Benjamin Franklin’s Wise Words For Certain Elected Officials
While many suggest that there is nothing to be gained from reading the writings of the Founders, I completely disagree. Nothing helps us understand the context in which our nation was born more than the letters, pamphlets, and other writings produced during the time immediately surrounding the founding of our country. It is in those writings that the struggle between the Colonists and the King is evident, the reader can feel the mounting anger on both sides, and understand why the Founders sought to construct a nation with a limited federal government.
While creating the information section about Benjamin Franklin for my website, www.bingoforpatriots.com, I came across Franklin’s satirical piece: Rules by Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced to a Small One. Franklin published this “suggestion list” in a journal entitled the Public Advertiser in 1773. Franklin’s seething rage toward the King absolutely oozes off the paper of this step-by-step guide to alienating the colonists.
What can be learned from Dr. Franklin’s thoughts? How are they applicable today? If I may employ a bit of humor, please allow me the privilege of making a few suggestions as to how this list might be brought up-to-date. First, let me state that a portion of Dr. Franklin’s remarks make reference to the violence and atrocities inflicted on the Colonists by King George III. I am in no way suggesting that this is the case today, and I wish no harm come to anyone. However, several of Dr. Franklin’s suggestions can easily be extrapolated to events which have occurred over the past few years. In an effort to not repeat the past mistakes of others, I believe that certain elected officials might benefit from a review of Dr. Franklin’s wise words. My additions to the original work are bracketed, italicized, and blue in color:
“I address myself to all Ministers who have the Management of extensive Dominions, which from their very Greatness are become troublesome to govern, because the Multiplicity of their Affairs leaves no Time for fiddling.
- In the first Place, Gentlemen, you are to consider, that a great Empire, like a great Cake, is most easily diminished at the Edges. Turn your Attention therefore first to your remotest Provinces [the citizens who are least likely to cast a vote for you in future elections]; that as you get rid of them [alienate them, anger them, etc.], the next may follow in Order.
- That the Possibility of this Separation may always exist, take special Care the Provinces [voters] are never incorporated with the Mother Country [or feel that their interests are in opposition to your vision for transforming our country], that they do not enjoy the same common Rights [as other citizens because you have promoted class warfare], the same Privileges in Commerce [if they own small businesses], and that they are governed by severer Laws [because of new mandates and regulations], all of your enacting, without allowing them any Share in the Choice of the Legislators [or unconfirmed appointees who are a part of the rapid expansion of the federal government]. By carefully making and preserving such Distinctions, you will (to keep to my Simile of the Cake) act like a wise Gingerbread Baker, who, to facilitate a Division, cuts his Dough half through in those Places, where, when bak’d, he would have it broken to Pieces.
- These remote Provinces [voters] have perhaps been acquired, purchas’d, or conquer’d [won over by the near mania that existed after the 2008 election], at the sole Expence of the Settlers [your opponents during the primaries] or their Ancestors [significant others and family members], without the Aid of the Mother Country (Democratic party). If this should happen to increase her Strength by their growing Numbers ready to join in her Wars, her Commerce by their growing Demand for her Manufactures, or her Naval Power by greater Employment for her Ships and Seamen, they may probably suppose some Merit in this, and that it entitles them to some Favour; you are therefore to forget it all, or resent it as if they had done you Injury [thus alienating people who are important in your efforts to be re-elected]. If they happen to be zealous Whigs, Friends of Liberty [Republicans or Tea Party activists], nurtur’d in Revolution Principles, remember all that to their Prejudice, and contrive to punish it: For such Principles, after a Revolution is thoroughly established, are of no more Use, they are even odious and abominable.
- However peaceably your Colonies [the states] 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 [or enact laws which challenge federal power and authority such as Arizona’s SB1070], 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.
