Founding Fathers Blog

And To Think It All Started With 10 Commandments

January 17th, 2013

On the wall in my law office, next to my grand bookcase full of law books, I had a framed cartoon.  It wasn’t a very large cartoon, but it made a point. The cartoon drawing showed a man, presumably a lawyer, standing in front of an enormous bookcase, full of law books. The man’s image of a thought balloon held these words:  “And to think it all started with just 10 Commandments!”

On July 4, 1776, 56 representatives from the original 13 colonies in America chose to begin a new nation. They declared our independence from Great Britain with an inspired document. That was the beginning of the United States of America.

Eventually the leaders of the new nation realized that they needed a new “rule book” with written rules to govern the new nation. Fifty-five representatives from these States created a new rule book. They provided the States with the new Constitution of the United States, adopted September 17, 1787. This new Constitution was 4,543 words long.

These Founding Fathers created a government that was so structured that all the power was to lie in the hands of the People. The People were to remain supreme and the government was to have ONLY those powers granted to it by the People and written into this Constitution. This was a brand new concept. It had never before been attempted.

As one of our Founding Fathers, John Adams, said:  “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

And James Madison, who is known as the Father of the Constitution warned future generations:  “We have staked the future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the Commandments of God.”

Thomas Jefferson, another Founding Father, and the author of the Declaration of Independence, told us that “The natural progress of things is for Liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.”

The oldest, and perhaps wisest of this group of stalwart men, added this sage advice:  “I agree to this Constitution . . . because I think a general Government necessary for us . . . and may be a blessing to the people, if well administered; and I believe, farther, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism (tyranny or dictatorship), as others have done before it, WHEN THE PEOPLE SHALL BECOME SO CORRUPTED as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.” (Emphasis added).

James Madison added to his above utterance:  “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?  If men were angels, no government would be necessary, and if angels were to govern men, then neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this:  You must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place obligate it to control itself. Without a doubt, the primary control on the government will be its dependence on the People, but experience has taught mankind that other precautions will be necessary as well.”

The authors of the Constitution believed as long as citizens were taught correct principles, were moral and religious, they would govern themselves and would do well. But as Franklin espoused, when the people became less religious, less moral, and more corrupt, then they would require more government, more laws, more rules and regulations. Then the government would become more tyrannical.

It’s a little bit like I used to tell my children as they were young:  “There are no rules until you break them!”

That’s why the original States agreed in their unalterable compact, or contract, what would be required as new states would be added to the Union. The Northwest Ordinance, which was agreed upon at the same time as the Constitution in 1787, held that “Religion, morality and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

Did you get that? In order to have good government, we must teach morals, religion, and knowledge in our schools.  So why have we allowed the teaching of God, morals, religion, and character to be removed from the curriculum of our schools? Good government cannot be had without these subjects being inculcated in our children.

Because citizens are no longer taught morals, religion or character, they have less reliance on “that little spark of celestial fire called conscience” as George Washington put it. Inevitably this leads to the need for more external controls by government. More laws, more rules, more regulations are passed each year by our Congress.

Publius (the anonymous author of the Federalist Papers, now known to be Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay) were worried about this contingency. As they expressed in the Federalist Papers:  “Our governments seem the most susceptible to the disease of too easily writing and passing an excessive number of new laws.”  Isn’t that exactly what’s happening now? Bills before Congress are so large and so complex and passed so quickly that some representatives and Senators have confessed that they are not able to even read them, much less understand them, before voting on them to pass into law.

Publius also warned:  “it will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.”

Benjamin Franklin established the University of Pennsylvania, and its motto, which is “Laws without morals are vain.”

John Adams proposed that :  “Statesmen, my dear sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People . . .they may change their rulers and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty.”

Rather than passing more complex and incoherent laws on guns, or health care, or marriage, or the environment, or even financial institutions, wouldn’t it be wiser and make more sense to listen to and spend more money on following the counsel of our first President, George Washington?  This might require us to return to teaching about morals, character, religion, and yes, even God. Here’s what George Washington advised in his Farewell Address as he retired from the Presidency:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens…Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputations, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education…reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

And to think, it all started with just 10 Commandments!

