Fart Proudly: Writings of Benjamin Franklin You Never Read in School

Compiled and Edited by Carl Japikse

Benjamin Franklin is well known as an important figure in American history. He was a printer, publisher, postmaster, inventor, and ambassador. He helped draft the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. But he also had a sense of humor. This book contains a collection of his humorous writing, including hoaxes and political satire. Much of these works were written anonymously or under pseudonyms, such as a Richard Saunders, publisher of Poor Richard’s Almanack.

Here are some excerpts.

A Letter to the Royal Academy, 1781. The Royal Academy of Brusselles held a contest in which scientists submitted solutions to a given theoretical problem. Franklin submitted this suggestion for a contest theme with more practical value: “My Prize Question therefore should be, To discover some Drug wholesome and not disagreeable, to be mixed with our common Food, or Sauces, that shall render the Natural Discharges of Wind from our Bodies, not only inoffensive, but agreeable as Perfumes.”

“Certain it is also that we have the Power of changing by slight means the Smell of another Discharge, that of our Water. A few Stems of Asparagus eaten, shall give our Urine a disagreeable Odour; and a Pill of Turpentine no bigger than a Pea, shall bestow on it the pleasing Smell of Violets. And why should it be thought more impossible in Nature, to find Means of making a Perfume of our Wind than of our Water?”

At the end of this letter, Franklin makes an 18th century pun. He asserts that scientific contests which produce no practical utility are “scarcely worth a FARThing.” A farthing was a coin worth one-quarter of a British penny.

Transporting Rattle-Snakes, 1751. In this piece, Franklin is outraged that the British parliament plans to export convicted criminals to the colonies. He proposes a trade in which the colonies would send rattlesnakes to Britain. “The Rattle-Snake is a mischievous Creature, and that his changing his Nature with the Clime is a mere Supposition, not yet confirmed by sufficient Facts. What then? Is not Example more prevalent than Precept? And may not the honest rough British Gentry, by Familiarity with these Reptiles, learn to creep, and to insinuate, and the slaver, and the wriggle into Place (and perhaps to poison such as stand in their Way)—Qualities of no small Advantage to Courtiers!”

Father Abraham, 1758. “Father Abraham stood up, and replied, If you’d have my Advice, I’ll give it you in short, for a Word to the Wise is enough, and many Words won’t fill a Bushel… Industry need not wish… He that lives upon Hope will die farting… Industry pays Debts, while Despair encreaseth them… Little Strokes fell great Oaks … a little Neglect may breed Mischief; adding, For want of a Nail the Shoe was lost; for want of a Shoe the Horse was lost; and for want of a Horse the Rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by the Enemy, all for want of Care about a Horsehoe Nail… Beware of little Expences; a small Leak will sink a great Ship… Wise Men… learn by others Harms, Fools scarcely by their own… Creditors… have better Memories than Debtors… The Borrower is a Slave to the Lender, and the Debtor to the Creditor, disdain the Chain, preserve your Freedom; and maintain your Independency: Be industrious and free; be frugal and free… They that won’t be counselled, can’t be helped… If you will not hear reason, she’ll surely rap your Knuckles.”

“Thus the old Gentleman ended his Harangue. The People heard it, and approved the Doctrine, and immediately practiced the contrary, just as if it had been a common Sermon.”

An Edict to the King of Prussia, 1773. In this piece, Franklin suggests that Prussia should tax the British under the same logic that Britain taxes the Americans: “WHEREAS it is well known to all the World, that the first German Settlements made in the Island of Britain, were by Colonies of People, Subjects to our renowned Ducal Ancestors… and that the Colonies have flourished under the Protection of our august House, for Ages past, have never been emancipated therefrom, and yet have hitherto yielded little Profit to the same.”

“And whereas it is just and expedient that a Revenue should be raised from the said Colonies in Britain towards our Indemnification; and that those who are Descendants of our ancient Subjects, and thence still owe us due Obedience, should contribute to the replenishing of our Royal Coffers.”

Twenty-two years after his rattlesnake essay, Franklin is still upset about Britain disposing of its criminals in the colonies. He suggests that Prussia has as much right to dump its convicts in Britain. “And lastly, Being willing farther to favour Our said Colonies in Britain, We do hereby also ordain and command, that all the Thieves, Highway and Street-Robbers, House-breakers, Forgerers, Murderers, Sodomites, and Villains of every Denomination, who have forfeited their Lives to the Law in Prussia, but whom We, in Our great Clemency, do not think fit here to hang, shall be emptied out of our Gaols [jails] into the said Island of Great Britain for the BETTER PEOPLING of that Country.”

A Method of Humbling Rebellious American Vassals, 1774. “It is humbly proposed, and we do hereby give it as Part of our Instructions to our Representations, that a Bill be brought in and passed, and Orders immediately transmitted to General Gage, our Commander in Chief in North America, in consequence of it, that all the Males there be castrated… The modern Maxim that is now generally adopted by our worthy Constituents, that it is better that ten innocent Persons should suffer than one guilty should escape… The English, whose Humanity is celebrated by all the World, but particularly by themselves…”

In the words of editor Carl Japikse, “Fart Proudly is a testament to the satirical rogue that lived peaceably inside the philosopher and statesman. But it is more than that as well; it is a loving tribute to the ideal of a free press in this country.”

Franklin, Benjamin, and Carl Japikse. Fart proudly: Writings of Benjamin Franklin You Never Read in School. Columbus, Ohio: Enthea Press, 1990. Buy from Amazon.com

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