Benjamin franklin remains in collective memory as the founding father of the United States, the drafter of the American Constitution, the inventor of various devices; but we know a little less about his side activities like journalism, writing, and his mad passion for humor. Thus, he can convey his ideas through letters and surprising newspaper articles, full of curious advice, always in a pleasant tone, like some that we report here.
His beginnings in printing
The last of a family of seventeen children, he was born in 1706, learned printing from his older brother at the age of ten and gradually discovered that natural writing was the best way to convey his ideas and that by using humor, everything is better accepted.
In 1729 he bought the “Pennsylvania Gazette” which would become the most widely read and profitable newspaper in colonial America. Eager to pass on his knowledge, he will publish a mixture of serious articles concerning scientific notions, alongside advice on remaining thrifty, but also on how to behave in society in order to "shine there in order to eclipse the brilliance of neighbors so that it doesn't tarnish ours… but by force, we become a detestable companion, by bringing everything to ourselves, by interrupting the one who is speaking, most shy people will let us talk, so we will shine without fear of a rival ” .
In 1732, its first edition "Les Almanacs du Bonhomme Richard", stuffed with domestic advice, scientific information, proverbs and maxims, sold 10,000 copies. A defender of the public interest, but often using pseudonyms, he takes the example of "creating a sundial so that everyone can know the time without seeing the dial, using powder cannons. This dial is very expensive compared to the advantages obtained, it is the same for public projects, requiring a large investment for little profit ”.
His articles of society
Once his fortune is acquired, he sells his printing and stationery shops to one of his employees to devote himself to research and politics, but does not lose his humor and his fantasy. He then had time to create schools, libraries, even a firefighting company. He invented the glass harmonica, the Franklin stove, the lightning rod, embarked on work on electricity, was admitted to the Royal Society of London and the Paris Academy of Sciences.
Considering that conversation is an essential means of disseminating culture, he founded in 1750 a club where members discuss philosophical subjects, and Benjamin allows himself to philosophize about wine, from which he will write the song "the First Men" :
The First Men were all perfectly sober
They didn't have wine, didn't brew in October;
All wicked, bilious, bad shots preparing,
No good living, without good picks.
It was this old and honest Noah who planted a vineyard first,
And, drinking his wine, preserved his morality;
He rightly condemned the water drinkers;
Knowing that all of humanity would soon perish.
From this episode, clearly we learn
That water is neither good for the body nor for the reason;
That in drunkenness there is virtue and security,
Whereas everything that drinks water deserves to be drowned.
So, for our salvation, let's raise our glass.
Benjamin Franklin can no longer bear to see England deport criminals to the American colonies, especially since the colonial assemblies want to pass a law "to prevent and discourage the transport of convicts and thugs from Great Britain preventing development and population. satisfying Colonies ”. He wrote a letter to be published in 1751 taking as an example the rattlesnakes that we are entitled to exterminate, but whose death could be transformed into deportation ... they would be transported to England, left on the places where the English walked. and in all the gardens of Members of Parliament!
During his trip to London in 1757, he wrote articles, then essays such as "the road to opulence": advice to achieve prosperity, which will be translated into English, French, German, Polish, Russian, Catalan ...
His fame in France
For a long time he had hoped that England would be conciliatory with the American colonies. But faced with the lack of goodwill of the English, he defends the Insurgents and it is at the age of 70 that Benjamin Franklin arrives in France, to negotiate the treaty of alliance for the independence of the United States. Crossing the ocean happens quickly, despite the storm that makes her wig fly off. Having little hair and an eczema on his head, he wears a trapper's hat that will be all the rage in Paris.
Received in all the Parisian salons, elected Grand Master at the Lodge of the Nine Sisters, women will quickly go crazy for him, despite his big belly, his poor eyesight, his gout attacks. His cane is copied, we do our hair "Franklin", the bifocals he has just invented will be very successful. His portrait is found on all the chimneys of the houses, but also on rings, bracelets, snuff boxes. Painters and sculptors constantly ask him to pose, but after a while, he refuses any proposal… being subject to endless stiff necks!
For the signing of the treaty of alliance, he must report to the king. How to do without a wig? Not fitting for his size, he opted for a light gray hat, a dark brown suit and silver buckled shoes. He is admired, the courtiers saying "he is dressed as a Quaker".
A man full of fantasy
Already young, he had fun "to show that I was not proud, I would cross the streets with a wheelbarrow to bring home the paper I bought in the stores" ...
A great lover of humor, he proposed to the Royal Academy of Brussels in 1781, a subject of research in the field of physical sciences having a real utility "to discover some healthy and pleasant medicine which, mixed with our food and our sauces, could making the wind emissions of our bodies not only harmless, but pleasant and fragrant ”. In his letter, he tries to convince the jury by explaining that the inventor will be rewarded with eternal glory, in comparison to other unimportant discoveries which have made famous scientists, "man will be much happier freed. of his belly and delighting the smell of all those around him rather than observing the light separated into rays of seven colors thanks to Newton's prism ”!
In 1785, he sent a letter to those in charge of education through his story of "the Left Hand", where an elder sister received all the education necessary, while the second child was always neglected, even reprimanded by lack of ease and delicacy! What will happen to the family with this unequal treatment, if the older sister has some ailments? There is a need to share the care of children equally!
He had an extraordinary love life. Claiming that marriage "is a union for lasting happiness, the couple being armed to succeed together in the world", he nevertheless explains that we can take mistress, but rather mature! These have enriched conversation; after being beautiful, they become good, rendering 1000 services; no longer having child problems; moreover, they are discreet in their relationship to avoid suspicion. His ultimate passion was for the widow of Helvétius, nicknamed "Notre Dame d'Auteuil", a former close friend of Turgot, who ruled over eighteen Angora cats and ten dogs, settling in the armchairs in her living room. Benjamin Franklin, now widowed, was 80 when he proposed marriage to her. Turgot advises her friend against it "it will be as you like, but if you make this decision, your whole living room will go away" ... she therefore refuses. Perhaps he will console himself with a bottle of Burgundy, his cellar being provided by the brother-in-law of the Chevalier d´Eon!
When he died in 1790, he had such a press that the French National Assembly declared three days of national mourning.