“I Cannot Live Without Books!”

July 20th, 2012

It is interesting and even fascinating to me how much respect and reverence our Founding Fathers had for books. Of course books were then very expensive and dear. And there was no modern technology to compete: no computers, iPads, internet, telephones, cars, refrigerators, radio or television. Still, they knew how important books were to their education, knowledge, getting ahead, and even sometime their very existence.

With apologies to Nancy Sinatra, the Founders of this nation knew “these books were made for reading, and that’s just what you’ll do. One of these days these books will make a scholar out of you!”

George Washington accumulated and read many books about agriculture, farming, fishing and even building. You may still see some of his book collection at his home, Mount Vernon.

Benjamin Franklin’s favorite books were the Bible and “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Franklin’s own book about electricity was the most popluar book in Europe and all the world for years. Ben was apprenticed to his brother, a printer, at an early age, which gave him an unusual access to a world of books. And he took advantage of it.

Patrick Henry didn’t take to books at an early age. He preferred fishing and hunting to learning. At least until he decided to study and become a lawyer.  We know he borrowed Thomas Jefferson’s lawbook, “Coke Upon Littleton,” wherein he made notes for his most impressive “Brutus” speech, which he gave after only 5 days as a member of Virginia’s House of Burgesses. Thereafter books became much more important to him.

John Adams, our second President, love and acquired many books. When John and Abigail were moving from Braintree to Boston, they leased a house on Battle Street, ironically enough called the “White House.” John set aside one of the rooms there to be his study. He agreed that he wouldn’t attempt to move his whole library, only those books he should need. Abigail responded:  “The books you don’t need have yet to be printed!”

When James Madison was preparing for the upcoming Constitutional Convention, he immersed himself in books about history, government, and nation building. At Madison’s request, his friend, Thomas Jefferson, then a minister to France, sent James two trunks of literary cargo from France. The trunks contained more than 100 carefully selected books. According to Jefferson these books were “the most useful reference books available.”

At that same time, John Adams, then a minister to Great Britain, wanted to have his impact on the Constitutional Convention. He wrote and sent to America his two volume work “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America.” One scholar noted that “even a casual glance of the records of the Federal Convention will show that Adam’s book was used as a sort of reperatory by many speakers” at the Convention. Adams remarked to Abigail that every victory he had ever won had been through his word: spoken or printed.

The most prolific reader of books of all the Founding Fathers was undoubtedly Thomas Jefferson. Many thousands of books were stored in Jefferson’s library and throughout his home at Monticello. During the war of 1812, British troops had burned the city of Washington. Among other things, the Congressional Library was destroyed.

Because of this, Jefferson offered to sell his collection of books to the Federal government to become the nucleus for a new library of Congress. Jefferson’s was the finest collection of books in America, containing thousands of volumes which had been gathered over a period of 50 years. His collection was more than twice the size of the library which had been burned in the war.

Jefferson sold more than 6,700 books to Congress, but was paid only about half their value. It took 10 wagons to transfer the books to Washington.

Jefferson then began to collect books all over again. His new library grew to over 1,000 books before he died. He confessed to his friend and fellow Patriot, John Adams, “I cannot live without books!”

Jefferson had also written or compiled several books himself, including “Notes on Virginia,”  “The Jefferson Bible,” and “The Life and Morals of Jesus.” He revered the Bible, as did all of our Founding Fathers.

Books are not only a great source of information and inspiration, they can also provide relief from toils and troubles. Through books one can escape to any place on the planet and beyond, take part in adventures and discoveries, provide entertainment, and even turn your self into a scholar.

