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Happy 300th Birthday Benjamin Franklin

CmdrTaco posted more than 8 years ago | from the today-in-history dept.

News 277

Guinnessy writes "Benjamin Franklin was born on 17 January 1706 in Boston, Massachusetts. Franklin was a man of diverse talents: publisher, inventor, ambassador, politician, wit with some human frailities says NPR. In Physics Today, Philip Krider presents Franklin's work on electricity and the development of the lightning rod, work whose fame helped Franklin obtain aid from the French against the British. In the same magazine, Joost Mertens considers Franklin's explorations of the calming effects of oil on water. Those investigations, it turns out, had a less than calming effect on Dutch scholars. Philadelphia is planning a series of events celebratng Franklin's life throughtout the year."

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get your wallets out... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14490268)

and kiss your $100 bills!

-Sj53

Re:get your wallets out... (0, Offtopic)

chibbie (859702) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490364)

I only have a fiver... you insensitive clod!

einstein? (-1, Offtopic)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490270)

This is about Ben Franklin. Why the Einstein pic?

Re:einstein? (-1, Offtopic)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490290)

derrr...nevermind...

Benjamin Franklin, the truest of American Heroes (5, Insightful)

Jim in Buffalo (939861) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490274)

Without Benjamin Franklin's entreaties to the French for aid in the American Revolutionary War, the Continental Army would certainly have suffered defeat at the hands of the British. For a man to tirelessly crusade for his country like Franklin did at his age and in a time when travel was no simple matter is astounding. Anyone with a quarter of that man's patriotism, devotion, and tenacity could move mountains.

Re:Benjamin Franklin, the truest of American Heroe (5, Insightful)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490320)

Anyone with a quarter of that man's patriotism, devotion, and tenacity could move mountains.

And the thought that in modern times he'd be locked up under the PATRIOT act is truly sad...

Re:Benjamin Franklin, the truest of American Heroe (5, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490367)

And the thought that in modern times he'd be locked up under the PATRIOT act is truly sad...

Flamebait? No. It's the truth.

He first agitated for, and then actively participated in, the armed overthrow of the government, using an army of unlawful combatants backed by a rouge state.

Franklin, along with all the great founders of the United States of America, was undoubtedly guilty of high treason. Of course, as Shakespeare observed, if it prospers none dare call it treason; so Franklin's a hero. Certainly had things gone a little differently there would today be celebrations in the honour of the brave patriot Benedict Arnold.

Re:Benjamin Franklin, the truest of American Heroe (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490385)

Indeed. We'd be celebrating Ben Franklin Day in the same way our friends across the pond celebrate Guy Fawkes Day.

Re:Benjamin Franklin, the truest of American Heroe (0, Flamebait)

OldeTimeGeek (725417) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490397)

He first agitated for, and then actively participated in, the armed overthrow of the government, using an army of unlawful combatants backed by a rouge state.

Backed by a red state? The Republicans backed the overthrow of legitimate goverments even then?

Re:Benjamin Franklin, the truest of American Heroe (1)

Bazzalisk (869812) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490458)

Yes, a Rouge state, namely revolutionary france - bunch of french speaking commie-pinkos :)

Re:Benjamin Franklin, the truest of American Heroe (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490489)

Yes, a Rouge state, namely revolutionary france - bunch of french speaking commie-pinkos :)

Actually, the Revolution didn't happen for a few years after the American war. France at the time was run by a bunch of decadent aristocrats, who probably wore a lot of, er, rouge...

They then found themselves with a bunch of veteran soldiers coming home having learned from their American comrades the importance of words like 'liberte', 'egalite' and 'fraternite'. Whoops.

Thanks -- but soldiers didn't light that flame (1)

ianscot (591483) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490621)

That was a pretty charming lapse in the parent post -- the French court didn't support England's rabble of colonists out of idealism, they did it for reasons of state. But:

They then found themselves with a bunch of veteran soldiers coming home having learned from their American comrades the importance of words like 'liberte', 'egalite' and 'fraternite'. Whoops.

To suggest that the French revolution began because of returning soldiers who'd seen it all in America would be a mistake. You want that model, go look at ancient Rome; the collapse of the Republic is punctuated by a succession of returning armies lining the halls of government and agitating for land grants. French events were a heck of a lot more complex than that, and the inheritance from America happened more in the Salons than in any military camps.

