Jerry Weinberger: Rebels with Causes

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Like Hitchens and Paine, Franklin was an egalitarian freethinker with no scruples against free men’s fighting to secure liberty—their own and that of others. As Franklin said in Plain Truth, written in 1746 against Quaker pacifists and others unwilling to arm against French and Spanish privateers threatening Philadelphia: “One sword often keeps another in its scabbard . . . and the way to secure peace is to be prepared for war.” And Franklin was delighted that England won the Seven Years’ War. But like Hitchens and unlike Paine, Franklin was a cautious revolutionary, and after the American Revolution could still regret that the costly war had not been avoided. It’s impossible, of course, to know whether a 300-year-old Franklin would have favored the war in Iraq. He might have. But he definitely would have thought that, as with all matters of war and liberty and revolution, it would not be an easy call.

He certainly would have listened to and taken seriously what Hitchens has had to say about the current conflict. Old Ben would know that for Hitchens, moralist though he may be, one can’t be a true foe of despotism if one’s judgment is deranged by anger and absolutist indignation. Beyond that question, Franklin would like this delightful book because its message is that, of the two modern revolutions that Paine said having a share in was “living to some purpose,” the one that got most things right—with one notable and tragic exception—was the first.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-Watch* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

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Posted January 29, 2008 at 2:03 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]
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