I love books. Like Jefferson, “I cannot live without books.” Even with the new tools and mediums such as “Kindle”, books give me diversion, delight and happiness. I should tell you that some of my favorite books are “Founding Fathers–Uncommon Heroes,”  “Give Me Liberty,”  “The Illegal Trial of Christ,” and “You Can’t Take It With You–So How Will You Leave It Behind?”  all by Steven W. Allen.

These books were made for reading . . . and will make a scholar out of you!

Independence Day – How It Happened – Part 4

July 2nd, 2012

Thomas Jefferson explained that the object of the Declaration of Independence was:

“Not to find out new principles of new arguments never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we [are] compelled to take.”

The Declaration was intended to be an expression of the American mind. Jefferson wrote of his completed project:  “Whether I had gathered my ideas from reading or reflection I do not know. I know only that I turned to neither book nor pamphlet while writing it.”

The Declaration of Independence is one of the greatest and truly inspired documents of all time. Have you read it lately?  Ezra Taft Benson, Secretary of Agriculture under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, uttered these profound thoughts:

“If we accept the premise that human rights are granted by government, then we must be willing to accept the corollary that they can be denied by government. If Americans should ever come to believe that their rights and freedoms are instituted among men by politicians and bureaucrats, then they will no longer carry the proud inheritance of their forefathers, but will grovel before their masters seeking favors and dispensations. . . . We must ever keep in mind the inspired words of Thomas Jefferson as found in the Declaration of Independence:

“‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.'”

“Since God created man with certain inalienable rights, and man, in turn, created government to help secure and safeguard  these rights, it follows that man is superior to government and should remain master over it, not the other way around.”

One wonders if we, the people, have perhaps forgotten some of these basic principles.

Now, you remember Patrick Henry who stayed home in Virginia instead of attending this Continental Congress?

He and Thomas Jefferson were friends and fellow Virginians. Tom was invited, when he was still studying for the law, to listen at the door of the Virginia House of Burgess, as Patrick gave what became know as his ‘Brutus speech.’ Many years prior to his ‘Give me Liberty speech.’  It has been said that Tom referred to that day as perhaps the most important day in his life–for on that day, as a result of that speech, a flame for freedom and liberty was lighted in his heart.

Patrick Henry did follow through on his resolve to see that the legislature should adopt a new constitution. And they did. It was on July 5, 1776, that Patrick Henry was sworn into office as the first governor of the new State of Virginia under its new State Constitution.

As Thomas Jefferson once said: “In matters of the Revolution, Patrick Henry was our leader. He left us all far behind.”  It may be that without Patrick Henry’s unconquerable spirit, we may not have had that resolution for independence from Richard Henry Lee. We may not have had that spark for freedom and liberty that led to the Declaration of Independence. We may not have realized our libery or freedom as a nation at all!

And yet all most citizens know about Patrick Henry is that he once said:  “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?  Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

Indepence Day – How It Happened – Part 3

June 28th, 2012

The draft of Jefferson’s declaration was submitted to the committee. Benjamin Franklin made a few suggestions and improvements agreed to by Jefferson. They were incorporated into the draft which was submitted to Congress on Friday, June 28, 1776.

It too, was tabled until a vote could be taken on Richard Henry Lee’s resolution to break with Great Britain. That resolution was adopted by Congress on July 2. John Adams thought that day would become the day of celebration. The next day he wrote to his wife, Abigail:

“Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater, perhaps, never was nor will be decided among men . . . . The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha [sic] in the History of the America. –I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty, It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews [sic], Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

As the new document was being debated, dissected, and even diminished, Thomas Jefferson squirmed in his seat. He sat silently, anxiously, as Congress edited his draft. Dr. Franklin, sitting beside Jefferson, noticed he was writhing a little under the criticism and shortening of his document. Franklin offered some words of consolation. “I have made it a rule” he said, “whenever in my power to avoid becoming the draftsman of papers to be reviewed by a public body.” Franklin then shared a story from his printer days.

