Ben’s Birthday


Happy birthday to the most dangerous man in America, writer, printer, inventor, and all-around admirable fellow, Benjamin Franklin.

In Paris, a friend took him to a concert where a musician played on a tray of wine glasses that had been filled to different levels. Franklin figured out how to do it better, and invented the glass armonica, which he said was his favorite invention. Mozart, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky wrote pieces for it; “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” in Swan Lake was originally scored for glass armonica. Its popularity waned because the ethereal sound it produced was supposed to have driven a couple of the musicians who played it mad.

There was a laboratory glassware company in New England that would make you one out of quartz bowls, which are a lot less fragile; not sure if they are still in business. There are lots of YouTube videos of folks playing pieces on the armonica; I like William Zeitler, who used to do concerts at Colonial Williamsburg.

As I often say, never underestimate an old, fat guy.

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  1. DonG (CAGW is a Scam) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Scam)

    Ben would have gone to Davos.   Possibly has a world leader, but maybe as a protester.  Since the leaders get better liquor and “escorts”, we can be sure where he would side ;)

    • #1
  2. Mad Gerald Coolidge
    Mad Gerald

    I video taped a live armonica performance once.  It was interesting. 

    If I ever find that tape and an 8mm player I need to digitize it. 

    • #2
  3. Barfly Member

    Mad Gerald (View Comment):

    I video taped a live armonica performance once. It was interesting.

    If I ever find that tape and an 8mm player I need to digitize it.

    I too keep old media. I can’t decide whether I’d rather have a working armonica, or working versions of all those old devices. In fact, if I was an academic, that’d be an academic question. 

    • #3
  4. DrewInWisconsin, Oik Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oik

    One of those satirical pieces by Ben Franklin that seems to have been forgotten, but definitely worth reflecting on from time to time. Particularly at this time.

    Rules by Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced to a Small One

    IV. However peaceably your Colonies have submitted to your Government, shewn their Affection to your Interest, and patiently borne their Grievances, you are to suppose them always inclined to revolt, and treat them accordingly. Quarter Troops among them, who by their Insolence may provoke the rising of Mobs, and by their Bullets and Bayonets suppress them. By this Means, like the Husband who uses his Wife ill from Suspicion, you may in Time convert your Suspicions into Realities.

    . . .

    VI. To confirm these Impressions, and strike them deeper, whenever the Injured come to the Capital with Complaints of Mal-administration, Oppression, or Injustice, punish such Suitors with long Delay, enormous Expence, and a final Judgment in Favour of the Oppressor. This will have an admirable Effect every Way. The Trouble of future Complaints will be prevented, and Governors and Judges will be encouraged to farther Acts of Oppression and Injustice; and thence the People may become more disaffected, and at length desperate.


    • #4
  5. DrewInWisconsin, Oik Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oik

    X. Possibly indeed some of them might still comfort themselves, and say, “Though we have no Property, we have yet something left that is valuable; we have constitutional Liberty both of Person and of Conscience. This King, these Lords, and these Commons, who it seems are too remote from us to know us and feel for us, cannot take from us our Habeas Corpus Right, or our Right of Trial by a Jury of our Neighbours: They cannot deprive us of the Exercise of our Religion, alter our ecclesiastical Constitutions, and compel us to be Papists if they please, or Mahometans.”

    To annihilate this Comfort, begin by Laws to perplex their Commerce with infinite Regulations impossible to be remembered and observed; ordain Seizures of their Property for every Failure; take away the Trial of such Property by Jury, and give it to arbitrary Judges of your own appointing, and of the lowest Characters in the Country, whose Salaries and Emoluments are to arise out of the Duties or Condemnations, and whose Appointments are during Pleasure.

    Then let there be a formal Declaration of both Houses, that Opposition to your Edicts is Treason, and that Persons suspected of Treason in the Provinces may, according to some obsolete Law, be seized and sent to the Metropolis of the Empire for Trial; and pass an Act that those there charged with certain other Offences shall be sent away in Chains from their Friends and Country to be tried in the same Manner for Felony.

    Then erect a new Court of Inquisition among them, accompanied by an armed Force, with Instructions to transport all such suspected Persons, to be ruined by the Expence if they bring over Evidences to prove their Innocence, or be found guilty and hanged if they can’t afford it.

    And lest the People should think you cannot possibly go any farther, pass another solemn declaratory Act, that “King, Lords, and Commons had, hath, and of Right ought to have, full Power and Authority to make Statutes of sufficient Force and Validity to bind the unrepresented Provinces IN ALL CASES WHATSOEVER.”

    This will include Spiritual with temporal; and taken together, must operate wonderfully to your Purpose, by convincing them, that they are at present under a Power something like that spoken of in the Scriptures, which can not only kill their Bodies, but damn their Souls to all Eternity, by compelling them, if it pleases, to worship the Devil.

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  6. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    Great post!

    • #6
  7. Misthiocracy has never Member
    Misthiocracy has never

    I dunno if John Williams composed it this way, but Hedwig’s Theme works really well on a glass armonica.

    • #7
  8. James Salerno Coolidge
    James Salerno

    Happy birthday, Mr. Franklin. Your autobiography is still the best instruction manual to life that I’ve ever read.

    • #8
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