Re:Benjamin Franklin, the truest of American Heroe (1)

kfaroo (719510) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490463)

Backed by a red state? The Republicans backed the overthrow of legitimate goverments even then?

No, it seems more like a French-Soviet conspiracy.

Re:Benjamin Franklin, the truest of American Heroe (2, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490408)

Not to mention that he'd be diametrically opposed to everything the current Administration stands for. Between the PATRIOT Act ("those who would give up essential liberty..."), "Faith-based initiatives" and the Kansas school board, and the media industry's stranglehold on copyright and patent law, he must be spinning in his grave!

Re:Benjamin Franklin, the truest of American Heroe (2, Funny)

metternich (888601) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490480)

he must be spinning in his grave!

Hmm, maybe we could hook up a turbine up to him and generate some electricity. That would be properly honoring Franklin's inventive spirit.

Re:Benjamin Franklin, the truest of American Heroe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14490715)

Not to mention that he'd be diametrically opposed to everything the current Administration stands for.

http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/pdupont/? id=110007823 [opinionjournal.com]

'Better Than Well Said'
Ben Franklin understood the need for secrecy in matters of national security.

BY PETE DU PONT
Tuesday, January 17, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

Has President Bush exceeded his constitutional authority or acted illegally in authorizing wiretaps without a warrant on calls between American citizens in the United States and people abroad who are, or are suspected of having ties to, terrorists?

Benjamin Franklin (whose 300th birthday is today) would not have thought so. In 1776 he and his four colleagues on the Continental Congress's foreign affairs committee (called the Committee of Secret Correspondence) unanimously agreed that they could not tell the Congress about the covert assistance France was giving the American Revolution, because it would be harmful to America if the information leaked, and "we find by fatal experience that Congress consists of too many members to keep secrets."

Re:Benjamin Franklin, the truest of American Heroe (2, Funny)

rjfan (529592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490441)

"unlawful combatants backed by a rouge state" I always thought those states were more red than rouge in the voting maps.....

Re:Benjamin Franklin, the truest of American Heroe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14490543)

Franklin, along with all the great founders of the United States of America, was undoubtedly guilty of high treason.

And they knew that going in. Hence Franklin's quote: "We must all hang together or assuredly we will all hang seperately.".

Re:Benjamin Franklin, the truest of American Heroe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14490582)

It was Benjamin Franklin that said, "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security."

Re:Benjamin Franklin, the truest of American Heroe (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490450)

And the thought that in modern times he'd be locked up under the PATRIOT act is truly sad...

Well, the government he was born under would've hanged him if they could. So being locked up in prison actually shows some progress.

"Gentleman, we must all hang together, or we will surely all hang seperately." B. Franklin

Re:Benjamin Franklin, the truest of American Heroe (1)

tomjen (839882) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490661)

Actually I belive that you can still get the death sentence for treason today.

Re:Benjamin Franklin, the truest of American Heroe (4, Funny)

The-Bus (138060) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490382)

Thankfully, his legacy now lives on with today's youth; they are reminded of the man through music videos featuring performers waving green bank notes bearing his lithograph and referencing his name. Yes, indeed, it is all about the Benjamin.

Re:Benjamin Franklin, the truest of American Heroe (1)

ehrichweiss (706417) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490604)

Benjamin Franklin has always been at the top of my list of true heroes, even Einstein doesn't compare. No one in this day remotely compares to him as has been pointed out in the parent. He inspires the inventor and the revolutionary in me and I wish that people thought more of him than the fact he's on the 100 dollar bill. We should all take a good look at what he did, take one little piece of that and try our best to create that in our lives. For instance, he used to print revolutionary literature, so maybe we could do the same; printers are everywhere these days, and there are great topics that the general public should know about such as common law or that juries can judge the law, not just the accused [fija.org] or a million other topics. Ben would approve, I believe.

franklin (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14490280)

Wasn't this the freedom guy?

Wish you were here (5, Interesting)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490281)

Ben Franklin, oh how we need people like him today.

