Imaginary Speech by Robbie Taylor
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
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.
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
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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