Philadelphia Reflections

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Franklin, Celebrated Scientist, Retired In London :

Topic 673: Title 673

Trump and Fauci compared with King George and Franklin

{Pearls on the String}
Coronavirus

Something important is illustrated by the contemporary conflict between our President and our Chief expert on the novel Coronavirus.

Unless you were asleep you know that there was a public squabble over whether we should follow the advice of our chief expert or our chief elected leader. The President, who was chosen to decide such things, stated his position and his chosen advisor on the subject said he disagreed. The lawyers recognize it should never come to this, that "Never ask a question you don't already know the answer to." The other side was wrong, too. They forgot they were arguing with someone who could instantly fire them, for no stated reason at all. As you notice, the King eventually lost his most important colony, while the upstart opponent had to change his profession from scientist to politician, sail three thousand ocean miles, and nearly lose his life.

This took place close enough to the Fourth of July to permit the history that lighting had once struck the King's own cathedral of St. Paul's, and the King had asked Ben Franklin to advise him about a lightning rod, since Franklin was the world's expert on the subject. The king wanted a brass ball, but Franklin protested that a spike was better. No such argument was worth the consequences, especially one with thousands of years of father-son experience. There's always a third party seeking to gain from such frivolity, especially in an immigrant nation with teachers of the son seeking importance, or opposite politicians seeking to gain from the embarrassment.

Proclamation of Parliament: Ben Franklin's Role

{Pearls on the String}
Franklin Lighting Rod

Ben Franklin had a famous tussle with King George about lightning rods on St. Paul's Cathedral, which led to his humiliation by Wedderburn. And that led to this loyal subject of the Crown switching sides to leave London and sail back to America to join the Continental Congress. Franklin thought he knew a thing or two about lightning rods, while the King owned the Cathedral. It tells you as much about Franklin, as it does about the King.

So it turned out that Franklin was one of a dozen in America who knew that the Treaty of Westphalia had the effect of prescribing hanging as the punishment for armed defiance of a King, but

Philadelpia After The Revolution, Before the United States

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C3..........The Clouds Darken 1763-1776

New England wanted to fight for Independence but they knew they were too small, so they tried to enlist twelve contiguous allies by logic, but the British attacked with almost overwhelming force before that happened. Just who remembered the Treaty of Westphalia is unclear, but it had the effect of unifying the contiguous colonies behind Independence. The most serious obstacles were the Quakers, who withdrew from politics in order to avoid a choice between national and domestic resistance.

Two Different Ways of Looking at the American Revolution.

If you are a resident of Boston, the American Revolution began on April 19, 1775, at Lexington and Concord for reasons having to do with smuggling and tea. If you live in Philadelphia, the chances are fairly good you believe the Revolution began on July 4, 1776, because Admiral Howe attacked us. What's this all about?

The colonies had fought the French and Indian War loyally together, with George Washington at Fort Necessity and Ben Franklin supplying wagons to General Braddock with his own money, against the hated French and their Indian allies, English colonists fighting off the enemy, side by side from 1754 to 1763, and traveling together to the Albany Conference in 1745. Ben Franklin drew the first newspaper cartoon, Join or Die, at that time, and first proposed an alliance of the thirteen English colonies with the homeland. The Quakers woulod probably still dominate Philadelphia, if they hadn't chosen religious consistency over the dictates of power. And yet a few years later the British were chasing gunpowder stores around the countryside. The British wanted the Americans to help pay the cost of their own defense, but we were all Englishmen, together, and everybody wants something for nothing. New Englanders wanted an arrangement like Ireland or union like the Scots. The slogan was representation, not independence. "No taxation without representation" for English-speaking colonists. Eventually, they hoped for parliamentary membership. They were mainly fighting against mercantilism and used taxation as a weapon to fend off taxes, while they continued to be proud Englishmen colonists. Franklin wanted a little more, moving the capitol to America because it was biggest, and he nursed this view until King insulted him in person,a few weeks or months before he grudgingly returned to America to help lead the Independence movement.

But this is the story of the forming of the Constitution, and in the fight to remain untaxed, English settlers got left behind and will be left to drift along. Got left behind by the Treaty of Westphalia. Everyone hates to be persuaded of something which hurts his self-interest, and Westphalia said the land became private property if the King had the exclusive right to adjust the borders, and by implication the local religion. That may have been useful in dealing with Indian lands, but in the sixteenth century, people took their religion pretty seriously. That was a serious matter, and it was made worse for Protestants as a consequence of Catholic activity in which Protestants played no role. Even worse, it was accepted by an English King who was German about whom Episcopal Englishmen had some reservations. And still worse was to see German Hessian soldiers about to do most of the fighting arriving in the troop transports, paid for by a German King, enforcing a law most of them didn't understand which had unexpected twists to it which sounded like the fight they ware already fighting about taxation without representation. Remember, Ben Franklin only had a second-grade education, and most of the colonists couldn't read and write. There were only a handful of lawyers in America, and most of them had a conflict of interest about this subject, which was cataclysmic in its sweeping implications.

