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Imaginary Speech by Robbie Taylor

Author says: what if Benjamin Franklin's anti-British language led to a duel in 1775? muses Robbie Taylor. Please note that the opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).

1775: on February 7th, the publication of Benjamin Franklin's "An Imaginary Speech" in London, in which he rebutted slanders against the American colonists with such statements as, "Indiscriminate Accusations against the Absent are cowardly Calumnies", causes Sir Reginald Beckwith, a minor noble who had first published the anti-American sentiments, to challenge him to a duel.

Franklin's "speech" was intended to counter an unnamed officers comments to Parliament that the British need not fear the colonial rebels, because "Americans are unequal to the People of this Country [Britain] in Devotion to Women, and in Courage, and worse than all, they are religious".

Franklin responded to the three-pronged critique with his usual wit and acuity. Noting that the colonial population had increased while the British population had declined, Franklin concluded that American men must therefore be more "effectually devoted to the Fair Sex" than their British brethren.

As for American courage, Franklin relayed a history of the Seven Years War in which the colonial militia forever saved blundering British regulars from strategic error and cowardice. With poetic flare, Franklin declared, "Indiscriminate Accusations against the Absent are cowardly Calumnies". In truth, the colonial militias were notoriously undisciplined and ineffective at the beginning of the Seven Years War. New Englanders, unused to taking orders and unfamiliar with the necessary elements of military life, brought illness upon themselves when they refused to build latrines and were sickened by their own sewage. During the American Revolution, Washington repeated many of the same complaints spoken by British officers when he attempted to organize American farmers into an effective army.

With regard to religion, Franklin overcame his own distaste for the devout and reminded his readers that it was zealous Puritans that had rid Britain of the despised King Charles I. Franklin surmised that his critic was a Stuart [i.e. Catholic] sympathizer, and therefore disliked American Protestants, "who inherit from those Ancestors, not only the same Religion, but the same Love of Liberty and Spirit?".

Sir Reginald, though wounded by Franklin's gunshot, aims true and drops the American statesman. Howls of protest from across the water become battle cries that rally the colonials. "Remember Franklin!" and "For Ben!" became familiar to British soldiers hearing their last words in the war that led to colonial independence in 1779.

Author says please note that content was substantially repurposed from the source articles of This Day in History. To view guest historian's comments on this post please visit the Today in Alternate History web site.

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Robbie Taylor, Alternate Historian of Today in Alternate History, a Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In History That Never Occurred Today. Follow us on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.

Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Possibilities such as America becoming a Marxist superpower, aliens influencing human history in the 18th century and Teddy Roosevelt winning his 3rd term as president abound in this interesting fictional blog.


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