Guest Blogger: Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

Public domain image

I don’t remember a lot from elementary school, at least, not consciously as being a memory from elementary school. I’m sure a lot of what I know is what I learned during elementary school, but I don’t have memories of learning it. One topic I do remember is the definition of primary and secondary sources of information. Actually, as I typed that I think I placed the memory in 7th grade, so not elementary school. I guess I don’t remember remembering much from elementary school, oh well. So in 7th grade I learned about primary and secondary sources in history. It was emphasized that primary sources were always preferred. As such, I’d like to quote Benjamin Franklin (obviously he isn’t actually guest posting for me, but this is the next best thing).

Regarding salaries for public officers

In America, salaries, where indispensable, are extremely low; but much of public business is done gratis. The honor of serving the public ably and faithfully is deemed sufficient.

Though we may set out in the beginning with moderate salaries, we shall find that such will not be of long continuance. Reasons will never be wanting for proposed augmentations; and there will always be a party for giving more to the rulers, that the rulers may be able in return to give more to them.

Regarding human weakness expressed in public officers

There are two passions which have a powerful influence in the affairs of men. These are ambition and avarice; the love of power and the love of money.

Place before the eyes of such men a post of honor, that shall at the same time be a place of profit, and they will move heaven and earth to obtain it.

Generally, indeed, the ruling power carries its point, and we see the revenues of princes constantly increasing, and we see that they are never satisfied, but always in want of more. The more the people are discontented with the oppression of taxes, the greater need the prince has of money to distribute among his partisans, and pay the troops that are to suppress all resistance, and enable him to plunder at pleasure.

Regarding public officers simply seeking a salary (rather than having service as their motive)

And of what kind are the men that will strive for this profitable preeminence, through all the bustle of cabal, the heat of contention, the infinite mutual abuse of parties, tearing to pieces the best of characters? It will NOT be the wise and moderate, the lovers of peace and good order, the men fittest for the trust. It will be the bold and the violent, the men of strong passions and indefatigable activity in their selfish pursuits. These will thrust themselves into your government, and be your rulers. And these, too, will be mistaken in the expected happiness of their situation; for their vanquished competitors, of the same spirit, and from the same motives, will perpetually be endeavoring to distress their administration, thwart their measures, and render them odious to the people.

Regarding the danger of monarchy

There is scarce a king in a hundred who would not, if he could, follow the example of Pharaoh-get first all the people’s money, then all their lands, and then make them and their children servants forever. It will be said that we do not propose to establish kings. I know it. But there is a natural inclination in mankind to kingly government. It sometimes relieves them from aristocratic domination. They had rather have one tyrant than 500. It gives more of the appearance of equality among citizens; and that they like. I am apprehensive, therefore-perhaps too apprehensive-that the government of these states may in future times end in a monarchy. But this catastrophe, I think, may be long delayed, if in our proposed system we do not sow the seeds of contention, faction, and tumult, by making our posts of honor places of profit. If we do, I fear that, though we employ at first a number and not a single person, the number will in time be set aside; it will only nourish the fetus of a king (as the honorable gentleman from Virginia very aptly expressed it), and a king will the sooner be set over us.

We are hearing a lot right now from all of the talking heads on television and radio about the Constitution and the founding fathers. Were they right or wrong, did they mean for this or that, should America maintain her original character or be allowed to evolve with the modern times? These questions are causing heated debates all over. I’ll return to this topic in my next post, for now I invite you to ponder Franklin’s words from two centuries ago and consider the questions of whether or not we should maintain the foundation of this country and whether or not Franklin’s fears were justified.

[These quotes come from The 5,000 Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen, who cites Franklin, Benjamin, The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, edited by Albert Henry Smyth, 10 vols, New York: The Macmillan Company, 1905-7, as the source]

About paulbrodie

I am a writer and a musician. My education is in psychology with emphasis in industrial/organizational psychology. My work experience has been primarily with electronic document management. Academically and intellectually I am interested in criminology and sociology. I am married to my favorite person in the world and we have one daughter.
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1 Response to Guest Blogger: Benjamin Franklin

  1. Pingback: Public officials: To pay or not to pay? | Paul Brodie

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