The logic of the new German law which only a few lawyers could follow sounded like a trap. The lawyers back in England at the Inns of Court might explain it, but the essence was that rebellion was punishable by hanging, while Independence was settled by treaty. The colonists might not understand how they got into this fix, but the new legal situation created a much worse punishment for rebellion than for Independence, and hence a strong incentive to prefer Independence. Admiral Howe was only 90 miles away with dozens of warships and hundreds of troop transports, and the Continental Congress was in Philadelphia with the power to make a choice. The Germans had just experienced a large wave of immigration, more German soldiers were sitting in the transports, anxious to obey the orders of a German King, which started as a law passed by other Germans without a vote by any of the colonists affected, starting fight a war about taxation without representation, which hardly anyone had the education to understand.

It was, so to speak, a perfect storm. We came very close to losing that war, so after three centuries it is still true: Whether it was the League of Nations or the United Nations, or changing the Health System -- you have a hard time convincing the American public that it's a good idea to follow he decisions of non-American leaders. If the idea was foreign, and particularly if control is left in non-American hands it's going to be a hard job persuading Americans to vote for it.

england

Two Ways of Looking at the Revolution

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Perth Amboy Revisited

Perth Amboy

It's now moderately complicated to find Perth Amboy, New Jersey, even after you locate it on a map. Like New Castle DE it flourished early because it was on a narrow strip of strategic land, and like New Castle, eventually found itself cut off by a dozen lanes of highways crowded together by geography. It's an easy drive in both cases only if you make the correct turns at a couple of crowded intersections. Both towns were important destinations in the Eighteenth century, but by the Twentieth century, both were pushed aside by traffic rushing to bigger destinations. Industrialization hit the region around Perth Amboy somewhat harder than New Castle, destroying more landmarks, and bringing to an end its brief flurry as a metropolitan beach resort. If you aspire to preserve your Eighteenth-century glory, it's easier if you don't have too much progress in the Nineteenth. In Perth Amboy's defense, it must be noted that Jamestown and Williamsburg, Virginia had just about totally disappeared when noticed by Charles Peterson and John Rockefeller, but neither of those towns was run over by Nineteenth century industrialization. So, while New Castle has treasures to preserve and display, Perth Amboy seems to have only the Governor's mansion like the one notable building to work with. William Franklin, the illegitimate son of Benjamin, was the royal governor installed in this palace shortly before 1776.

Governor's mansion in Perth Amboy

While it is true that some wealthy local inhabitants did a lot to restore and maintain New Castle (and Williamsburg), the Governor's mansion in Perth Amboy was bought and made the home of Mathias Bruen, who is 1820 was thought to be the richest man in America. If Bruen had only had the necessary imagination and generosity, this was probably the best moment for Perth Amboy to have had a historical restoration. Instead, he added some unfortunate features to the mansion; it later became a hotel, and later on, an office building. Public-spirited local citizens are now trying to set things right, but the costs are pretty daunting. Someone has to find an inspired Wall Street billionaire like Ned Johnson to make over an entire town. Occasionally, a state government will do it, as has been done with Pennsbury. Or a national organization might become inspired, as happened with Mt. Vernon and Arlington. Its present state of peeling paint and makeshift repairs suggests uninterest in Perth Amboy's Governor Mansion by the State, and the absence of whatever it is that occasionally inspires fierce and determined local leadership. Perth Amboy needs some help and needs to forget about its handicaps. Sure, it's hard to commute anywhere, it's even hard to drive across the highways to the countryside. The bluff on the promontory was once quite arresting, now a rusting steel mill occupies that spot. Other than that, it doesn't look ominous or dangerous at all. It's just forgotten.

Pennsbury Mansion

Aside from the Royal Governor's former mansion, it is hard to find a historical marker or monument in this scene of former prosperity and glory, but there is one. Down on the beach is a bronze plaque, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the founding of -- Argentina. So there's a clue, which is not difficult to associate with all of the Hispanic names on the stores, and the Hispanics in evidence on all sides. They all seemed to know that this was once the capital of New Jersey, seemed pleased with it, and could point out the famous building. They are pleasant and friendly enough. Perhaps even a little too comfortable. Because, as William Franklin's famous father once said, all progress begins with discontent.

Armonica, Momentarily Mesmerizing

{Ben Frnklin Glass Armonica}
Ben Franklin's Glass Armonica

Everyone knows Ben Franklin spent a lot of time holding a wine glass. Evidently, he noticed a musical note emerges if you run your finger around the open mouth of the drinking glass, and systematically studied how the tone can be varied by varying the level of liquid in the glass. The same variation in emitted tone relates to variations in the thickness of the glass. So, he set up a series of different sized glasses impaled on a horizontal broomstick, enough to cover three octaves, rotated the broomstick with a treadle like those used for spinning wheels -- and made music. The tone has a haunting penetration to it, which induced both Beethoven and Mozart to write special compositions for the harmonica, and the Eighteenth Century went wild with enthusiasm.

{http://www.philadelphia-reflections.com/images/glass-armonica.jpg}
Glass Armonica

Unfortunately, a number of the young ladies who played the armonica went mad. We now recognize that since the finest crystal glass was used, with very high lead content, the mad ladies were suffering from lead poisoning after repeatedly wetting their fingers on their tongues. As a matter of fact, port wine at that time was stored in lead-lined casks, resulting in the same unfortunate consequences, which included stirring up attacks of gout. Franklin himself was a famous sufferer from gout, which was more likely related to the port wine than playing the harmonica, in his particular case.

