Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Benjamin Franklin: Passionate Patriot or Spineless Diplomat?

Benjamin Franklin
Looking at Benjamin Franklin's portraits, it may be easy to believe that he was a cool, collected, and suave personality.  After all, he did travel overseas as a diplomat, right?  Franklin was a diplomat indeed, however, he was also passionate and no-nonsense.  Take a look at the following excerpts from a few of his letters:


From Benjamin Franklin to Charles de Weissenstein, Passy, July 1, 1778:


"My Vanity might possibly be flatter'd by your Expressions of Compliment to my Understanding, if your Proposals did not more clearly manifest a mean Opinion of it.  You conjure me in the name of the omniscient and just God, before whom I must appear, and by my hopes of future Fame, to consider if some Expedient cannot be found to put a Stop to the Desolation of America, and prevent the Miseries of a General War.  As I am conscious of having taken every Step in my Power to prevent the Breach, and no one to widen it, I can chearfully appear before that God, fearing nothing from his Justice in this particular, tho' I have much Occasion for his Mercy on many others.  As to my future fame, I am content to rest it on my past and present Conduct, without seeking Addition to it in the crooked dark Paths you propose to me, where I should most certainly lose it.  This your solemn address therefore would have been more properly made to your Sovereign and his venal Parliament.  He and they who wickedly began and madly continue a War for the Desolation of America, are alone accountable for the Consequences."


And there's more to it.  Although the letter was not sent to the intended recipient, suffice it to say Franklin vented wholeheartedly in it. 

On the other hand, this short letter was delivered:


Benjamin Franklin to William Strahan, Philadelphia, July 5, 1775:


"Mr. Strahan,

You are a Member of Parliament, and one of that Majority which has doomed my Country to Destruction.  You have begun to burn our Towns, and murder our People.  Look upon your Hands!  They are stained with the Blood of your Relations!  You and I were long Friends:  You are now my Enemy, and I am, Yours,"


Passionate.  Yes.  Spineless.  No.



You can read Franklin's papers by following the link from my "Resources" page.

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