Sunday, August 8, 2010

There is way more Revolutionary stuff than I can manage to read.

There is no way I'm going to manage to even get a handle on the Revolutionary era in a month. But I'm trying. So this week I read:

The rest of Benjamin Franklin's autobiography. Who knew that he was such a lovable guy? Franklin is just fun to read. The autobiography actually doesn't even get close to the actual Revolution; it stops just as he's realizing that colonists and the English government are really not going to be able to get along no matter how much they talk. He has a lot to say about the corruption and arrogance of the English.

An interesting thing I noticed about Franklin was what a smooth operator he was. When faced with a problem, he liked to find a solution that made everybody happy without having to fight about it. One small example he gives is on a military expedition for the colony's defense. The chaplain complains about how the men never show up for daily prayers (which is required). Instead of punishing the men or anything else, Franklin suggests that the chaplain become steward of the rum ration and dole it out after the prayer meeting. Problem solved! He did stuff like that all the time.

Franklin often talks about how he got to be so agreeable. As a youth, he liked to argue and debate, but eventually realized that if he spoke more softly, he was much more popular--and got more support as well. This is a recurring theme (and a very 18th-century one); later in the book he describes a lawyer of his acquaintance, who loves nothing better than to dispute and argue. He says "He had some reason for loving to dispute, being eloquent, an acute sophister, and, therefore, generally successful in argumentative conversation...[but] in the course of my observation, these disputing, contradicting, and confuting people are generally unfortunate in their affairs. They get victory sometimes, but they never get good will, which would be of more use to them."

Oh, for a Benjamin Franklin in today's political arena....

I also started looking through a book I picked up at Barnes & Noble, which is a collection of documents from the Revolution through 1789. It's huge, and I'd like to read all of it, but it will take me a long time. Baby steps! I started at the beginning with Thomas Hutchinson's Address of the Governor of January 6, 1773. This is a speech that really kicked off revolutionary fervor, as Governor Hutchinson calmly and reasonably explained to the Massachusetts Assembly the obvious (to him) reasons why Americans could not have a voice in Parliament. As the speech was reprinted in newspapers and plunged the colony into an uproar.

Benjamin Franklin had been living in England for 15 years by 1773, trying to work with the English government on behalf of America. The English persisted in believing Americans to be disloyal, despite all Franklin could do to persuade them otherwise. He published a humorous essay called "Rules by which a great empire may be reduced to a small one" in September of that year, pointing out that the way the English treated Americans was ideal for turning loyalists into revolutionaries. The time for humor was soon over, but this was before things got ugly.

Next up is an essay my Thomas Jefferson called "A summary view of the rights of British America." I bet it won't be so fun to read as the Franklin essay.

And for your enjoyment, here's a nice little revolutionary video for you.

1 comment:

Blaine said...

I love the music. We want to help our american country. The Heritage Foundation is an organization that tries to keep our politics honest. They try to keep the free enterprise for our country. go to check them out.