Anyway, the reputation for inducing madness added to the spooky sort of sound the instrument made, attracting the attention of a montebank named Franz Anton Mesmer, who falsely claimed to be the father of hypnotism. Mesmer enhanced the society of his stage performances by hypnotizing subjects while an assistant played the harmonica, meanwhile relating all sorts of wild tales about animal magnetism. This was pretty sensational at the time until a young man in an audience suddenly died. It is now speculated that the victim probably had an epileptic seizure, but the news of this public fatal event pretty well finished Mesmer as an evangelist and the harmonica as a musical instrument.

{http://www.philadelphia-reflections.com/images/franklincourt.jpg}
Franklin Court

There's a replica of an armonica on display in the Franklin Court Museum around 3rd and Chestnut, which we are vigorously assured is not made with leaded crystal glass. The Park Rangers put on two daily performances by request, at noon, and 2:30 PM.

Philosophy Means Science in Philadelphia

American Philosophical Society Seal

In the age of the Enlightenment, science was called natural philosophy; that accounts for the present custom of awarding PhD. degrees in chemistry and botany. The sort of thing which interested Ralph Waldo Emerson was called moral philosophy, and you will have to visit some other place than the A.P.S. if that is what interests you. Roy E. Goodman is presently the Curator of Printed Material (some would say he was chief librarian) at the American Philosophical Society, founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin who was clearly the most eminent scientist of his day, having discovered and explained the nature of electricity.

{Roy E. Goodman}
Roy E. Goodman

Roy Goodman is descended from cowboys and rodeo stars, but in spite of that he gave an entertaining talk recently at the Right Angle Club about this society devoted to useful knowledge, this oldest publishing house and scholarly society in America, once the home of the U.S. Patent Office, and scientific library and museum. They have many rare items in their collection, but the unifying theme is not a rarity, but curiosity. You might say some of the items reflect the whimsy of Franklin, but it would be fairer to say it is an enduring monument to Franklin's universal curiosity about all things.

http://www.philadelphia-reflections.com/images/Nobel_medal.jpg
Nobel Prize Medal

There are about 900 members of APS, about 800 of them Americans, about 100 of them winners of a Nobel Prize. Let's just make a little list of a very few notables in the past and present membership. Start with the first four Presidents of the United States, add Alexander Hamilton and Lafayette, David Rittenhouse and Francis Hopkinson and you get the idea that Founding Fathers got in early. Robert Fulton, Lewis and Clark, Alexander Humboldt, John Marshall were early members, and more recent ones were Madame Curie,

Appendix H Philadelphia Public Ledger, May 25, 1925

NEWSPAPER REPORT OF REMARKS OF DR. J. BASIL HALL (Public Ledger, May 28,1925)

THE American public's interest in health matters is the country's greatest boon in the prevention of disease. Dr. J. Basil Hall, President of the British Medical Association declared here last night. He expressed the hope that the British public would take the lesson of the Americans in this respect. Education of the public to take care of themselves, he characterized as the doctors' noblest task.

Dr. Hall is in the United States as the officially invited guest of the American Medical Association to attend the annual convention of the body in Atlantic City. Yesterday he was the guest of the Medical Club of Philadelphia, addressing the full membership last evening at a reception in his honor at the Bellevue-Stratford.

He commented on American methods in contrast to British, particularly in regard to medical services for the working classes.

Tracing the history of the National Health Insurance Act in Britain, which was fostered and made a reality by Lloyd George, when he was Prime Minister, Dr. Hall stated that it had worked a hardship of no inconsiderable means on the English profession. The act provides for the payment by workers of a certain portion of their wages into a fund, augmented by an equal sum from the employer to produce free medical attention and sick pay while ill. It is under Government control and the amount given to the panel physician is comparatively small, while hospitals and consultants have to render service gratis in the majority of instances.

'Elaborateness in detail is the outstanding characteristic of American practice'' said Dr. Hall during his address. "In my opinion, the American physician is more elaborate in his treatments than is necessary. Is it always necessary to have blood counts, X-ray examinations, protracted examinations, protracted diagnosis, complete physical examinations, analyses of all sorts, tests for this and that, consultations and the like? That appears to be the American theory.

"In England we don't do it, because the patients can't afford to pay for it, and we don't believe that the result of the treatment accorded them without the co-adjuncts is different from the result of things are done."

"My survey is too premature to be dogmatic it may seem" he continued, "but the American possesses the infinite capacity for taking pains. In my opinion, it is sometimes overdone. It makes service prohibitive but to the wealthy. The elaborate method and technique employed in every-day practice will eventually have to be modified, and much, in the future."

In addition to being the president of the British Medical Association, Dr. Hall is a fellow of the Royal College of England, Master of the Queens' Hospital and surgeon-in-chief of the Royal Infirmary at Bradford, England, where he makes his home. He is acknowledged to be the leading living surgeon of the British Empire and a specializing authority on abdominal surgery.

Dr. Harley Smith, former president of the Academy of Medicine, Toronto, Canada, also addressed the meeting, which was presided over by Dr. Charles W, Burr, president of the Medical Club of Philadelphia. Among the many distinguished physicians and surgeons present were Dr. Basil Graves, of London, who has been lecturing at the University of Pennsylvania as a specialist on the eye, and Dr. William E. Hughes.

