Benjamin Franklin Representative selections, with introduction, bibliograpy, and notes

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 91

statesman, a man of letters, a
scientist, he had embraced scientific deism, primarily impelled by
Newtonianism. We have observed that it is not improbable that his
agrarianism, emphasis on free trade, and tendency toward laissez faire
were partially at least the result of his efforts to parallel in
economics the harmony of the physical order. Likewise, his views on
education were conditioned by his faith in intellectual progress, in the
might of Reason, which in turn was in part the result of his scientific
deism. Then too, it may well be suggested that his theories of rhetoric
were to some degree the result of his rationalistic and scientific
habits of mind. We have also seen that his scientific deism was among
the motivating factors of his belief in natural rights, which, coupled
with his empirical awareness of concrete economic and political abuses
issuing from monarchy and imperialistic parliamentarians, made him alive
to the sovereignty of the people in their demands for civil and
political liberty. This introduction, it is hoped, has made apparent the
fact that the growth of Franklin's mind was a complex matter and that it
was moulded by a vast multitude of often diverse influences, no one of
which alone completely "explains" him. Puritanism, classicism, and
neoclassicism were all important influences. Yet perhaps the _modus
operandi_ of this myriad-minded colonial, this provincial Leonardo, is
best explained in reference to the thought pattern of scientific deism.
To see the reflection of Newton and his progeny in Franklin's
activities, be they economic, political, literary, or philosophical,
lends a compelling organic unity to the several sides of his genius,
heretofore seen as unrelated. Franklin's mind represents an intellectual
coherence--an imperfect counterpart to the physical harmony of the
Newtonian order, of which all through his life he was a disciple.


[i-1] _The Works of John Adams_, ed. by C. F. Adams (Boston, 1856), f,

[i-2] W. P. Trent, "Benjamin Franklin," _McClure's Magazine_, VIII,
273 (Jan., 1897).

[i-3] Cited in C. R. Weld's _History of the Royal Society_ (London,
1848), I, 146. For Baconian influence see I, 57 f. See also Edwin
Greenlaw, "The New Science and English Literature in the Seventeenth
Century," _Johns Hopkins Alumni Magazine_, XIII, 331-59 (1925). Of
dominant tendencies he stresses (a) a "new realism, or sense of fact
and reliance on observation and experiment"; (b) the disregard for
authority in favor of free inquiry; and (c) the development of faith
in progress, inspiring men to improve their worldly condition.

[i-4] E. A. Burtt, _The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical
Science_, 208. Newtonianism as a method and a philosophy has been ably
examined by recent scholars. See, for examples,

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Text Comparison with The Complete Works in Philosophy, Politics and Morals of the late Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 2 [of 3]

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Franklin 55 Gentleman of New York in reply 58 Account of a whirlwind at Maryland 61 On the north east storms in North America 63 Meteorological imaginations and conjectures 66 Suppositions and conjectures towards forming an hypothesis, for the explanation of the aurora borealis 69 On cold produced by evaporation 75 On the same subject 83 Concerning the light in sea-water .
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**** When I was at the eastward, I had an opportunity of observing the luminous appearance of the sea when disturbed: at the head and stern of the vessel, when under way, it appeared very bright.
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The greater dryness of the air in America appears from some other observations.
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This is not a chamber experiment; for it cannot be well repeated in a bowl or dish of water on a table.
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Blagden, who all assisted at the experiment, during that blustering unpleasant day, with a patience and activity that could only be inspired by a zeal for the improvement of knowledge, such especially as might possibly be of use to men in situations of distress.
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| | 14 | 8 | | 70 | 70 | |N 74 E| 111 |42 0|39 57| | | -- | |Noon| | 72 |ESE | | | | | | | -- | | 4 | | 71 | | | | | | | | 15 | 8 | | 61 | 69 | | | | | | | | -- | |Noon| | 68 |WSW |N 70 E| 186 |43 3|35 51| | | -- | | 4 | | 67 | | | | | | | | 16 | |Noon| 65 | 67 |S W |N 67 W| 48 |43 22|34 50| | | -- | | 4 | | 63 | | | | | | .
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_On the Effects of Lead upon the human Constitution[42].
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(vi) The top plate has a pair of ears, M N, answerable to those in the bottom plate, and perforated for the same purpose: it has also a pair of ledges running round the under side, to receive the top edges of the front, back, and side-plates.
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Let emulation be excited among the boys, by giving, weekly, little prizes, or other small encouragements to those, who are able to give the best account of what they have read, as to time, places, names of persons, &c.
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formed on observations made upon the bills of mortality, christenings, &c.
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_] In inland high countries, remote from the sea, and whose rivers are small, running _from_ the country, and not _to_ it, as is the case of Switzerland, great distress may arise from a course of bad harvests, if public granaries are not provided, and kept well stored.
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Then follows a prohibition, founded on the imaginary distress of the poor.
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the help of these, artful men overpower their wisdom, and dupe its possessors: and if we may judge, by the acts, arrets, and edicts, all the world over, for regulating commerce, an assembly of great men is the greatest fool upon earth.
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The general opinion was only, that those _who are in error_ ought not to persecute _the truth_: but the _possessors of truth_ were in the right to persecute error, in order to destroy it.
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better conducted by some substances than others, ii.
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constitution of the colonies by, 299.
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_Smoke_, principle by which it ascends, ii.