“One of [my] friends, an apprentice hatter, had decided to open a shop for himself. His first concern was to have a handsome signboard with a proper inscription.  He composed it in these words:  ‘John Thompson, hatter, makes and sells hats for ready money’, with a figure of a hat subjoined. But he thought he would submit it to his friends for their amendments.

“The first man he showed it to thought the word ‘hatter’ was superfluous becasue it was followed by the words ‘makes hats’. Thompson agreed and struck it out.

“The next friend observed that the word ‘makes’ might as well be omitted, because the customers would not care who made the hats, as long as they were good ones. Thompson agreed and struck it out.

“A third friend suggested eliminating ‘for ready money’ because none of the local merchants sold on credit. Again Thompson bowed to the will of the majority, and now he had a sign which said: ‘John Thompson sell hats.’

“‘Sells hats,’ said his next friend, ‘why nobody will expect you to give them away. What then is the use of that word?’ Again poor Thompson conceded.

“Moments later, the word ‘hats’ went into oblivion when another friend pointed out that there was one painted on the board. And so he was left with a sign that said: ‘John Thompson’ beneath the painted hat.”

John Adams, speaking on behalf of the Committee, took up the defense of the paper. He supported the Declaration with zeal and ability, fighting fearlessly for every word of it. Jefferson gratefully nicknamed Adams the “Colossus” of the important debate. Jefferson himself, never uttered one word in defense of his creation.

The formal Declaration, Tom’s writing, was approved in the late afternoon of July 4th, 1776. Only John Hancock as President of the Congress, and Charles Thompson, who attested as secretary actually signed it on that date. The other delegates affixed their signatures to the official engrossed copy on August 2, 1776.

To be continued….

Independence Day – How It Happened – Part 2

June 26th, 2012

The committee for the preparation of a draft of a declaration of independence was made up of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston. They met together to decide which of them would write the intial document for consideration. It was proposed that Benjamin Franklin, the oldest, wisest, most experienced of the team should be the scrivener. He declined, arguing that it wouldn’t be proper or smart for him to write the original document, as his son, William, had remained a loyalist, and was then the Governor of New Jersey.

Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had received recognition as writers, so it seemed likely that one of them should be selected. Jefferson noted only, the committee “desired me to do it.”

John Adams left a more interesting account.

“The sub-committee met. Jefferson proposed me to make the draft. I said: ‘I will not. You ought to do it.’

[Jefferson] Oh, no! Why will you not? You ought to do it.’

‘I will not.’

[Jefferson] ‘Why?’

‘Reason’s enough.’

[Jefferson] ‘What can be your reasons?’

‘Reasons are: first-you are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second-I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third-You can write ten time better than I can.’

‘Well’, said Jefferson, ‘if you are decided, I will do as well as I can.'”

Jefferson wrote his masterpiece in 17 days, after his attendance at the congressional meetings during the day.

Tom was a young attorney, 33 years of age. He turned to “neither book nor pamphlet to pen his timeless words.

To be continued…

Independence Day – How It Happened – Part 1

June 24th, 2012

One of our great National Holidays is coming up soon–Independence Day! This year it falls on the 4th of July. Oh yeah, every year it falls on the 4th of July–that’s the day we celebrate.

Most of us remember that we celebrate this Holiday to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. That magnificent inspired document by which our Founding Fathers declared that the 13 colonies of Great Britain are now free and independent states.

A new country was created!

However, it seems to me, that many of us Americans have forgotten some interesting and significant details that transpired in connection with this historic event. Some that we learned in 8th grade, and some that our teachers never got around to explaining to us. So I’m going to remind you of just a few.

The Continental Congress, made up of representatives from each of the 13 colonies, met in Philadelphia in 1776 to consider the hositilies taking place in Massachussets and now New York. You’ll recall that at the last Continental Congress, George Washington was unanimously appointed as the Commanding General of the brand new United Colonial Army.

Some of the same delegates that were present at the First Continental Congress, were appointed by their respective colonies to continue their representation. These include Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and Richard Henry Lee. Notably absent were George Washington, now conducting a war, and Patrick Henry, two respected, inspiring and influential Virginians.