Some great quotes from Poor Richard's Almanack:

  • Drive thy Business, or it will drive thee.
    He that falls in love with himself will have no rivals.
    Setting too good an example is a kind of slander seldom forgiven.
    Experience keeps a dear school, yet fools will learn in no other.
    Write with the learned, pronounce with the vulgar.
    Necessity never made a good bargain.
    Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.
    Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that's the stuff life is made of.
    If your Riches are yours, why don't you take them with you to t'other World?
    A good conscience is a continual Christmas.
    God heals, and the doctor takes the fee.
    Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
    Laws too gentle are seldom obeyed; too severe, seldom executed.
    If you'd know the value of money, go and borrow some.
    When befriended, remember it. When you befriend, forget it.

My favorite quote (1)

dptalia (804960) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490437)

Fish and relatives both smell after three days.

Which is why I never visit my family for too long.

Re:Wish you were here (1)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490460)

Franklin would also be at home with the FOSS crowd, I think:

"As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously."

Benajmin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

find out what the Founding Fathers really were (-1, Flamebait)

Cryofan (194126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490467)

Franklin was not all that great. But the other Founding Fathers were MUCH wrose. Here is an online book that tells the truth about what the Founding Fathers and the Revolution really were. It was written by Jerry Fresia, who has a PhD in Political Science. The url for the book:

Toward An American Revolution, an online book [cyberjournal.org] by a former college professor that exposes the Founding Fathers and the Constitution for what they really were: slaveowning monsters who set up a rich man's constitution meant to keep the people divided and create a gridlocked government....

Re:find out what the Founding Fathers really were (1)

Cryofan (194126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490509)

from "Completing the American Revolution [hermes-press.com] :
"Benjamin Franklin had a personal fortune worth at least $20 million in today's money. He was a champion of the Quaker plutocrats in Philadelphia and vigorously opposed the democratic western farmers of Pennsylvania."

Why is it that you supposed "libertarians" and "freedom lovers" worship at the altar of the elite?
 

Re:find out what the Founding Fathers really were (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14490520)

...because we all know that a single Ph.D. that agrees with me is obviously more intelligent than the multitudes who disagree.

Re:find out what the Founding Fathers really were (1)

Cryofan (194126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490583)

It says something. As opposed to nothing. More information is good. Less information is bad. These are simple principles; principles to live by....

Re:find out what the Founding Fathers really were (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14490658)

"More information is good. Less information is bad."

Instead you should say:

More information is good. Misinformation is bad.

Those almanacs were great money makers (1)

ianscot (591483) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490471)

Franklin didn't take the aphorisms and advice presented in Poor Richard's all that seriously, really. He was printing the books to make money, and the little sayings got readership. There was lively competition among the rival Almanacs back then. He also wrote scurrilous stuff under pseudonyms in his newspapers, with the same sort of open-minded sense of fun. Very Jonathan Swift-ish.

The result is that his stuff is fun, basically, instead of coming across as prating moralism from a stuffed shirt.

The contrast with today's hypocritical moral scolds -- William Bennett, we do remember your gambling habit -- couldn't be more striking. Franklin could think for himself, and his morality wasn't a matter of social conventions. (When quaker groups were agitating against slavery in 1790, Franklin backed them as one of the last acts of his public life.) Bennett et al, on the other hand, are all about reinforcing norms by buttressing them with "the accepted version" -- meaning the stale, lifeless version -- of various moral parables. Death to read to your kids, just lifeless.

Re:Wish you were here (5, Interesting)

corbettw (214229) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490523)

More great Franklin quotes (not all from Poor Richard's):

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
A countryman between two lawyers is like a fish between two cats.
A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things. There will be sleeping enough in the grave.
A place for everything, everything in its place.
A penny saved is a penny earned.
At twenty years of age the will reigns; at thirty, the wit; and at forty, the judgment.
Be civil to all; sociable to many; familiar with few; friend to one; enemy to none.
Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.

We could use a man like him (1)

DennisInDallas (309656) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490594)

Those who would sacrifice liberty for safety will have neither liberty nor safety. -BF

Today is my birthday too! (1)

eXoXe (157466) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490285)

It's no wonder I'm so *bright*. Get it? :)

Ben Franklin's Virtue Number 12, revised (4, Funny)

Dystopian Rebel (714995) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490294)

"Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation."


And certainly NEVER do it in front of a Web cam.

