March 12, 2013 — I really start hating life each spring when the government appropriates the last delightful hour of my peaceful morning slumber through Daylight Saving Time (often mistakenly referred to as Daylight Savings Time). Some people love that extra hour of daylight in the evening, and I guess that’s OK, but I don’t like losing an hour of sublime rest every morning between now and November. It’s all because good old Ben Franklin came up with the idea of saving some daylight hours in the first place.
Now, I have many issues with the education I received, even though I started school in the good old days of the 1950s when America’s public schools were supposed to be the very best in the world. Hey, they didn’t reveal Ben Franklin’s true character when we studied him in school, and I’m still mad about it.
They taught me he was one of those great Founding Fathers I was supposed to love, admire and emulate, and I bought it, key, kite string and all. Scientist, scholar, statesman, writer, publisher, inventor, diplomat and philosopher he was, but when I read his autobiography as a student in college, this story saddened and angered me immensely. There, in his own words, I discovered Franklin’s true attitude toward his fellow man — his willingness to use alcohol to destroy the continent’s original inhabitants, and then he had the gall to suggest it may even be God’s will — when I read his personal account of a meeting he had with Native Americans at Carlisle in October 1753 included in “The Autobiography of Ben Franklin” (page 57). You can read it for yourself.
Here’s Franklin’s story. Despite the Native American’s requests for alcohol, the colonists decided to keep them dry during the treaty conference because they were prone to drunkenness and rowdy behavior. It was easy — the white men simply refused to sell them any booze. But the colonists promised them “plenty of rum” once the negotiations were completed. Sober and encouraged by that promise, the Native Americans collected their wampum, promptly agreed and the colonists delivered the rum. That evening the Native Americans built a great bonfire just outside town and held a celebration. The festivities woke and startled the colonists.
Franklin described the happening this way: “ … they were all drunk, men and women, quarreling and fighting. Their dark-colored bodies, half naked, seen only by the gloomy light of the bonfire, running after and beating one another with firebrands, accompanied by their horrid yellings, formed a scene the most resembling our ideas of hell that could well be imagined … ”
The next day three elders from the tribe apologized for their behavior, and one of them reportedly put the blame squarely on the rum.
Franklin wrote this elder said, "The Great Spirit, who made all things, made everything for some use, and whatever use he designed anything for, that use it should always be put to. Now, when he made rum, he said,' Let this be for the Indians to get drunk with,' and it must be so."
Franklin then finished the story, … “And, indeed, if it be the design of Providence to extirpate these savages in order to make room for cultivators of the earth, it seems not improbable that rum may be the appointed means. It has already annihilated all the tribes who formerly inhabited the seacoast.”
The writer of this story is not a man worthy of my respect. I lost all interest in the mighty Ben Franklin, his ideas and his allegedly enlightened sayings once I read his personal account of his encounter with these Native Americans as a representative of the colonial government in 1753.
So, Ben — how about giving me my hour back?
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