Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Please stop invoking the name of Ben Franklin....

Friends of Historical Accuracy regarding the ethnic Japanese Evacuation of 1942

The following quote has become quite popular as of late....

"He who would sacrifice liberty for security, deserves neither."

In every instance I have read this quote, be it Newsweek Magazine, The Seattle P.I. or all over the internet, it has been attributed to Ben Franklin.

Franklin didn't write the quote....

His agent in London Richard Jackson wrote the quote.

The book "An Historical Review of Pennsylvania" originated with Franklin, who had been sent to London by the Assembly in 1755 to represent the colony in a tax dispute with the proprietors (descendents of William Penn living in Great Britain).

It was published in 1759. Franklin denied the attribution in a Sept. 27, 1760 letter to David Hume, where he writes, "I am oblig'd to you for the favourable Sentiments you express for the pieces sent you: tho' the Volume relating to our Pennsylvania Affairs was not written by me, nor any part of it except the Remarks of the Proprietor's Estimate of his Estate, and some of the inserted Messages and Reports of the Assembly, which I wrote when at home, as a member of Committees appointed by the House for that Service: the rest was by another hand."

1. The quote cannot be attributed to Franklin.

2. The quote used by Jackson refered to a tax dispute, not the security of the Republic.

When this historical fact is pointed out (and not ignored as by the P.I. and Newsweek when I called to their attention) the typical response is, " I don't care who wrote the quote or what the circumstances of the quote were! It's still good advice!"

That's fine, just please stop atrributing the quote to Ben Franklin and understand the historical context in which the quote was written.


At July 21, 2006 7:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While it's true that the authorship of the "An Historical..." book was later attributed to Franklin, Franklin did in fact, twice share this sentiment in written form. It was actually a familiar sentiment in his time. See details here: http://www.ushistory.org/franklin/quotable/quote04.htm

At January 14, 2007 12:29 PM, Blogger Friends of Historical Accuracy said...

That's fine. Just please stop attributing the quote to Franklin and let people know the context in which the quote was written.


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