Re:Ben Franklin's Virtue Number 12, revised (1)

Pope (17780) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490498)

Why not? It's surely the cornerstone of free enterprise on the Web, and one of the most profitable! :)

It's not really his 300th birthday (4, Funny)

nurhussein (864532) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490299)

After all I don't see the little Google doodle commemorating it, therefore it never happened.

- A Message From The President Of Google Groupies

Re:It's not really his 300th birthday (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490400)

After all I don't see the little Google doodle commemorating it, therefore it never happened.

Google makes a poor Towne Cryer, not to mention it is global in scope and I doubt that many people outside the United States would be interested in the tricentennary on Franklin's birth, though they should, given his contributions to science and diplomacy.

Re:It's not really his 300th birthday (2, Insightful)

polaughlin (92146) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490451)

Yeah, but there are localized versions of Google. If they're outside of the United States they should be using their localized version (ie. google.co.uk, google.jp, etc.) which shouldn't show logos that commemorate US events/holidays.

Church and State (1, Interesting)

samkass (174571) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490310)

He was also one of the first vocal proponents of the separation of church and state. It's because of him that "We hold these truths to be self-evident" instead of the original text, which read "We hold these truths sacred."

Re:Church and State (1)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490363)

Is there some evidence for this? To the best of my knowledge, it could have been changed by the committee, by Adams, by Franklin, or by Jefferson himself.

Re:Church and State (1)

dstewart (853530) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490739)

The change has been credited to Jefferson; but yes, it may have been changed during committee.

An image of the rough draft of the Declaration and a transcript can be found here. [ushistory.org]

Re:Church and State (2, Informative)

Mendenhall (32321) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490442)

There are MUCH older proponents of this separation. In the Augsburg Confession (penned by Melanchthon to reperesent the early views of the nascent Lutheran movement to the princes of Germany and the Roman Catholic Church), the following was stated (rather colorfully!):
Therefore, since the power of the Church grants eternal things, and is exercised only by the ministry of the Word, it does not interfere with civil government; no more than the art of singing interferes with civil government . For civil government deals with other things than does the Gospel. The civil rulers defend not minds, but bodies and bodily things against manifest injuries, and restrain men with the sword and bodily punishments in order to preserve civil justice and peace.

"with" has an H (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14490313)

wit with some human frailities says NPR

Yep... like spelling problems. ;-)

Re:"with" has an H (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14490359)

Strangely enough, a person can be a "wit"... I think it's synonymous with being "witty" in this case.
wit [reference.com] (3.c)

Re:"with" has an H (1)

bedroll (806612) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490475)

Read it again:

Franklin was a man of diverse talents: publisher, inventor, ambassador, politician, wit with some human frailities says NPR

You should notice that "wit" is part of his list of talents. There are other problems with the sentence, and it could certainly be better phrased, but the writer did not omit a letter in the word "wit". I think it would read better if it were as such:

Franklin was a man of diverse talents: publisher, inventor, ambassador, and politician who possessed great wit with some human frailities, says NPR.

Except that (1)

QMO (836285) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490699)

Posessing wit and being a wit are two different things.

Exhibit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14490317)

Franklin and Marshall college in Lancaster PA is having an exhibit on him this thursday. Ive been looking forward to this for a long time.

http://fandm.edu/ben300/exhibit.php [fandm.edu]

Ben is the man. The first American, and the historical pimp.

Best Quote (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14490319)

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Benjamin_Franklin [wikiquote.org]

Re:Best Quote (1)

lbrandy (923907) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490632)

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

A valient effort, but alas, incorrect! Behold, the real best quote of B-Frank: Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. [brainyquote.com]

Re:Best Quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14490660)

Not to disagree with the basic sentiment, but it should be remembered that when Franklin said that, the most destructuve weapon a man could carry on his back was a musket.

I'll drink to that ! (2, Interesting)

curtisk (191737) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490321)

I wonder how many brilliant ideas came about after a relaxing romp at the ol' Hellfire Club [victorianweb.org] ?

Wait, we have a birthday post for Franklin (2, Informative)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490324)

but not for The Burninator [homestarrunner.com] ? The injustice!

Refused Patent (2, Informative)

blamanj (253811) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490329)

Also of note for those who follow intellectual property issues, when he invented the "Franklin stove," he refused the offered patent [about.com] preferring that the design be available to anyone.

