The following is a fantasy interview with Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was one of the most interesting and surprising figures of the American colonial period.
Host : Our guest on the show today is Dr. Benjamin Franklin. Dr. Franklin is a native of Boston, but his adopted cities are Philadelphia, London, and Paris. Dr. Franklin is an entrepreneur, inventor, journalist, editor, and statesman.
As an inventor and scientist, he invented the Franklin stove, bifocal glasses, the lightning rod, and found that electricity and lightning are the same. Dr. Franklin’s many experiments with electricity were published in 4 languages and brought him international fame.
As an entrepreneur, he founded the University of Pennsylvania, America’s first lending library, a fire department, a hospital, and an insurance company. He also owned several valuable properties in downtown Philadelphia.
As an editor, he is famous for Poor Richard’s Almanac, which was published for 25 years, and he grew rich as a journalist and owner of the Pennsylvania Gazette.
As a statesman, Dr. Franklin presided over the Constitutional Convention in 1776 and was one of the five members of the committee that wrote the Declaration of Independence. During the War of Independence, Dr. Franklin spent many years in Paris obtaining financial and military aid for the war effort. At the end of the war he was appointed to negotiate the peace treaty with England.
Welcome to the show, Dr. Franklin.
Franklin : Thank you for the opportunity. As I once said, “To be successful, seize opportunities as quickly as you do with conclusions.”
Host: First of all, how important was your role in the founding of our country? French Finance Minister Jacques Turgot said that “you snatched the thunderbolt from heaven and the scepter from tyrants.”
Franklin : I don’t think I should take too much credit for founding America. The revolution was the work of many brave and capable men, and it is a sufficient honor for me to be allowed a small part.
Host: That is very humble.
Franklin : As I once said, “humility makes great men twice honorable.”
Host : Tell us a bit about your role in drafting the Declaration of Independence.
Franklin : I was the oldest member of the committee of five who were assigned to write the Declaration. John Adams seemed the most likely candidate to draft the document, as he had the most experience writing such documents. But what I liked the most was young Jefferson’s style, and in the end we decided to let him write the draft. Later, in June 1776, while I was at home recovering from boils and gout, Thomas Jefferson asked me for advice on his draft of the Declaration. He invited me to read it and suggest any changes that he deemed necessary. I only made a few changes, although I crossed out the words “sacred and undeniable” and replaced them with “self-evident”, as in “We hold that these truths are self-evident.”
Host: Tell us a bit about your experiments with electricity. They made you famous, but I’m not sure I know the whole story about your kite experiment.
Franklin : For several years I had been fascinated by electricity. Our Library Company had received an electric machine from one of my friends in England. My friends and I devised numerous ingenious observation and measurement experiments that we described in letters sent to the Royal Society of London. These letters were later compiled in book form and translated into other languages. In fact, I had to come up with many of the terms that are now commonly used with electricity to describe my experiments. Some of the words I coined are battery, charge, capacitor, conductor, positive, negative, and armature.
In 1752 it had occurred to me that lightning was a discharge of electrical fire between a body with an excessive quantity and a body with an insufficient quantity that equalized the difference between the two. I wanted to do an experiment with the Christ Church needle in Philadelphia, but I was impatient waiting for the needle to be built. It occurred to me that a kite could get closer to the storm than the needle, so I devised a plan to launch a kite during a storm to see if it could detect the electricity emanating from the storm.
With the weather being in Philadelphia, it wasn’t long before the storm clouds were approaching and I was given a chance to test my idea. My son William, who was 21 at the time, was the only one who helped me lift the kite because he didn’t want too many people to know what he was doing. A nearby field had a convenient shed where I could sit during the storm and wait for a suitable cloud to approach. It was a considerable time before promising clouds appeared and they all turned out to be a futile effort. Finally, a good cloud caused the loose strands of the hemp kite string to move and lift. I touched my knuckle to the key that was within my reach and felt the electric spark for myself. This confirmed my belief that lightning was a form of electricity.
Host: Wow, that lightning bolt was a stroke of good luck.
Franklin : Good luck maybe, but maybe good planning. As I once said, “he who waits for fortune is never sure of dinner.”
Host: The story of how you met your wife is a funny story. Can you tell us about that?
Franklin : Certainly, and this is a story you can find in my book, Autobiography, which you can find on Amazon.com and in local bookstores everywhere. I remember the day well. It was Sunday, October 6, from 17 to 23. I was just a 17-year-old and had not had much luck in getting a sufficient and reputable job. I had left Boston in favor of New York, but when nothing seemed providential in New York, I went to Philadelphia to become a printer.
On my first day in Philadelphia, and with only a few coins in my pocket, I stopped at a bakery and for three cents I received three large puffy muffins. He had a loaf under each arm and was chewing on the third as he walked down Market Street. As I approached the Read family residence, their daughter, Deborah, saw me from the front door. It was an awful sight. As Deborah later remarked, I made a most awkward, ridiculous appearance. But seven years later we formed a common-law marriage. We had to do it that way because Deborah had gotten married while I was in England for the intervening years and then her husband left her and disappeared completely. Deborah and I were happily married for 44 years and raised two sons and a daughter.
Host: Dr. Franklin, we want to thank you for coming to our program today. But before we part, I want to ask you one last question, if I may. Did you really say, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy”?
Franklin : I’m glad you asked me that, because I’ve been misquoted for many years. What I really said was in a letter to my friend Andre Morellet in 1779. This is what I wrote: “We heard of the conversion of water to wine at the wedding feast in Cana as a miracle. But this conversion is, by the goodness of God. , made every day before our eyes, here is the rain that descends from the sky on our vineyards, there it enters the roots of the vineyards to be transformed into wine, constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy. “
With that bit of parting wisdom, I wish you and your listeners and readers a warm good morning.
Host: Thank you Dr. Franklin. It has been a pleasure having you on the show.