So, in an effort to set the record straight, I decided to stage a little debate that would address some of these myths, mistakes, and misconceptions.
Let me introduce the debaters: Mr. A. Fable will present the fallacious information, while Mr. N. Fact will respond with a more accurate account of the actual event or subject matter.
A. Fable: I heard that Ben Franklin was always cheerful, cool, calm, and composed.
N. Fact: Actually, Ben was as human as the rest of us. So he did get sad, angry, annoyed, you name it. And he was so bothered by his son William remaining a supporter of England, a Loyalist, that he just about disowned him.
A. Fable: Wasn’t Ben a military man, who was gung-ho on war?
N. Fact: He did organize a militia, and he built forts and served in the army that helped defend the colonists during conflicts like the French & Indian War…. but he was better known as a negotiator, arbitrator, and peacemaker. He once said, “There is no good war, and no bad peace.”
A. Fable: He was one of our first presidents, I understand.
N. Fact: No, Franklin was the only one of the Founding Fathers who didn’t become President.
A. Fable: From the pictures I’ve seen of Ben Franklin, it looks like he was a real food-hound.
N. Fact: Actually, when he was younger, he was pretty toned and physically fit, from the regular exercise he did. At one point, he was a vegetarian. Back then, his tastes were rather simple, and he liked to save money with meals like a slice of bread, some raisins, and a glass of water. It was only later that he developed a taste for good food – such as the roast beef dinners and mince pies prepared by his wife Deborah.
A. Fable: “A penny saved is a penny earned” was one of his famous quotes. Wasn’t he a real cheapskate?
N. Fact: He may have been frugal, but he was one of the most generous men around, using the money he’d made from his printing business to start a university, establish the first hospital in the U.S., launch a volunteer fire company, create a subscription library, and fund numerous civic improvement projects.
A. Fable: Tell me, is it true that Ben never went to church?
N. Fact: I wouldn’t say never. But there were a few occasions when he went to hear noted preachers like George Whitfield – even published his sermons and built a hall for him. And while he wasn’t known to pray in public, during the deadlocked deliberations for writing a new U.S. Constitution, Franklin suggested opening the delegates’ meetings with a prayer, to help talks get back on track.
A. Fable: Was he an atheist?
N. Fact: No, actually, he did believe in God, but was very ecumenical in his thinking.
A. Fable: Ben never finished school, right?
N. Fact: True, he only finished two years in elementary school. So he was mostly self-taught. But he was one of the wisest and smartest men in the colonies – perhaps a genius, in many ways. And this was ultimately recognized when he received honorary degrees from Yale and Harvard University, a master’s degree from William and Mary, and doctorates from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and Oxford University in England.
A. Fable: Wasn’t Franklin responsible for getting the first electric street lamps installed in Philadelphia?
N. Fact: His work with electricity was pretty extensive, but it didn’t include electric street lamps. That happened way after his time, when the electric light was invented by Thomas Edison. Franklin did, however, have a role in Philadelphia’s first oil-burning street lamps, which he proposed installing in front of each house. He even invented a new, more efficient, flat-paned design for the street lamps, which would be easier to maintain, keep clean, and replace when the glass enclosures happened to break.
Franklin: Well, thank you, debaters, for a very enlightening and informative discussion. I am very appreciative that a lot of these issues have finally been clarified and the misinformation amended. While I am always glad to know that people are reading about me, it’s even better when they have the correct information.