Re:Refused Patent (1)

quinby (865589) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490351)

I've heard the same about the lightning rod, which was a pretty big deal back then.

Information didn't want to be free then, either (2, Informative)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490406)

Also of note for those who follow intellectual property issues, when he invented the "Franklin stove," he refused the offered patent preferring that the design be available to anyone.

Lest anyone suddenly get the idea that Ben Franklin was an early "information wants to be free" sort of guy, don't forget that the only way he was able, in his early forties, to "retire" from the daily grind and turn his attention towards science, diplomacy, and nation-building was because he made himself relatively wealthy as a publisher. He set up printing franchises that made money off of publishing private works, and he took a share of the proceeds in his capacity as the guy helping to finance the operations and marketing thereof. He was very "modern" in that sense - a literary agent, a publisher/distributer, an investor in potentially lucrative creative material... intellectual property was exactly how he became wealthy. The "healthy and wise" part was how he lived long enough and well enough to put his proceeds to work for him, rather working for them. But without an early career in the sale of creative works, there would have been no Ben Franklin, Founding Father.

I disagree. (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490479)

Yes, he made himself wealthy as a publisher -- by providing (and charging for) the service of making copies when the cost of doing so was not zero, as it is today. Do you know of any cases where he went after someone for reprinting something he published themselves? I don't, and that's what would be required to give evidence of him being an advocate of "Intellectual Property."

In my opinion, what he did was more akin to selling communications hardware today -- he was facilitating exchange of ideas, not setting up toll booths for them. (Incidentally, this is the reason why copyrights and patents were more reasonable ideas then than they are now.)

Re:Refused Patent (2, Informative)

Roblimo (357) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490474)

This is correct. Franklin refused patents on *all* of his many inventions so that they would be available to everyone -- and so that others might improve upon them.

- Robin

I thank you Ben.. (1)

tont0r (868535) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490336)

For giving me good reason never to want to get into the life threatening sport of kite flying.

A Ben-Related Search Engine (2, Informative)

shepmaster (319234) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490337)

Saw this in a few press-releases, and it seems to work pretty well.

http://ben.clusty.com/ [clusty.com]

Has a neat timeline of his accomplishments and has resources for teachers and students.

Comprehensive Franklin Biography (1)

MillenneumMan (932804) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490348)

Walter Isaacson's recent biography on Franklin (available virtually everywhere, including amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/074325807X/qid=11 37510251/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1/104-5388269-4030340?n =507846&s=books&v=glance [amazon.com] ) is a broad and comprehensive study that manages to be a fairly easy read.

The best part (1)

The Second Horseman (121958) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490349)

is the Philly ad campain/toursit bit about it. Philly's PR people actually have a trademarked phrase - "Philly's Got BENergy!" Ugh.


http://www.gophila.com/go/ben/ [gophila.com]

Such a great guy! (5, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490356)

A scientist, an advocate of separation of church and state, an opponent of "intellectual property" (he never patented any of his inventions), and a true patriot to boot!

(I still can't believe he didn't win that "greatest American" contest the History Channel ran a while back...)

Re:Such a great guy! (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490375)

*correction: Discovery Channel, not History Channel. Whoops.

Re:Such a great guy! (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490435)

*correction: Discovery Channel, not History Channel. Whoops.

Well, there's the reason why right there. It probably went to some guy who built an awesome motorcycle!

Re:Such a great guy! (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490515)

I wish! It actually went to Ronald Reagan, proving that modern Americans are all morons with the attention span of a mouse with ADHD.

Oh My Gawd. Reagan?? (1)

ianscot (591483) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490682)

Reagan couldn't fill Eisenhower's shoes, let alone Ben Franklin's.

What are we come to? Even if you believed wholeheartedly in everything Reagan stood for, there's no way you could make an argument that he was anything like the epochal figure Ben Franklin was for more than one area of our national life.

I guess Reagan was at least known as a minor actor (and the McCarthyist head of the Screen Actor's Guild), so he did at least have one other mark by his name. Next to "First person to map the gulf currents" -- one of Franklin's lesser accomplishments -- how does "Bedtime for Bonzo" stack up, though?

Yeesh.

Re:Such a great guy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14490727)

One is left to wonder if such a man would be electable to any public office, let alone the presidency, in the U.S. today.