Madeira Party 2009: Franklin Mistakes Lead Poisoning For Gout.

{Madeira Wine class=}
Madeira Wine class=

The hundred years war, the thirty years war, the seven years war, and other European disagreements made it difficult to import wine to England, turning the wine import trade to Portugal. Port wine was, of course, prominent, but the best wine of all came from the Portuguese colony of Madeira. The island of Madeira is closer to Africa than to Portugal, so the triangular slave trade made it easy to import Madeira wine to the British colonies in America. The eastern seaboard of America had no grape culture of any note, so the beverage trade centered on rum, whiskey, beer, and Madeira. George Washington is widely reported to have had half a bottle of Madeira every day for lunch, for example.

{S. Weir Mitchell. Mitchell}
S. Weir Mitchell. Mitchell

The other evening at the Franklin Inn Club, a traditional Philadelphia Madeira party filled the hall, and the membership was brought up to date on some of the traditions and finer points of the occasion. In the first place, the Franklin Inn was founded by S. Weir Mitchell. Mitchell, in his spare time as Father of Neurology, had written a short story called The Madeira Party which worked in a large number of details about what was what about Madeira, ending with ribald tipsiness. Nathan Steven, a well-known wine authority, instructed the group in the various types of grape and vintage, and other members who have summered in Madeira related current conditions. Because the volcanic island is a favorite place for visitors, particularly Englishmen, real estate is at such a premium that most vineyards have only one or two acres of grapes. The wineries whose names are on the bottles pick up the crop from these local growers and take it on from there. This seems as good as any other explanation for the current high prices of the wine. However, a century ago a disease wiped out the French and Portuguese vineyards, who were forced to beg back some exported grapevines from California to get back in business. So, one wonders about the scarcity claim.

{Madeira in a barrels}
Madeira in a barrels

It is related that a number of cargoes of Madeira, particularly those of John Hancock of Boston were caught being smuggled to the colonies, and got returned. It was discovered that the taste of the wine was greatly improved by the tumult so that each vintner experimented with various methods of agitating and heating the wine to produce a particular brand. Madeira, like sherry, is a fortified wine, with various proportions of grain alcohol and brandy added in secret formulas. On one point there is general agreement, that if fortified wines are aged for long enough periods, eventually they all taste alike. There thus has emerged a tricky business of aging the wine long enough for the vintage of the wine to match the age or anniversary of the person being honored by the gift. Fifty years is the tricky goal; it's the most popular gift, but perilously close to the point where you can't tell if it is sherry or Madeira. There are four main varieties of Madeira (brand names are something else), getting progressively sweeter, darker colored and more expensive as they age. Malmsey, in a barrel of which Shakspere portrayed the royal princes being drowned, is claimed to be the very best. Some people regard it as too sweet, however. At proper Madeira party, each variety is served with a different course of terrapin or whatever. The President of the Franklin Inn read off the instructions for cooking the traditional first course of jellied boiled boar's head, and the guests agreed that modern tastes called for a substitute. After the reading of Mitchell's short story, the group added a new tradition of singing Flanders and Swann's ribald song, "Have Some Madeira, m'dear".

Chuck Barber, the current President of the Green Tree Insurance Company, added an entirely new historical slant. The Insurance Company is well known for having the best dinner in town at its meetings since directors of insurance companies don't do much. At the dinner in 1799, the news was brought in that George Washington had just died. A member rose to propose what has become an annual toast in Madeira, "To President Washington!" In time, S. Weir Mitchell became a member of the board, and the famous short story was the outcome which firmly fixed the rules of the Philadelphia Madeira Party. Bill Madeira was called on to verify this history, but he protested that his family name was derived from the wine, not the other way around.

It seems appropriate to add another historical note. Benjamin Franklin, after whom the club is named, suffered severely from gout. Although some sort of association with liquor had been mentioned as far back as Hippocrates, Franklin's powers of observation and his fame as a scientist placed him in a position to make it an irrefutable doctrine that gout was a medical penalty for drinking liquor. It was, of course, Madeira that old Ben was drinking, and it was the rule that Madeira was transported in lead-lined kegs. The Green Tree has some of the old kegs if you doubt it. Franklin's observation was acute, but what he was reporting was the effect of the lead poisoning, not of the wine.

Franklin on British American Relationships

{Edmond S. Morgan}
Edmond S. Morgan

Edmond S. Morgan spent an academic lifetime collecting and organizing the many volumes of what Benjamin Franklin wrote, and what he has been quoted as saying. Professor Morgan knows more than anyone else will ever know about what Franklin wrote down and signed his name to. Obviously, these records of a long and remarkable career are filled with instances of some of the very wisest, most penetrating observations about earth-shaking events. Although his writings are almost always charming and witty, succinct and penetrating, some of his proposals and comments about important matters could, however, be contradictory and sometimes half-baked. It's sometimes hard to admit that.

