Tag: Benjamin Franklin

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I’ve become a huge fan of podcasts, or as they say in the craft, “on-demand media.” I subscribe to several, from radio talker Hugh Hewitt’s “The Hughniverse” (his radio show without the commercials) to “What the Hell is Going On” by American Enterprise Institute senior fellows Marc Thiessen and Danielle Pletka. There are others. But […]

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Quote of the Day: Double Vision


File:Eye-chart.jpgI cannot distinguish a letter even of large print; but am happy in the invention of double spectacles, which serving for distant objects as well as near ones, make my eyes as useful to me as ever they were: If all the other defects and infirmities were as easily and cheaply remedied, it would be worth while for friends to live a good deal longer–Benjamin Franklin

Two-hundred-thirty-six years ago, on May 23, 1785, Benjamin Franklin offered a detailed description of his invention, “double spectacles,” to London optician Peter Dollond, who’d previously criticized Franklin’s idea as only good for “particular eyes.”  Franklin’s response:

By M. Dollond’s saying that my double spectacles can only serve particular eyes, I doubt he has not been rightly informed of their construction.  I imagine it will be found pretty generally true that the same convexity of glass through which a man sees clearly at a distance proper for reading is not the best for greater distances.  I therefore had formerly two pairs of spectacles which I shifted occasionally, as in traveling I sometimes read, and often wanted to regard the prospects.  Finding the change troublesome and not always sufficiently ready, I had the glasses cut and half of each kind associated in the same circle, thus–

Quote of the Day: Revolution Is…


Benjamin Franklin

A republic if you can keep it.

“War is when the government tells you who the bad guy is. Revolution is when you decide that for yourself.” –attributed to Benjamin Franklin

@soupguy recently wrote on the importance of April in US history, April is America’s Most Historically Significant Month, and I bring another example of that forward today. On April 11, 1783, the Continental Congress declared the ceasefire that ended hostilities in the American Revolutionary War. It comes to mind because I have just sat in a diner next to a woman outraged at the state of Georgia passing a law to close the polls at 5 p.m. (they didn’t) and her dining companion comforted her with the news from the NYT that the US Attorney General’s office was already on the (non-)case. They are at war, their disinformation officers fanning the flames, so I guess that leaves us the revolution end of that stick. A revolution to…preserve the Constitution?

The American Zeal for Punching Up


Red-blooded, real Americans are sick of America’s elites punching down on them. Authentic American politics, like authentic American comedy, roots for the underdog and punches up, not down. The problem with today’s elites is their down is up and their up is down: Our elites believe they’re signaling their superior virtue by “punching up” when they ridicule heartland America, but of course what they’re really doing is using their privileged social status to punch down on heartland America instead. Or that’s how it seems to many of us. For those unfamiliar with this punchy lingo, comedian Ben Schwartz explains,

“Punching up” and “punching down” are relatively new pop-political terms, often found not far from words like “mansplaining,” “problematic,” and “trolling.”

Deep Dive on the Declaration of Independence and Its Relevance Today


In honor of Independence Day, for this week’s Big Ideas with Ben Weingarten podcast I take a deep dive into the Declaration of Independence, discussing:

  • Its unique place in human history and the cause of freedom
  • The link between natural law and natural rights, faith and freedom
  • The Founders’ emphasis on virtue and morality to sustain a free system of limited government
  • Parallels between the charges laid out against King George III in the Declaration and modern America from the administrative state to sanctuary cities
  • The Founders’ views on slavery, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and failing to live up to the values and principles of the Declaration
  • The imperative to defend liberty against tyranny
  • And much more

You can find the episode on iTunes, everywhere else podcasts are found or download the episode directly here.

Wild America – a Patriotic Bestiary


If a mortician is someone who does mortuary work, Ben Franklin was something of a bestician, for his observations on American wildlife began a patriotic bestiary which has never, as far as I know, been completed. Franklin observed that the rattlesnake (ahem) is not only vigilant, magnanimous, and courageous, with a rattle like the 13 colonies, but is also “beautiful in youth and her beauty increaseth with her age, ‘her tongue also is blue and forked as the lightning, and her abode is among impenetrable rocks'” (a blue tongue being of course indispensable to the American Spirit).

Franklin wasn’t as kind to our bald eagle, though, teasing it for being a “a Bird of bad moral Character [who] does not get his Living honestly.” The turkey, Franklin wrote his daughter, “is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

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Benjamin Franklin drew as his design for the Great Seal of America, a picture of the Egyptians (i.e. the English) drowning in the Red Sea (i.e. the Atlantic), with the caption, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” Thomas Jefferson was so struck by the sentence that he recommended it to be used on the […]

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Unknown Unknowns


640px-Caldera_Mt_Tambora_Sumbawa_IndonesiaIf you time-traveled back to the spring of 1815 and asked anyone in Europe — or, for that matter, much of the rest of the world — what world-historical event was going on that would affect their lives over the next few years, almost everyone would have offered the same answer: Napoleon’s escape from Elba and attempt to reconstruct the French Empire. Each and every one of them would have been wrong.

What they should have been concerned with were the eruptions of Mt. Tambora in Indonesia, the biggest of which occurred 200 years ago this week. Tambora was one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in recorded history; quite possibly, the biggest. The explosion knocked the top mile off of the volcano and threw about 100 cubic kilometers of material into the atmosphere, about 24 times more than Mt. Helens would in its famous 1980 eruption (even the Krakatoa eruption a few decades later would be an order of magnitude less than Tambora). Estimates vary wildly, but low-ball figures estimate that at least 10,000 people died as a direct result of the explosion.

But this wasn’t a mere local news story. Through a combination of the explosion’s size, the height of the ash plume, and their source near the Earth’s equator, the eruption affected the entire world’s climate for the next three years. Again, estimates vary, but it’s likely that an additional 50,000 people were killed by famines and crop failures as far away as the United States, and twice that number more may have died from the typhus and cholera epidemics that followed. Nighttime temperatures in New England plummeted below freezing at least once in June, July, and August of 1816. Food prices surged globally, tens of thousands of farmers and peasants were turned into refugees in China, and the government of Switzerland was nearly overthrown by riots.

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In his 1758 work, “The Way to Wealth,” Benjamin Franklin wrote: “In short, the way to wealth, if you desire it is as plain as the way to market.  It depends chiefly on two words, industry and frugality.”  In other words, if a person does not produce or does not save, he is likely to be poor.  Pointing this […]

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