Coffin size? (3, Insightful)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490372)

Happy birthday, but... I just hope the coffin is large enough to let him comfortably spin in it, as I'm sure that's what he does if he has any idea of what's going on in the US government now.

Excellent Biography -- not the best seller (1)

ianscot (591483) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490374)

Happened to pick up a copy of "The First American," [amazon.com] by H.W. Brands, a couple of years back. Excellent biography.

The book spends its preface on Franklin's mid-career appearance for a sort of intellectual pillory in "the cockpit" in London. The sort of public roasting one got from the establishment powers there was accepted to be the dishing of a person's public career. For Franklin that supposed disaster was a turning point; he'd been desperately trying to get the London establishment to understand the point of view of the colonies, and getting spite back for his efforts made him ask what he really was, if not a loyal subject of the King. His answer was that he was an American -- and what did that mean, exactly?

I haven't read the more popular book, but Brands's was excellent, starting with that decision to phrase it around that moment when his identity really changed. It does justice to his intellectual pursuits -- chimneys, electricity, the "harmonium" -- but it's mostly shaped by his public life, in the outlines.

Interesting quote. (5, Interesting)

JaxWeb (715417) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490377)

I think Benjamin Franklin was very good, and I am glad to see him remembered.

Something I got from the website www.politicalcompass.org/:

Q:
Which founding father said of the proposed American Constitution This is likely to be administered for a course of years and then end in despotism ... when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other ?

A:
Benjamin Franklin in a speech to delegates to the US Constitutional Convention prior to the final vote.

Re:Interesting quote. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14490695)

When a woman asked Franklin, "What king of government have you given us", after the Constitutional convention, he replied, "A Republic if you can keep it"

Franklin on Older Women (5, Interesting)

SeanDuggan (732224) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490380)

Franklin was also a bit the ladies man. For instance, his treatise on the advantages of older women vs younger women [rjgeib.com] . I particularly like his dismissal of the lesser attractiveness...
5. Because in every Animal that walks upright, the Deficiency of the Fluids that fill the Muscles appears first in the highest Part. The Face first grows lank and Wrinkled; then the Neck; then the Breast and Arms; the lower parts continuing to the last as plump as ever; so that covering all above with a Basket, and regarding only what is below the Girdle, it is impossible of two Women to know an old one from a young one. And as in the Dark all Cats are grey, the Pleasure of Corporal Enjoyment with an old Woman is at least equal and frequently superior; every Knack being by Practice capable by improvement.

Re:Franklin on Older Women (1)

MtViewGuy (197597) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490419)

What I find interesting is that unlike the younger person (who was definitely a philanderer and fathered a son out of wedlock), the older Ben Franklin never really engaged in sexual relationships with women. We know this from the letters he wrote during his time in France during the Revolutionary War.

Are you kidding? He was notorious in France (2, Informative)

ianscot (591483) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490525)

Franklin was involved with a succession of aristocratic French ladies during the revolution. He was getting around.

The letters back and forth with his various amours aren't explicit, but Ben was no prude, not by a mile, at any point in his life. (You're right that he was, er, active as a young man; he visited "houses of ill repute" in England.)

For that matter he married in a relatively informal way -- Deborah Reid and he sort of moved in together and presented it as a marriage, and so it was accepted as a common law thing. Not that unusual back then.

Re:Franklin on Older Women (1)

Kamel Jockey (409856) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490482)

Franklin was also a bit the ladies man.

Scientist, Geek, Statesman, Politician, Abolitionist and a Player too. Is there anything not to love about good ol' Ben Franklin? :)

./ editors... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14490392)

Benjamin Franklin's was born

Err... someone check that the ./ editors aren't sleeping on the job!

Calendar differences? (1)

Balthisar (649688) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490402)

I'm too lazy to do the research right now, but is this the birthday in the current Gregorian calendar or the (I think) then-used Julian calendar??? In which case, when is his birthday in the other calendar system? Oh, if you want to be globalist, you can include the Chinese birthdate if you want to.

Re:Calendar differences? (1)

mendaliv (898932) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490644)

Interesting question... according to this [wikipedia.org] , it ought to be in Gregorian... but that's no guarantee.

If it were actually the Julian date, I believe his proper birthday would be on 1/28... though I'm sure they're gonna be partying in Philly all the way through the difference.

