I read a Mark Twain story quite some time ago, which suggested that Benjamin Franklin was, in stark contrast to popular opinion, not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I found the piece to be hilarious and, several years ago, actually composed a speech based on the tale for a college Speech class. The assignment was to write and deliver a “persuasive speech” and, although I don’t believe I changed any minds, I am convinced I had the weirdest speech in the entire class. I am including a rewritten version of that speech here.
Benjamin Franklin: Hero or Hack?
I fully realize that, by posting this article, I am setting myself up for personal attack from fans of a certain individual from American history. However, I believe it is in the best interest of my country that I divulge this dirty little secret.
This nation and, yea, the world, has long operated under the false conception that Benjamin Franklin was a reasonably intelligent member of the human race. This concept is as ridiculous as the man himself. In fact, recently discovered evidence points to the fact that Ben may have actually been criminally insane. Can any of you say, with complete candor and with all clearness of conscience, as you gaze upon a picture of Franklin with his bald dome, long hair, and absurd spectacles, that here is a man of genius? I agree that appearances are not everything (just look at Nigel), but they do count for something.
The hard, cold truth is, ladies and gents, that Benjamin Franklin was not the brightest star in the skies of America’s past, nor a stellar benchmark in the timeline of history. Witness his many inventions. I have already mentioned the specs, but he also invented a stove of sorts. Admittedly, the stove was cleverly done. The design was brilliantly thought out and executed; there was no flaw. When one turned on this marvel and attempted to use it, the stove would immediately spit smoke and ashes all over the room. However, this was the only success I was able to dig up in my perusal of the rather dubious past of our friend Franklin. He has an FBI file 3 inches thick. Were he alive today, he would doubtless be apprehended and jailed for attempting to make the turkey our national bird. I am not making this up.
Now, I would be the last person to cast aspersions on a man’s love of recreation, but I must question the sanity of anyone who, after wasting the day inventing witty sayings, suddenly gets into a humorous mood and decides to play in a thunderstorm. Flying a kite in an electrical storm suggests the approximate IQ of a carrot. A really dumb carrot. Named Wilbur. This, however, is exactly what Ben did and, to top it all off, he attached a metal object to the kite string. He and the neighborhood children liked to play a game Ben invented entitled, “See Who Can Get Zapped with 30 Million Volts of Electricity.” It was a thrilling game and Ben always made the winner leave by the back gate in order to avoid getting ashes on his prized Early American rugs.
Benjamin Franklin was also annoying. What more irritating person can you think of than the one who has an answer for everything? And insists on answering you in verse, with a pompous twist of the head? Imagine having Ben Franklin as a roommate. You struggle out of bed at 6:30 a.m. and run blindly into the dresser, thereby causing a massive hemorrhage in your big toe. As you attempt to staunch the flow of blood, Ben, who has been up since four, comes romping into the room, stops, and surveys the gory scene. He closes his eyes, raises his eyebrows, points one finger skyward, and says stuffily, "Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." Grasping him about the throat, you calmly explain that you have no inclination whatsoever to be healthy, wealthy, or wise and if he wishes to remain at least reasonably healthy himself, he will leave your room immediately.
I understand that I have raked old Ben over the coals a good deal, but I really would have no problem with the old chap if he would just stay in history like a good little Father of Our Country. But NO! He has to keep popping up and making life miserable for each successive generation. This thing parents have about "hardship building character" came from Franklin. Hardship does not build character. Hardship builds despair, bitterness, and anger and turns productive citizens into blithering idiots. It is tragic that one man could have had such a negative impact upon our country.
Many of you, I'm sure, have gotten the idea that I despise Ben Franklin with all my heart, soul, and mind. This is untrue. I'm sure at least one of my nasal passages would agree that Benjamin Franklin was a highly intelligent creature, possibly even possessing opposable thumbs. But until I give my nose the right to vote, I respectfully submit this report for your thoughtful consideration.