The Rattle-Snake As A Symbol Of America

Only one man would have had the wit, the audacity, and the self-confidence to make the case

At the end of 1775, when fighting had already begun between the Americans and the British, an essay about the character of rattlesnakes appeared in the Pennsylvania Journal signed by “An American Guesser.” The Guesser, obviously a patriot and a witty one, has just recently been identified as Benjamin Franklin. This piece, and fifty-six other newly attributed writings, which have never before been collected, are included in the recently published Library of America volume Benjamin Franklin: Writings.Read more »

Interview With A Founding Father

James Wilson was an important but now obscure draftsman of the Constitution. Carry Wills is a journalist and historian fascinated by what went on in the minds of our founders. The two men meet in an imaginary dialogue across the centuries.

 

His red judge’s robe looked faded and theatrical by daylight. People at the bus stop stared at him, and his face flushed near the color of the robe. But he busily ignored them. Read more »

Mr. Franklin’s Leadership Maxims

At the first meeting of my first class in business school, our instructor divided the class into groups and gave each group a project. “Most of you are going to spend the rest of your lives trying to get things done in or through groups,” he told us, “so you might as well start now.” Read more »

Magnificent Monarch Of The Skies

THE AMERICAN BALD EAGLE

Do we still want him for our national bird?

… If so, why do we treat him so badly? There were probably more bald eagles in our skies in 1789 when they were chosen as the national bird than at any time since. The Audubon Society now estimates that hunters, the overrunning of nesting areas, and more recently, DDT have reduced their total population to about two thousand (exclusive of Alaska, where they are still relatively numerous).Read more »

Benjamin Franklin’s Years In London

“I … sigh in the midst of cheerful company”

It is difficult not to think of Benjamin Franklin in a purely American setting. After all, this Philadelphia printer who—with little formal schooling—became a remarkable scientist, inventor,writer, philosopher, politician, and statesman was quite as distinctively American as the turkey he proposed for our national symbol. D. H.Read more »

Pistols For Two … Coffee For One

“It is astonishing that the murderous practice of Benjamin Franklin. Yet continue it did, duelling should continue so long in vogue,” said often with peculiarly American variations

Few boys survive their school days without using their fists now and then. If these fights are extemporaneous affairs, fought in the immediate heat of anger, they are little more than animal reflex actions. But if they are of the “I’ll see you after school” variety, allowing time for rage to be replaced by trepidation, they become highly complex manifestations of human emotions and social pressures. By the time the young gladiators arrive on the field of combat, usually one or both of them would much prefer to be home watching television.Read more »

The French Connection

Rakehells, men of good will, adventurers, and bunglers were all in the glittering pageant when the Old World came to help out the New

Two great historic figures, men who have merged into myth, are almost the sole remains of the alliance between France and the revolutionary forces of America—Lafayette and Benjamin Franklin. And like most myths time has changed them, clothing the reality in a web of romance. The young Marquis de Lafayette, plunging ashore on North Island, South Carolina, is seen as the personification of those forces in France that yearned for liberty, for freedom from the oppressive hierarchical regime of an absolutist monarchy.Read more »

“what Good Is A New-born Baby?”

OF BALLOONS, THE FIRST AIR-MAIL LETTERS, AND THE EVER-ENTERPRISING FRANKLIN FAMILY

Seventy-seven-year-old Benjamin Franklin was at the top of his form in the fall of 1783. Minister to the court of France since 1776, this revered figure from the new young country had scored widely in France. Finally, in September, 1783, he had signed the definitive treaty of peace between America and England, bringing the Revolution to its formal end. The crowned heads of Europe saluted him; the diplomats admired him; the ladies adored him. Read more »

Men Of The Revolution—vii

The whole history of America affords examples of men who fitted precisely the needs of a particular moment, only to be cast aside, forgotten or traduced when the tide of events they created or manipulated waned and time passed them by. During and after the Revolution, it happened to James Otis and Samuel Adams, but for no one did ingratitude follow fame quite so cruelly as for Thomas Paine. Read more »

Exit Lines

About to die at the untimely age of forty-four in 1883, Dr. George Miller Beard, a Connecticut physician and pioneer in neurology, remarked: “I should like to record the thoughts of a dying man for the benefit of science, but it is impossible.” And with those words, Dr. Beard passed beyond further speech. Regardless of their inner thoughts, we do at least know what many individuals uttered before giving up the ghost.Read more »