Was Ben Franklin a Radical Faerie (1)

mrs clear plastic (229108) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490416)

This person was not afraid of being different. He refused to conform to the 'status quo'.

He has the earmarks of a Radical Faerie [radfae.org] .

Am I the only person who hates it when people... (0, Offtopic)

niczon (816562) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490424)

wish "happy birthday" to dead people?

Re:Am I the only person who hates it when people.. (0, Offtopic)

saltydogdesign (811417) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490717)

Yes. Yes you are.

Lies (1)

DanCentury (110562) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490425)

I tell everyone that his birthday is July 3rd and they all believe me.

Ben argued that men should marry older women (1)

wagadog (545179) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490428)

...because women live longer, and are more sensible, among other things .

Ben Is Da MAN! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14490444)

Yeah yeah yeah... patriot... inventor... blah blah blah
all great.... but my FAVORITE is Ben... the ladies man.

A woman seeing Franklin said "Sir, what would you say if you saw that belly on a lady?"
To which he replied "Madam, what would you say if I told you an hour ago it was on a lady."

Ok... can't remember exact quote.... but.... MY HERO!

Ben Franklin day? (1)

PopeOptimusPrime (875888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490449)

Ben Franklin was much cooler than Martin Luther King Jr., I mean he discovered electricity! Why don't we have his birthday off?

Franklin Would Have Understood (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14490483)

Has President Bush exceeded his constitutional authority or acted illegally in authorizing wiretaps without a warrant on calls between American citizens in the United States and people abroad who are, or are suspected of having ties to, terrorists?

Benjamin Franklin (whose 300th birthday is today) would not have thought so. In 1776 he and his four colleagues on the Continental Congress's foreign affairs committee (called the Committee of Secret Correspondence) unanimously agreed that they could not tell the Congress about the covert assistance France was giving the American Revolution, because it would be harmful to America if the information leaked, and "we find by fatal experience that Congress consists of too many members to keep secrets."

While the Constitution was being ratified in 1787 John Jay (later the first chief justice) in Federalist No. 64 praised the Constitution for giving the president power "to manage the business of intelligence in such manner as prudence may suggest." And of course Article II of the ratified Constitution gave the president the nation's "Executive power" and states that "the President shall be the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States."

When in the early 1800s President Jefferson hired foreign mercenaries to invade Tripoli and free American hostages, he did not inform Congress in advance. In 1818, when a controversy arose over a diplomatic mission abroad, House Speaker Henry Clay told his colleagues that since the president had paid for the mission with his contingent fund it would not be "a proper subject for inquiry."

So it is clear that the Constitution's original intent was that the president had the authority to take undisclosed foreign actions to protect America.

In modern times, the 1947 National Security Act contained no provision for congressional oversight of presidential national-security actions. In 1968 Congress enacted the Safe Streets Act, providing that nothing in the act "shall limit the power of the President to take such actions as he deems necessary to protect the Nation against actual or potential attack or other hostile acts of a foreign power, to obtain foreign intelligence information deemed essential to the security of the United States, or to protect national security information against foreign intelligence activities."

When President Carter signed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978, his attorney general noted that it did not "take away the power of the president under the Constitution," and in 1994, when President Clinton expanded FISA, his administration agreed. As constitutional scholar Robert Turner noted in The Wall Street Journal last month, "Section 1811 of the FISA statute recognizes that in a period of authorized war the president must have some authority to engage in electronic surveillance 'without a court order.'"

America's judicial system has reached the same conclusion. The Supreme Court's 1972 decision in U.S. v. U.S. District Court (known as the "Keith case") held that the Fourth Amendment's "unreasonable searches and seizures" clause applied to domestic wiretapping, but refrained from concluding that it restricts "the president's surveillance power with respect to the activities of foreign powers within or without this country."

In 1980 the Carter administration argued in the Truong case that the government could conduct domestic, warrantless wiretaps of conversations between a U.S. and a Vietnamese citizen who had been passing on U.S. military intelligence to the North Vietnamese. The Supreme Court agreed.

In 1982 a federal court of appeals ruled that "the National Security Agency may lawfully intercept messages between United States citizens and people overseas, even if there is no cause to believe the Americans are foreign agent."

And in 2002 the FISA court said that the president has "inherent constitutional authority to conduct warrantless foreign intelligence surveillance."