- Remote Provinces must have Governors [local offices of federal agencies], and Judges, to represent the Royal Person, and execute every where the delegated Parts of his Office and Authority. You Ministers know, that much of the Strength of Government depends on the Opinion of the People; and much of that Opinion on the Choice of Rulers placed immediately over them. If you send them wise and good Men for Governors, who study the Interest of the Colonists [voters in each state], and advance their Prosperity, they will think their King wise and good, and that he wishes the Welfare of his Subjects. If you send them learned and upright Men for Judges, they will think him a Lover of Justice. This may attach your Provinces more to his Government. You are therefore to be careful who you recommend for those Offices. — If you can find Prodigals [donors to your campaigns or other supporters] who have ruined their Fortunes, broken Gamesters or Stock-Jobbers, these may do well as Governors (political appointments); for they will probably be rapacious, and provoke the People by their Extortions. Wrangling Proctors and petty-fogging Lawyers too are not amiss, for they will be for ever disputing and quarrelling with their little Parliaments [state legislatures and local elected bodies]. If withal they should be ignorant, wrong-headed and insolent, so much the better. Attorneys Clerks and Newgate Solicitors will do for Chief-Justices, especially if they hold their Places during your Pleasure: — And all will contribute to impress those ideas of your [transformation of the federal] Government that are proper for a People you would wish to renounce it.
- 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 [who may be individual citizens, representatives of the states, or elected members of Congress] 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.
- When such Governors [chiefs of staff and other political appointees] have crammed their Coffers [made unpopular statements, engaged in struggles within the administration, etc.], and made themselves so odious to the People that they can no longer remain among them with Safety to their Persons, recall and reward them with Pensions [we, citizens, tend to hear about financial or other vicarious benefits years after they have been arranged]. You may make them Baronets [ambassadors] too, if that respectable Order should not think fit to resent it. All will contribute to encourage new Governors in the same Practices, and make the supreme Government detestable.
- If when you are engaged in War, your Colonies [members of the armed forces] should vie in liberal Aids of Men and Money against the common Enemy, upon your simple Requisition, and give far beyond their Abilities, reflect, that a Penny taken from them by your Power is more honourable to you than a Pound presented by their Benevolence. Despise therefore their voluntary Grants [service to their country], and resolve to harrass them with novel Taxes [or advocate that the defense budget be slashed, future weapons development be placed on hold, and our nuclear stockpile be disarmed]. They will probably complain to your Parliaments [the Congress] that they are taxed by a Body in which they have no Representative [your administration], and that this is contrary to common Right. They will petition for Redress. Let the Parliaments flout their Claims, reject their Petitions, refuse even to suffer the reading of them, and treat the Petitioners with the utmost Contempt. Nothing can have a better Effect, in producing the Alienation proposed [within the military]; for though many can forgive Injuries, none ever forgave Contempt.
- [Let’s refocus the taxes metaphor onto another issue…] In laying these [or other] Taxes, never regard the heavy Burthens those remote People already undergo [from the state in which they reside], in defending their own Frontiers, supporting their own provincial Governments, making new Roads, building Bridges, Churches and other public Edifices, which in old Countries have been done to your Hands by your Ancestors, but which occasion constant Calls and Demands on the Purses of a new People [such as is the case with Social Security]. Forget the Restraints you lay on their Trade for your own Benefit [for example refusal to approve the Keystone Pipeline], and the Advantage a Monopoly of this Trade gives your exacting Merchants [including, but not limited to, “green” companies]. Think nothing of the Wealth those Merchants and your Manufacturers acquire by the Colony Commerce; their encreased Ability thereby to pay Taxes at home; their accumulating, in the Price of their Commodities, most of those Taxes, and so levying them from their consuming Customers: All this, and the Employment and Support of Thousands of your Poor by the Colonists, you are intirely to forget. But remember to make your arbitrary Tax more grievous to your Provinces, by public Declarations importing that your Power of taxing them has no Limits [or at least will result in a fair redistribution of wealth], so that when you take from them without their Consent a Shilling in the Pound, you have a clear Right to the other nineteen. This will probably weaken every Idea of Security in their Property, and convince them that under such a Government they have nothing they can call their own; which can scarce fail of producing the happiest Consequences! [Ah, how this point might have been written by any number of modern day bloggers…..]
- 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 [or compel religious based institutions to provide services that are in opposition with their religious beliefs], alter our ecclesiastical Constitutions, and compel us to be Papists if they please, or Mahometans [,or secularists, or atheists].’ To annihilate this Comfort, begin by Laws to perplex their Commerce with infinite Regulations impossible to be remembered and observed [by businesses large and small]; ordain Seizures of their Property for every Failure [such as purchasing mandated healthcare]; take away the Trial of such Property by Jury [by expanding federal forfeiture laws], 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 [or more likely by the main stream media], that Opposition to your Edicts is Treason, and that Persons suspected of Treason in the Provinces may, according to some obsolete Law [or an executive order such as the National Defense Resources Preparedness Order], 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 [or more likely a regulatory board] among them, accompanied by an armed Force [or at least a few drones], 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 [let’s hope things don’t get that carried away…]. 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.’ [Isn’t this what the folks who believe that a declaration of martial law is imminent are afraid of?] 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. [Although some people continue to almost worship the current occupant of the Oval Office, I personally view him as nothing more than a progressive ideologue.]