We know why George Washington wasn’t there. Patrick Henry was elected to return, but he declined to attend. He had been convinced by reading a pamphlet written by none other than John Adams, that the time had come to make certain that each of the colonies declared themselves independent and adopted their own new State Constitutions. Patrick Henry was determined to advance such a Constitution through the legislature, or House of Burgesses in Virginia. This he would do instead of returning to the Continental Contress. He thought John Adams was correct in his reasoning.

However, Henry knew that the Continental Congress also needed to conduct some serious business. Therefore, he convinced Richard Henry Lee, who would attend the Congress, to present a proposal, a resolution that the Colonies now declare themselves free and independent States. Lee went to Philadelphia and indeed presented this important resolution.  That proposal may not have even been raised for discussion had not Patrick Henry insisted that it be introduced by a fellow Virginian–Richard Henry Lee.

The proposal was introduced on June 7, 1776. The President of the assembly, John Hancock, could see that most of the delegates were still unsure of separation from the mother country, despite the hostilities. But they were advancing to that conclusion. As a result, the proposition was tabled until additional reasoning could be considered.  But so that as little time as possible should be lost in the event that Lee’s proposition was approved, John Hancock appointed a committee to prepare a draft of a declaration, should one be called for.

To be continued…..

Benjamin Franklin for Christmas

December 6th, 2011

Christmas tree

It’s December. I got to thinking, there isn’t a whole lot written
about how our Founding Fathers actually spent their Christmas
Holidays. My imagination started working overtime wondering how
they would react to our own Christmas Celebrations.

What if some of our Founding Fathers skipped right from their own
family Christmas gathering and appeared at one of my own?  Let’s
just surmise and pretend, with our thinking cap in a prominent
position on our heads. Take Benjamin Franklin for example.

Benjamin Franklin would be a lot of fun as a guest. He loved
people, feasts, and celebrations. He would be at home with our
family gathering. He would genuinely love my 3 daughters, my
grandchildren, and would be especially fond of my wife’s homemade
Christmas Cheesecake. He’d like it so much he would ask for
seconds–maybe even thirds.

Ben would want to see how we kept it so fresh and cold. It was
baked yesterday, after all. I’d show him our Sub-Zero side by
side refrigerator/freezer and he’d be amazed. “Do you mean to
tell me that these appliances were invented to take advantage of
what I learned in that big thunderstorm when lightning was
attracted to the key on my kite’s string? And you keep lightning
right in the walls of your own home, and plug some wires from
this refrigerator directly into ‘outlets’ to access it?
Incredible.”

Ben would be overjoyed to see all the Christmas lights (again due
to electricity), and he would love the sound of music coming from
the speakers of our sound system (Ben was a musician, you know.
He played the violin, guitar, and even his own invention, the
Armonica–a favorite of Beethoven). An armonica is a series of crystal glasses containing water, turned with a teasel, and played with a finger on the rims of the glasses.

While showing Ben our home, he would be interested in those
‘wagons’ kept in an indoor ‘garage’ for our convenience and
safety. He’d want to go for a ride in that ‘SUV.’  He’d be most
interested in how the car’s battery operated. Stored electricity.
And comfort. Travel was very difficult for Ben when he served as
Postmaster General and had to travel, even in inclement weather
in the Colonies. He resorted to telling outlandish stories about
horses and oysters, to crowded rooms at the Inn, especially on
one trip to Rhode Island, just so he could get himself a seat
comfortably near the fire!

But most of all, I think, Ben would be pleased to know that we
remember the real story of Christmas. Ben was a God-fearing man.
He had created a “Project for Moral Perfection” which he followed
all of his life. One of his goals in that project was to strive
for the humility which characterized Jesus Christ’s life. Ben
said if he did so, he would “probably be proud of my humility!”

Ben believed in Christ and in the Resurrection. In his own
personal epitaph he claimed his body would be raised “to appear
in a new and more elegant editions, Revised and corrected by the
Author.”