{Benjamin Franklin}
Benjamin Franklin

It's difficult to make entire sense of his attitude toward royalty, for example. For years during the time he represented the colonies at the Court, it would seem his vision of the future was that of multiple parliaments, held together by a common loyalty to the King. The concept is somewhat akin to the devolution movement now rumbling around the United Kingdom. It's hard to reconcile that proposal with some of the activities of George III that Franklin was in a position to watch, and it seems a little dubious for him to believe the major errors of the British government were to be mainly blamed on a handful of evil ministers misguiding the monarch. And harder still to reconcile this loyalty to the throne with his indifference or resistance to the American republic having a strong presidency at the later Constitutional Convention -- when his opinion might have made a major difference if it had been sensible. Some of these ideas may be remnants of poorly digested attitudes about the earlier English Civil War or reactions to the behavior of Cromwell. Franklin spent years watching the British Parliament in action and much time lobbying its members in proposed deals and arrangements. It's easy to see how he might have been disillusioned at times, but it's very hard to see the sense of his conclusion that the Parliament was an impediment to ideal relations between the sainted King and his obedient subjects. Since Franklin was not writing rebuttals to himself for saying contradictory things several years earlier, it is very hard to know what he really thought when you bring all these writings together; and unwise to be too certain what it tells us about Franklin.

{British Ministries Symbol}
British Ministries Symbol

There is one thread which weaves for many decades among Franklin's writings, probably coming close to reflecting a hardened, considered, position. As a young man, he could easily observe the American population and wealth growing much faster than growth in the mother country, projecting forward to the firm belief that America would in time eclipse England. Today we see this as common sense, but in the Eighteenth-century population growth was believed to be secondary to economic growth. Some of the seemingly selfish and detestable mercantile policies of the British ministries were based on a sincere belief in this incorrect view of population. Since Franklin saw it was wrong, it is regrettable that he failed to take the approach of discrediting the theory rather than assailing those who mistakenly believed in it.

Taken all together, his 1767 letter to Lord Kames seems to represent Franklin's core position. Closer political union based on equality would actually benefit Britain more than it would America by preserving for Britain an equal place in an empire that must soon be principally American. America had resources far outweighing what British Isles possessed. It was bound to "become a great country, populous and mighty; and will in less time than is generally conceived be able to shake off any Shackles that may be imposed on her, and perhaps place them on the Imposers. In the mean Time, every act of Oppression will sour their Tempers... and hasten their final Revolt."

We now see that as very perceptive, although events diverted matters in other directions for two centuries before returning to the essential truth. The Industrial Revolution was England's achievement before it became the world's. And the Industrial Revolution, not the American one, was central to the British conquests which positioned the Empire for far greater growth than Franklin could foretell. He thought America would overtake England in less than a century, but in fact, it took two centuries. This is one of those arguments where both sides are proven right, but at different times.

{Benjamin Franklin Discovers Electricity}
Benjamin Franklin Discovers Electricity

But while some other false starts about governmental design can perhaps be defended by signed correspondence at the time, they leave behind the embarrassing opinion that it was a good thing he occasionally got distracted by electricity experiments and flirtations with lady friends. And thus, sustained defeat of his silly 1752 proposal to displace the Pennsylvania Proprietorship with a Royal colony, and the equally ill-judged 1787 scheme to replace the American presidency with a debating club. Franklin was a statesman without equal, but no unedited lifetime correspondence can withstand scrutiny as a coherent political theory.

Franklin's Funeral, 1790

{Benjamin Franklin's Grave}
Benjamin Franklin's Grave

"Philadelphia's silver decade began with the death of Benjamin Franklin, at the age of eighty-four, in 1790. On April 21, some 20,000 people, nearly half the city, lined the route of Franklin's funeral procession from the State House to the Christ Church burying ground. The procession was led by the clergy of the city, and the coffin was carried by six pallbearers:General Thomas Mifflin<, president of Pennsylvania; Thomas McKean, chief justice; Samuel Powell, mayor of Philadelphia; Thomas Willing, president of the Bank of North America; David Rittenhouse, professor of astronomy at the College of Philadelphia; and William Bingham, the richest man in America, member of the Pennsylvania Assembly, and soon to be appointed United States senator from the state. There followed the family and close friends, members of the state Assembly, judges of the State Supreme Court, gentlemen of the bar, printers with their journeymen and apprentices, and members of the Philosophical Society and a host of other associations that Franklin had founded. Doctor Rush sent a lock of Franklin's hair to the Marquis de Lafayette, and when the news reached France, the National Assembly heard a eulogy on the "sage of two worlds" by Mirabeau and sent a letter of sympathy to its sister Republic."

--E. Digby Baltzell, Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia

Those who have experience with arranging state funerals will notice the strong Pennsylvania character of the funeral, and the subdued prominence of national figures, especially those from Virginia, Massachusetts, and New York. Some historians have noticed this anomaly, even surmising that Washington and others were jealous of Franklin's fame. However, the Capital was in New York City until August 12, 1790, and did not move to Philadelphia until December 6, 1790. Under the circumstances, it might have been difficult even to be certain the news of his death on April 17 had reached all the national leaders by April 21, let alone orchestrate arrangements of the funeral ceremonies around their uncertain presence at it.

Furthermore, he had a long life, from rags to riches, through three wars, after many publications, organizations, discoveries and honors, and some heavy tribulations. But those who have themselves lived 84 years will recognize that it all passes rapidly, and seems like a short dream to the central figure.

