January 17, 2006

"The first great American" is 300.

Stacy Schiff pays tribute to Benjamin Franklin, born 300 years ago today:
[H]e offered up what may be the best one-line definition of this country. The New World, he asserted, judged a man not by who he was, but by what he could do. And what Franklin could do was staggering. His legacy is not a political philosophy but a protean existence, act after act of bold curiosity, brash risk-taking, raw ingenuity. Once those constituted a definition of the American character. Today they would more likely be termed "hypomania," a fair diagnosis for any individual who manages single-handedly to found a library, fire company, police force, hospital, university, insurance company, sanitation department and militia.
How to celebrate his birthday? Go accomplish something.

15 comments:

Meade said...

"Go accomplish something"...

worthwhile.

Educate your children to self-control, to the habit of holding passion and prejudice and evil tendencies subject to an upright and reasoning will, and you have done much to abolish misery from their future and crimes from society.

Benjamin Franklin

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
brylin said...

Some Benjamin Franklin quotes:

A penny saved is a penny earned.

A place for everything, everything in its place.

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.

Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

Experience is a dear teacher, but fools will learn at no other.

Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.

He who falls in love with himself will have no rivals.

Honesty is the best policy.

If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it from him.

In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.

Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one.

Necessity never made a good bargain.

Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.

Take time for all things: great haste makes great waste.

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

Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.

Time is money.

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

More

Steve Barton said...

Favorite Franklin quote in this vein:

"Up, sluggard, and waste not life; in the grave will be sleeping enough."

PatCA said...

What a nice article! I guess the cultural mandarins have allowed us one unsullied Founding Father.

reader_iam said...

And he was man of immense human appetites, too!

Interesting that someone like him today might very well not have an ice cube's shot in hell in winning office.

Or wouldn't have the patience for all the personal crap that comes with it.

Susan said...

I get the feeling Franklin was cleaning out his back room when he donated the books. The only one I recall was about stuff like glass harmonicas.

This morning on either the CBS or ABC Morning Show they showed his glass
harmonica
and had someone play it. Very cool.

vbspurs said...

NPR had a wonderful segment on Benjamin Franklin, yesterday in the afternoon.

The Franklin impersonator they interviewed, said that the questions about Ben Franklin, usually come fast and furious from the audience, which goes to show, our imagination is truly captured by him still.

More than any other Founding Father figure, I'd say, because there is a certain distance between us and George Washington, and even Thomas Jefferson.

But then Franklin was so very modern, he seems like someone most people today could relate to.

When I was listening to the segment, especially to the bit about his inventions, I thought what everyone must be thinking in the audience.

How MUCH I would love to have Ben Franklin come to the 21st century, if only for a day.

Can you imagine this old printer's utter delight, at fonts in computers?

And please don't ruin my reverie by snottily telling me he'd weep at the state of the US presidency today.

He didn't like the presidents and their powers then -- he wouldn't like them now, either.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

Interesting that someone like him today might very well not have an ice cube's shot in hell in winning office.

Interestingly, glamour puss Alexander Hamilton, a very able but incredibly arrogant man for whom the clause of "native born American" for president was written, would be a shoo-in.

I'm not sure, RIA, that Ben Franklin would be so inelectable, today.

(Hell Fire club and bastard son Richard, included)

The greater difficulty would be to get him to run for something.

He'd be bored, leave his campaign to go gossipping with Hans Küng and Jürgen Habermas in a second.

Cheers,
Victoria

PatCA said...

I think Franklin's charm would ensure his election! "He was faultless in spite of all his faults" --with apologies to Jane Austen.

BTW touring Philadelphia and all the historical sites, and chatting with the Franklin impersonator, is a marvelous experience, even if you are well steeped in history. What a time it was!

lindsey said...

"Interestingly, glamour puss Alexander Hamilton, a very able but incredibly arrogant man for whom the clause of "native born American" for president was written, would be a shoo-in."

Wow. You have an interesting attitude toward Hamilton. How come? I've certainly never heard him referred to as a "glamour puss"! Also, I doubt Hamilton would be a shoo-in. Didn't he become known as an adulterer?

vbspurs said...

Wow. You have an interesting attitude toward Hamilton. How come? I've certainly never heard him referred to as a "glamour puss"!

He so was! Just look at this dandified snooty man.

Mind you, you're right.

John Edwards is a modern-day equivalent. If he had the weightiness of Hamilton, he would be elected. As it is, no.

Also, I doubt Hamilton would be a shoo-in. Didn't he become known as an adulterer?

If fat Grover Cleveland who acknowledged an illegitimate child could get elected in the 1880s, darn it, so could Alec Hamilton.

Cheers,
Victoria

reader_iam said...

I edited myself earlier.

Among what I've always said about B. Franklin (and that's for real, I've always said it, frequently and sonorously, at least from my junior year in high school), is that I don't find it coincidental that he was a man of such monumental achievement who, by at least some reports, also boffed every barmaid between Philadelphia and Paris, and back again .

If he didn't, I daresay it wasn't due to lack of desire or ability.

So there.

reader_iam said...

For that reason, in these puckered days in terms of the execrable call for the hermetically sealed in terms of public service, my dear Ben might have a hard time.

Our loss.

M. Simon said...

Every time you look at the markings on a battery thank Franklin.

He coined the terms positive and negative for the polarity.

He is the reason electrons are negtively charged. Not that any one in his age had ever heard of electrons. That knowledge wouldn't come until the late 1800s.