Merry Christmas, Ben.

Ben Franklin — Mind Your P’s and Q’s

October 24th, 2011

Benjamin FranklinA few years ago my wife, my son and I traveled in New York State. One small town we stopped at was Palmyra, near the “Finger Lakes.” In that town there is now a restored place of business known as “The Grandin Press and Print Shop.” The owner of that shop had the most advanced printing press of the times in 1830. It was not much different from the printing press on which Benjamin Franklin printed his “Poor Richard’s Almanac” in the 1750’s. The printing press may have been somewhat improved, but the actions required by the printer was nearly the same.

It was fun, educational and interesting to see this print shop and envision Benjamin Franklin as a young printer. The shop had reproductions of not only the press, but also the cases (don’t call them drawers) to hold the letters which would be individually manually placed in the press to create the handbill, newspaper, advertisement, or book pages to be printed.

These cases were about 2 1/2′ X 3 1/2′ and about 4″ deep as I recall. In other words, they were quite large. They were divided into small spaces to hold the actual pre-molded metal letters to be transferred to the press for the printing job at hand. These cases were stacked in a holding form about 6 to 10 feet from the press itself.

There were as many cases in the shop as would be needed for different printing styles or fonts. For each font there were two cases. The case higher on the rack, or uppercase, was to hold the capital letters, the one underneath it on the form would hold the regular or smaller letters. Hence the terminology “upper case” for capital letters, and “lower case” for regular letters. These terms, upper case and lower case, originated in the early days of the printing press used with movable type in letterpress printing.

When someone was typesetting (laying out the letters, know as composition) they would pull out two cases which were the same font, but one case would be the larger capital letters the printer would use to start sentences, names, as well as the punctuation, and so on. The other case would be the smaller letters.

When the printing was to be composed, the printer or apprentice, would move the proper cases to a nearer table or stand, which usually was angled from the back to the front to allow easier access to the proper letter, be it upper or lower case. An apprentices task was to disassemble, and redistribute the used type to the relevant cases. That was known as “dissing”, which seems to have taken on a new meaning today. Lazy apprentices sometimes mixed up the used letters so they would have to be reviewed and replaced into the right box from time to time.

As you can well imagine, these letter cases were quite heavy and unwieldy. Most printers assistants (which is how Ben started out) would carry one case at a time, with both hands. Oh the trouble if you should happen to drop a case and mix up the letters! What you may not know, is that Benjamin Franklin was such a good athlete, and such a strong young man, he would usually carry both cases at one time, balanced on each hand. And he rarely dropped a case.

Yes, Ben was an athlete. He was a wrestler and a great swimmer. No he didn’t participate in organized sports such as baseball, basketball or football — they had yet to be invented.

When Ben was learning to be an apprentice or printer’s assistant, he had to be reminded to “watch your p’s and q’s.” Those letters were close to each other in the font form and they were very similar. A ‘p’ had it’s long stroke on the right side, while a ‘q’ had the long stroke on the left side. The compositor takes the letter block from the compartments and places them in a composing stick, working from left to right and placing the letters upside down with the ‘nick’ at the top, and then sets the assembled type in a galley. So a compositor is essentially working letters upside down and backwards.

Therefore the printer, or his assistant, had to use care not to pick up the wrong letter. That’ where that old saying comes from. “Mind your P’s and Q’s.”

If you are traveling in upstate New York, you will find it interesting to stop in Palmyra and visit the Grandin Press and Print Shop. Such a visit will help you understand printing as it was in Benjamin Franklin’s time. You will understand more about Ben the printer.

One of the most interesting things Ben printed as a young printer was his own epitaph. You can find this in The Benjamin Franklin Autobiography. Although this epitaph wasn’t actually used on his gravestone when he died, I know you will appreciate the language he used. In it you can not only see Ben’s cleverness as a writer, but also get a view of his belief in Christ and the resurrection.