After London, Ben Franklin Revisited

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George Goodwin

George Goodwin appears to have written the best book I ever read, in Benjamin Franklin in London, which that writer in residence of the Craven Street Franklin Museum. has just produced. At least I have never read a book which proceeded to explain so much I knew puzzled me. There have been hundreds of books about Benjamin Franklin, but all of them fall back on Franklin's Autobiography which while surely authoritative, often omits significant details. Goodwin, concentrating on the eighteen years Franklin spent abroad, had access to many unnoticed personal papers. It was also written while Franklin was in England, where many things did not appear to need an explanation to 18th Century Englishmen. And the autobiography was written for his son, who needed even less explanation. So it's a mistake to ascribe the autobiography's vagueness to deliberate deviousness, to say nothing of basing a whole theory of his personality on deviousness. Its hazy points now seem more attributable to his assuming his intended audience needed little explanation for what to us was seemingly left vague. And so as a first impression, Franklin himself emerges less deserving of his reputation for deceptiveness.

{Privateers}
Ben Franklin In London

It occurred to me as I read it, that national opinions will change so quickly, that the transitional opinions of people like me will soon be swept aside. I am no scholar, but have read twenty or so excellent books about Benjamin Franklin, and adopted a number of fixed ideas which I will have to change. Therefore, Goodwin's achievement is in danger of becoming lost in a stampede of permanently revised views. Goodwin himself may be oblivious to his own achievement, which was probably gathered slowly after poring over heaps of primary documents and living in a London world which needed less explaining to a Londoner. Heaven knows I am no Keats, but my place in all this can possibly aspire to his goals in the poem On First Looking into Chapman's Homer.

{Privateers}
Join or Die

In the first place, Franklin appears to have been a staunch British subject, at least from the Albany Conference of 1754 to as late as 1774. His dream, formulated at Albany and expressed in many forms later, was that of a combined British-American empire, with its headquarters eventually to be located in America. For the largest part of his life, his attitude was not that America should be independent of Britain. It was the two nations should unite even more closely, America would inevitably grow larger, and the British Empire would become a British World. After King George III unleashed Wedderburn to excoriate Franklin before the crowned heads of Whitehall, it all changed, of course, but it did so after a personal dispute with the King about lightning rods, where Franklin never doubted he was the world-acknowledged authority. In essence, Franklin was the inventor of electricity, but King George in effect responded, "Who do you think you are, a King?" Those weren't the words they used, but that was the sense of it. Or, considering what was at stake, the nonsense of it. Franklin had been challenged to destroy the British empire if he was so smart, and that is exactly what he set about to do.

{Privateers}
King George III

Without editorializing a word, Goodwin allows us to read a line Franklin wrote in 1773, that King George was "perhaps the only Chance America has for obtaining soon the Address she aims at."

Franklin was not without British allies. Lord Chatham, later Prime Minister, and Edmund Burke, author of "On Reconciliation With the Colonies" came very close to toppling the government over this issue. Even Lord Howe, Franklin's chess partner and brother of even-more-avid chess partner Lady Carolyn Howe, who was later designated to lead the British repression of the rebellion, is quoted as saying in 17XX, XXXXXXXX. Lord Howe's words are going to require some re-examination of his motives in the abandonment of Burgoyne against direct orders, and redirection of the fleet toward Philadelphia. Frankin's response, of course, was to use the victory to sign a treaty of alliance with France.

{Privateers}
William Pitt 1st Earl of Chatham

In victorious America, of course, Franklin was celebrated for flying a kite in a rainstorm, something every schoolboy knows is too dangerous to try. It was during his time in England that Franklin performed a series of experiments which invented electricity which every physicist would agree would today win him a Nobel Prize. It made him a friend of Mozart and Beethoven, Joseph Priestley and five kings. Goodwin even restores the tarnished reputation of Peggy Stevenson.

But it isn't all for the better. Goodwin tells us Franklin didn't invent bifocals, some British optometrist did. So he raises a question, for those who are looking for it, about how many of the other American "firsts" for which he is famous, were ideas he picked up in his first trip to London in 17XX, and transported to an America eager to have what was the latest and trendiest. There are probably other innuendoes in this eminently readable but essentially scholarly work. But I missed them, and a hundred graduate students will have to put the record straight.

The Signers of the Declaration of Independence

{Josiah Bartlett}
Josiah Bartlett
{Matthew Thornton}
Matthew Thornton
{William Whipple}
William Whipple
{John Hancock}
John Hancock
{Elbridge Gerry}
Elbridge Gerry
{Samuel Adams}
Samuel Adams
{Robert Paine}
Robert Paine
{Stephen Hopkins}
Stephen Hopkins
{William Ellery}
William Ellery
{Samuel Huntington}
Samuel Huntington
{William Williams}
William Williams
{Rodger Sherman}
Rodger Sherman
{Lewis Morris}
Lewis Morris
{Francis Lewis}
Francis Lewis
{Philip Livingston}
Philip Livingston
{Abraham Clark}
Abraham Clark
{Francis Hopinson}
Francis Hopkinson
{JOhn Witherspoon}
John Witherspoon
{John Hart}
John Hart
{George Clymer}
George Clymer
{Robert Morris}
Robert Morris
{Benjamin Rush}
Benjamin Rush
{James Smith}
James Smith
{Benjamin Franklin}
Benjamin Franklin
{John Morton}
John Morton
{George Ross}
George Ross
{James Wilson}
James Wilson
{George Read}
George Read
{Thomas McKean}
Thomas McKean
{Caesar Rodney}
Caesar Rodney
{Charles Carroll}
Charles Carroll
{Thomas Stone}
Thomas Stone
{Samuel Chase}
Samuel Chase
{William Paca}
William Paca
{Carter Braxton}
Carter Braxton
{Thomas Jefferson}
Thomas Jefferson
{Thomas Nelson}
Thomas Nelson
{Francis Lightfoot Lee}
Francis Lightfoot Lee
{Benjamin Harrison}
Benjamin Harrison
{George Wythe}
George Wythe
{William Hooper}
William Hooper
{Joseph Hewes}
Joseph Hewes
{John Penn}
John Penn
{Edward Rutledge}
Edward Rutledge
{Thomas Lynch}
Thomas Lynch
{Arthur Middleton}
Arthur Middleton
{Thomas Heyward}
Thomas Heyward
{George Walton}
George Walton
{Lyman Hall}
Lyman Hall
George Taylor