America is engaged in a global war against terrorists whose intention is to inflict significant damage upon us. They attacked the World Trade Center in 1993, at U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, the USS Cole in 2000, and of course in New York and Washington in 2001.

If we had known that one of those terrorist attacks was coming, could our government have electronically eavesdropped on the attackers without a warrant?

If a known Al Qaeda terrorist had made a phone call from outside the country to someone inside America about these or other attacks, could our government have listened in?

If we had found an American phone number on a captured terrorist's computer before one of the attacks, could the military have listened in to the next call without a warrant?

If we know of a conversation set for a week from Wednesday between an Al Qaeda operative in Iraq and a sympathetic American citizen in Illinois, one could argue there is time to seek a FISA warrant. But if the CIA has only a three minute knowledge of the call, may it listen in without one?

The answer to all these questions is yes; the federal courts have consistently ruled that the constitution gives the president the authority--as "Commander in Chief" or using his "executive Power"--to acquire foreign intelligence without warrants or other approvals.

There is of course a different view held by America's liberal left. Democratic chairman Howard Dean somehow believes that warrantless surveillance is "a serious blow to our ability to fight and win the war on terror."

And Ted Kennedy said last week that what the President has done in using his constitutional powers to listen in to terrorist communications is "such an arrogant and expansive view of executive power" that it "would have sent chills down the spines of our Founding Fathers."

But of course he has it backward too--it is what Sen. Kennedy believes that would have sent chills down the spines of Benjamin Franklin and our Founding Fathers.

True Genius (1)

bizitch (546406) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490485)

The more I read about this man and understand what a massive impact he had on the world, the more I believe this guy was either from outer space or a time traveler or something.

He was so advanced and ahead of his time on so many aspects of our human experience that conluding that he was a mere mortal is difficult.

Happy Birthday Ben!

Lighting rod? Bah ... (1)

hotspotbloc (767418) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490586)

I'm much more impressed with Dr. Franklin's invention of the jet ski. [rochester.edu] =)

The guy was the MacGyver of his time. Imagine what he could've done with stuff like duct tape, gasoline or a Chevy small block 350.

Dear god no! (1)

EvilMonkeySlayer (826044) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490616)

The founding fathers are rising up from their graves?!
Time to get my shotgun and LP's to kill zombie Franklin.

Write a book (1)

macdaddy (38372) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490617)

I've always wanted to write a book about cousin Ben. There are already a few books [amazon.com] out there already. Still I think it would be neat to write one myself. I've done enough research on the man over the years to jusitfy it. Everybody should have a famous relative. It makes research paper ideas so much easier to come up with. :-)

The French (0, Offtopic)

matt21811 (830841) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490645)

What? A mention of the French on the front page of Slashdot and there isn't 10 posts all making the same "cheese eating surrender monkeys" joke. Half of which have been moderated up to +5 funny.
Maybe those people are too busy out eating their Freedom Fries.

I thank you for youR time (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14490659)

We'll be able to The facts and Ev3ryday...Redefine plainly states that it a break, if

Heft a "Poor Richards" in Celebration (2, Informative)

matt_martin (159394) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490721)

Be sure to get out there and try a "Poor Richard's" ale !

A number of US brewpubs are serving [poorrichardsale.com] their own batches of Poor Richard's which was formulated to the researched preferences of Bejamin Franklin

FWIW: its an "Open Recipe" [beertown.org] beer.

(mmmmmm, beeer)

For a country that has a history of discrimination (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14490731)

For a country that has a history of slavery, discrimination, violence and hate groups such as the kkk and the US government you people are sure proud of yourselves. Did slavery exist in the US when the founding fathers signed the declaration of independance? If so is it such a good thing to be so proud of a group of men who supposedly wrote the book on freedom in america?
Rosa Parks should have been able to sit anywhere on the bus in the first place. Its a terrible shame that even today in some parts of the USA that black people are still treated like second class citizens.

Use of "Anonymous" Editorial His Greatest Gift (1)

Black-Man (198831) | more than 8 years ago | (#14490733)

He waged verbal war via anonymous editorials in his and other papers enabling him to say things he most certainly wouldn't sign his name to. Something that sadly is no longer possible in the print media and may soon be outlawed on the internet as well.

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