It reads like this:

The body of
B. Franklin, printer
(like the cover of an old book,
Its contents torn out
And stripped of it lettering and gilding)
Lies here food for worms,
But the work will not be lost;
For it will (as he believed) appear once more
In a new and more elegant edition,
Revised and corrected
By the Author.

[Founding Fathers–Uncommon Heroes, page 34-34]

Labor Day Quotes from Founding Fathers

September 3rd, 2010

With Labor Day quickly approaching, I thought maybe you’d enjoy some favorite quotes from some of the Founding Fathers (and a few others) relating to labor.

“Well done is better than well said.” Benjamin Franklin

“Success has ruined many a good man.” Benjamin Franklin

“The best investment is in the tools of one’s own trade.” Benjamin Franklin

“Commerce and industry are the best mines of a nation.” George Washington

“The private virtues of economy, prudence, and industry are not less amiable, in civil life, than the more splendid qualities of valor, perseverance, and enterprise, in public life.” George Washington

“It is a point conceded, that America, under an efficient government, will be the most favorable country of any in the world, for persons of industry and frugality, possessed of moderate capital.” George Washington

“I flatter myself, that opportunities will not be wanting, for me to show my disposition to encourage the domestic and public virtues of industry, economy, patriotism, philanthropy, and that righteousness which exalteth a nation.” George Washington

“I never in my life believed that I had any talents beyond mediocrity. I have always be sensible (sensitive), to my mortification, that all I have done has been accomplished by the severest and most incessant labor.” John Adams

“But to teach that all men are born with equal powers and faculties, to equal influence to life, is as gross a fraud, as glaring an imposition on the credibility of people as was ever practised.” John Adams

“The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone, it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.” Patrick Henry

“A mind always employed is always happy. . . .It is our own fault if we ever know what ennui (the condition of being bored) is, or if we are ever driven to the miserable resources of gaming, which corrupts our dispositions, and teaches us a habit of hostility against all mankind.” Thomas Jefferson

“I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.” Thomas Jefferson

“Our wish . . . is that the public efforts may be directed honestly to the public good, that . . . equality of rights [be] maintained, and that state of property, equal or unequal, which results to every man from his own industry or that of his fathers.” Thomas Jefferson

And Thomas Jefferson about James Madison: “[Madison] acquired a habit of self-possession, which placed at ready command the rich resources of his luminous and discriminating mind, and of his extensive information, and rendered him the first of every assembly afterwards, of which he became a member.

“Labor disgraces no man; unfortunately, you occasionally find men who disgrace labor.” Ulysses S. Grant

“As labor is the common burden of our race, so the effort of some to shift their share of the burden onto the shoulders of others is the great durable curse of the race.” Abraham Lincoln

A Few Random Thoughts From the Founding Fathers

July 26th, 2010
“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” -Benjamin Franklin
 
“I believe He (God) is pleased and delights in the Happiness of those he has created; and since without Virtue Man can have no Happiness in this world, I firmly believe he delights to see me Virtuous because He is pleased when he sees me Happy.” -Benjamin Franklin (capitalization as he wrote it.)
 
“Of all the dispositions and  habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensible supports. . . . (R)eason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. -George Washington
 
“Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.” -George Washington
 
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”  -John Adams
 
“I pray heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof.” _John Adams to Abagail Adams, 2 November 1800 (referring to the Executive Mansion, now known as the White House; this passage is carved on a mantelpiece in the East Room.)
 
“The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of society; and . . . to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust.” -James Madison
 
“I wish I could leave you my most cherished possession, my faith in Christ. For with Him you have everything, without Him you have nothing.”  -Patrick Henry
 
“I too have made a wee little book . . . which I call ‘The Philosophy of Jesus.”  It is . . . made by cutting the texts out of the book (the Bible) and arranging them on the pages of a blank book, in a certain order of time and subject. . . . . It is a document in proof tha I am a real Christian, that is to say a disciple of Jesus.” -Thomas Jefferson 
 
 

 

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