The March of Events

FORCES AT WORK

Three Different Ways of Looking at the American Revolution.

If you are a resident of nearby Boston, the American Revolution began on April 19, 1775, at Lexington and Concord for reasons having to do with smuggling and tea. If you live near Philadelphia, the chances are fairly good you believe the Revolution began on July 4, 1776, because Admiral Howe attacked us. What's this all about? The colonies had fought the French and Indian War loyally together, with George Washington at Fort Necessity and Ben Franklin supplying wagons to General Braddock with his own money, against the hated French and their Indian allies, English colonists fighting off the enemy, side by side from 1754 to 1763, even back as far as traveling together to the Albany Conference in 1745. Ben Franklin drew the first newspaper cartoon, Join or Die, at that time, and first proposed an alliance of the thirteen English colonies with the homeland. The Quakers would probably still dominate Philadelphia, if they hadn't chosen religious consistency over the dictates of power. And yet a few years later the British were chasing gunpowder stores around the countryside. The British wanted the Americans to help pay the cost of their own defense, but we were all Englishmen, together, and everybody wants something for nothing. New Englanders wanted a negotiated arrangement like Ireland or union like the Scots; these were only technical details.The slogan aimed at representation, not independence. "No taxation without representation" for English-speaking colonists. Eventually, they hoped for parliamentary membership. They were mainly fighting against mercantilism using taxation as a weapon to fend off taxes while they remained English settlers. Franklin wanted a little more, moving the capitol to America because it was biggest, and he nursed this view until King insulted him in person,a few weeks or months before he grudgingly returned to America to help lead the Independence movement.

But this is the story of the forming of the Constitution, and in the fight to remain untaxed, English settlers got left behind and will be left to drift along. Got left behind by the Treaty of Westphalia. Everyone hates to be persuaded of something which hurts his self-interest, and Westphalia said the land became private property if the King had the exclusive right to adjust the borders, and by implication the local religion. That may have been useful in dealing with Indian lands, but in the sixteenth century, people took their religion pretty seriously. That was a serious matter, and it was made worse for Protestants as a consequence of Catholic activity in which Protestants played no role. Even worse, it was accepted by an English King who was German about whom Episcopal Englishmen had some reservations. And still worse was to see German Hessian soldiers about to do most of the fighting arriving in the troop transports, paid for by a German King, enforcing a law most of them didn't understand which had unexpected twists to it which sounded like the fight they ware already fighting about taxation without representation. Remember, Ben Franklin only had a second-grade education, and most of the colonists couldn't read and write. There were only a handful of lawyers in America, and most of them had a conflict of interest about this subject, which was cataclysmic in its sweeping implications. The logic of the new German law which only a few lawyers could follow sounded like a trap. The lawyers back in England at the Inns of Court might explain it, but the essence was that rebellion was punishable by hanging, while Independence was settled by treaty. The colonists might not understand how they got into this fix, but the new legal situation created a much worse punishment for rebellion than for Independence, and hence a strong incentive to prefer Independence. Admiral Howe was only 90 miles away with dozens of warships and hundreds of troop transports, and the Continental Congress was in Philadelphia with the power to make a choice. The Germans had just experienced a large wave of immigration, more German soldiers were sitting in the transports, anxious to obey the orders of a German King, which started as a law passed by other Germans without a vote by any of the colonists affected, starting fight a war about taxation without representation, which hardly anyone had the education to understand. It was, so to speak, a perfect storm. We came very close to losing that war, so after three centuries it is still true: Whether it was the League of Nations or the United Nations, or changing the Health System -- you have a hard time convincing the American public that it's a good idea to follow he decisions of non-American leaders. If the idea was foreign, and particularly if control is left in non-American hands it's going to be a hard job persuading Americans to vote for it. england

B. Franklin, Scientist

{Franklin Institute}
Franklin Institute

FROM time to time, the Franklin Institute has a display of its own and other museums' collections of the scientific instruments of Benjamin Franklin. It's well worth anybody's visit when it is available because the beauty and craftsmanship of these instruments alone make them remarkable works of art. Franklin was financially able to retire at the age of 42, and it tells you something of the 18th-century culture that Franklin took up scientific experiments in order to be like other independently wealthy gentlemen. Science, or natural philosophy, this seems to have been in a class with getting a coat of arms and having his portrait painted, all of which cheapens our view of Franklin as a scientist.

