceal what he really thought.

Germany Before Germantown
Foraging French soldiers had ravaged the German Rhineland, so the Germans who fled to America were anti-French. That pleased the British, even the nominally Catholic Stuart kings.

Boundary Disputes
Boundaries between nations were mainly based on effective military occupation until the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. After that, established boundaries were mainly based on rivers or mountain ridges. In the Eighteenth Century, surveying instruments made other boundaries practical, but the political system added new quirks. The Articles of Confederation were a make-shift adjustment to changing concepts of boundaries.