- To make your Taxes more odious, and more likely to procure Resistance, send from the Capital a Board of Officers to superintend the Collection, composed of the most indiscreet, ill-bred and insolent you can find. Let these have large Salaries out of the extorted Revenue, and live in open grating Luxury upon the Sweat and Blood of the Industrious, whom they are to worry continually with groundless and expensive Prosecutions before the above-mentioned arbitrary Revenue-Judges, all at the Cost of the Party prosecuted tho’ acquitted, because the King is to pay no Costs. — Let these Men by your Order be exempted from all the common Taxes and Burthens of the Province, though they and their Property are protected by its Laws. If any Revenue Officers are suspected of the least Tenderness for the People, discard them. If others are justly complained of, protect and reward them. If any of the Under-officers behave so as to provoke the People to drub them, promote those to better Offices: This will encourage others to procure for themselves such profitable Drubbings, by multiplying and enlarging such Provocations, and all with work towards the End you aim at. [While I personally would not characterize the good employees of the Internal Revenue Service in such terms, certain Tea Party groups who feel they are being unfairly scrutinized because of their disagreements with the present administration just might.]
- Another Way to make your Tax odious, is to misapply the Produce of it [such as been done in the case of the Social Security trust fund]. If it was originally appropriated for the Defence of the Provinces and the better Support of Government, and the Administration of Justice where it may be necessary, then apply none of it to that Defence, but bestow it where it is not necessary, in augmented Salaries or Pensions [or promises of future appointments] to every Governor who has distinguished himself by his Enmity to the People, and by calumniating them to their Sovereign. This will make them pay it more unwillingly, and be more apt to quarrel with those that collect it, and those that imposed it, who will quarrel again with them, and all shall contribute to your main Purpose of making them weary of your Government.
- If the People of any Province have been accustomed to support their own Governors [such as in the case of the Governor of Arizona] and Judges to Satisfaction, you are to apprehend [turn a cold shoulder to] that such Governors and Judges may be thereby influenced to treat the People kindly, and to do them Justice. This is another Reason for applying Part of that Revenue in larger Salaries to such Governors and Judges, given, as their Commissions are, during your Pleasure only, forbidding them to take any Salaries from their Provinces; that thus the People may no longer hope any Kindness from their Governors, or (in Crown Cases) any Justice from their Judges. And as the Money thus mis-applied in one Province is extorted from all [because of crony capitalism], probably all will resent the Mis-application.
- If the Parliaments of your Provinces [or critics of your administration] should dare to claim Rights or complain of your Administration, order them to be harass’d with repeated Dissolutions [media investigations, criticisms from your supporters, and the like]. If the same Men are continually return’d by new Elections, adjourn their Meetings to some Country Village where they cannot be accommodated, and there keep them during Pleasure; for this, you know, is your PREROGATIVE; and an excellent one it is, as you may manage it, to promote Discontents among the People, diminish their Respect, and increase their Dis-affection.
- [Of course, consider this statement in terms of trade agreements, tariffs, or the proposed LOST treaty rather than any actions of our brave and honorable military personnel] Convert the brave honest Officers of your Navy into pimping Tide-waiters and Colony Officers of the Customs. Let those who in Time of War fought gallantly in Defence of the Commerce of their Countrymen, in Peace be taught to prey upon it. Let them learn to be corrupted by great and real Smugglers, but (to shew their Diligence) scour with armed Boats every Bay, Harbour, River, Creek, Cove or Nook throughout the Coast of your Colonies, stop and detain every Coaster, every Wood-boat, every Fisherman, tumble their Cargoes, and even their Ballast, inside out and upside down; and if a Penn’orth of Pins is found un-entered, let the Whole be seized and confiscated. Thus shall the Trade of your Colonists suffer more from their Friends in Time of Peace, than it did from their Enemies in War. Then let these Boats Crews land upon every Farm in their Way, rob the Orchards, steal the Pigs and Poultry, and insult the Inhabitants. If the injured and exasperated Farmers, unable to procure other Justice, should attack the Agressors, drub them and burn their Boats, you are to call this High Treason and Rebellion, order Fleets and Armies into their Country, and threaten to carry all the Offenders three thousand Miles to be hang’d, drawn and quartered. O! this will work admirably!