{Peter Collinson, F.R.S.}
Peter Collinson, F.R.S.

In fact, Franklin was conducting an active correspondence with other scientists interested in electricity for many years, in particular, one Peter Collinson, F.R.S. in London. Collinson collected thirteen of Franklin's letters about his experiments, the earliest dated 1747, and printed them in 1751 as an 86-page book called Experiments and Observations about Electricity . By 1769, several more letters expanded the book to 150 pages, almost all of them describing reproducible experiments in great detail. The kite and key episode are described, but soberly and sparingly. Without making the point too graphically, an appendix was added describing how lightning had been used to kill some turkeys, so a somewhat increased power would probably be enough to kill a person. Franklin recognized that something was moving from here to there, that it had positive and negative charges, and that it was possible to store it up in a storage battery. He recognized the difference between substances that would conduct electricity and other substances that would act as insulators. Later on, he would discover that the torpedo fish stores and transmits electricity, suggesting that somehow animals made and used electricity as part of life. And of course, he put the discoveries to practical use as lightning rods, which he refused to patent.

{Madame Helvetius}
Madame Helvetius

By the time he went to England and France as a negotiator, his wide acquaintanceship in the scientific world was happy to introduce him to other famous people, like kings, Voltaire, Mozart, and Madame Helvetius the wife of the Swiss philosopher, the only woman to whom he is known to have made a proposal of marriage. When someone mentioned standing before a king, he replied he had stood before five of them. King Louis XVI, for example, appointed Franklin to a four-man committee to investigate hypnotism, then being touted as "animal magnetism" by Franz Mesmer. The other three committee members were unfortunately also destined to become acquainted with the guillotine: Brother Joseph-Ignace Guillotin himself, and two future victims of the invention, Antoine Lavoisier the discoverer of oxygen, and Jean Sylvain Bailly who first calculated the course of Halley's Comet, not to mention Louis XVI himself. It is not easy to think of any other scientist who was able to mix his scientific fame with changing international history, acquiring in the process the sobriquet of the founder of the American diplomatic corps. But then, he was witty as well as smart, and his career is a warning to those who now hope to devote their whole lives to being admitted to a prestige college and then coasting on its reputation. Franklin, it should be remembered, dropped out of school after the second grade.

 

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18 Blogs

Trump and Fauci compared with King George and Franklin
DESCRIPTION: Something important can be learned from similar cases in the past.

Proclamation of Parliament: Ben Franklin's Role
Franklin doesn't tell you everything, but what he does tell you, is straight.

Philadelpia After The Revolution, Before the United States
l DESCRIPTION: There was a period of chaos after Yorktown but before the Constitution. It nearly destroyed us, but it strengthened us, too.

C3..........The Clouds Darken 1763-1776
The French and Indian War was a colonial expression of the Thirty-year conflict between the French and British. The British wished the colonists would act like colonists, but the colonists wanted to be more than that. The British decided to put down this rebellion.

Two Different Ways of Looking at the American Revolution.

Two Ways of Looking at the Revolution

Perth Amboy Revisited
Perth Amboy was once the capital of New Jersey and the entry point of General Howe's invasion of the rebellious colonies. Except for one old building, you might never guess.

Armonica, Momentarily Mesmerizing
{http://www.philadelphia-reflections.com/images/glass-armonica.jpg}The harmonica was a musical instrument invented by Ben Franklin, who else. Beethoven and Mozart wrote music for it. It made people sick and may even have killed someone.

Philosophy Means Science in Philadelphia
At least until he met Madame Helvetius, Benjamin Franklin displayed little interest in moral philosophy. His interest was in science, which was called natural philosophy in the Eighteenth Century. The American Philosophical Society is America's oldest and most prestigious society of scientific scholars. If investing is a science, the APS is good at that, too.

Appendix H Philadelphia Public Ledger, May 25, 1925
The President of the British Medical Association in 1925 addressed the Medical Club of Philadelphia, deploring both the British socialized system and the American tendency to order too many medical tests. The current president of the BMA would probably change very little of the speech.

Madeira Party 2009: Franklin Mistakes Lead Poisoning For Gout.
In Colonial America, Madeira was what the upper crust drank.

Franklin on British American Relationships
For one of the most remarkable men who ever lived, Benjamin Franklin, unfortunately, must be acknowledged to have jotted down some foolish and ill-considered things in his voluminous lifetime writings.

Franklin's Funeral, 1790
 Benjamin FranklinAlthough it has been said there were efforts to tone it down, the Funeral of Benjamin Franklin was an important moment. Everyone in Philadelphia knew it.

After London, Ben Franklin Revisited

The Signers of the Declaration of Independence
{Signers of The Declaration of Independence}It was ratified by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. This anniversary is celebrated as Independence Day in the United States. The handwritten copy signed by the delegates to the Congress is on display in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. How many of these worthies were picked by Washington to invite to the Constitutional Convention?

The March of Events

FORCES AT WORK
There are at least three different ways to describe the origins of the American Revolution.

B. Franklin, Scientist
Kites are children's toys; going out in a thunderstorm is deliciously dangerous. We have thus been taught to regard Franklin's science as a lark, when in fact he largely discovered the nature of electricity and was regarded as one of the greatest scientists of his age.