- If you are told of Discontents in your Colonies [through feedback such as that of the 2010 midterm elections], never believe that they are general, or that you have given Occasion for them; therefore do not think of applying any Remedy, or of changing any offensive Measure. Redress no Grievance [or adopt more moderate positions], lest they should be encouraged to demand the Redress of some other Grievance. Grant no Request that is just and reasonable, lest they should make another that is unreasonable. Take all your Informations of the State of the Colonies from your [same party] Governors [close advisors and contributors] and Officers in Enmity [such as the like-minded ideologues in the Congress] with them. Encourage and reward these Leasing-makers; secrete their lying Accusations lest they should be confuted; but act upon them as the clearest Evidence, and believe nothing you hear from the Friends of the People. Suppose all their Complaints to be invented and promoted by a few factious Demagogues, whom if you could catch and hang, all would be quiet. Catch and hang a few of them accordingly [that would be Dr. Franklin’s suggestions, not mine…]; and the Blood of the Martyrs shall work Miracles in favour of your Purpose.
- If you see rival Nations [such as the citizens of Israel] rejoicing at the Prospect of your Disunion with your Provinces [by your defeat in November], and endeavouring to promote it: If they translate, publish and applaud all the Complaints of your discontented Colonists, at the same Time privately stimulating you to severer Measures; let not that alarm or offend you. Why should it? since you all mean the same Thing.
- If any Colony should at their own Charge erect a Fortress to secure their Port against the Fleets of a foreign Enemy [or their borders from violations by citizens of another country], get your Governor to betray that Fortress into your Hands [or ask your Attorney General to challenge any laws passed by state citizens or state legislators that challenge federal authority and strive to promote a more secure border]. Never think of paying what it cost the Country, for that would look, at least, like some Regard for Justice; but turn it into a Citadel to awe the Inhabitants and curb their Commerce. If they should have lodged in such Fortress the very Arms they bought and used to aid you in your Conquests, seize them all, ’twill provoke like Ingratitude added to Robbery. One admirable Effect of these Operations will be, to discourage every other Colony from erecting such Defences, and so their and your Enemies may more easily invade them, to the great Disgrace of your Government, and of course the Furtherance of your Project.
- Send Armies [or the ATF] into their Country under Pretence of protecting the Inhabitants; but instead of garrisoning the Forts on their Frontiers with those Troops, to prevent Incursions, demolish those Forts [and sell guns to Mexican drug cartels], and order the Troops into the Heart of the Country, that the Savages [drug lords] may be encouraged to attack the Frontiers, and that the Troops may be protected by the Inhabitants [such as the militia groups who sought to assist federal officials by providing surveillance of the Mexican border]: This will seem to proceed from your Ill will or your Ignorance, and contribute farther to produce and strengthen an Opinion among them, that you are no longer fit to govern them.
- Lastly, Invest the General of your Army in the Provinces with great and unconstitutional Powers, and free him from the Controul of even your own Civil Governors. Let him have Troops enow under his Command, with all the Fortresses in his Possession; and who knows but (like some provincial Generals in the Roman Empire, and encouraged by the universal Discontent you have produced) he may take it into his Head to set up for himself. If he should, and you have carefully practised these few excellent Rules of mine, take my Word for it, all the Provinces will immediately join him, and you will that Day (if you have not done it sooner) get rid of the Trouble of governing them, and all the Plagues attending their Commerce and Connection from thenceforth and for ever. Q. E. D.”
[Although there is no general with unconstitutional powers roaming freely around this great nation, there is a well organized group of citizens who desire reforms that would return the federal government to the size and scope which is outlined in the Constitution. When they decided to collectively use their votes to send a clear message, then I believe Dr. Franklin’s Q.E.D (the Latin phrase “quod erat demonstrandum” that translates into the chain of the argument “which was to be demonstrated” or proven) will have once again have been correctly concluded. Bravo, Dr. Franklin! Your words which are still wise more than 200 years after they were written.)