1740

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Benjamin Franklin Bans Newspapers

It's not censorship. It's business. Monkey business. A couple of years ago Benjamin Franklin was appointed Postmaster of Philadelphia because the previous postmaster, a man named Bradford, was a poor bookkeeper. What really happened was that Bradford was refusing to accept Benjamin Franklin's mail for delivery. Since Franklin is a publisher who does a lot of business through the mail, he was forced bribe local carriers into delivering his publications on the sly. Once Franklin took the position as postmaster, he was directed by the colonial powers to hire a lawyer and sue Bradford for money owed to the post office. Franklin has a lot of irons in the fire at this time. Little things. For example: he founds the University of Pennsylvania this year and he plans to publish the first popular magazine in the colonies. He offers the position of magazine editor to his lawyer, but Franklin's lawyer sells the idea to Bradford... the very man that the lawyer is supposed to be SUING. Franklin decides to publish his own idea so that he can take the credit even if he can't collect the money for it. Bradford is enraged, but Franklin is still Postmaster and since Bradford is also publishing two newspapers, Franklin gets permission to refuse for delivery all publications coming from Bradford... including any magazines. Coincidence? I think not! [1] [2]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Benjamin Franklin founds a university, prints an almanac and a magazine and runs the post office! I feel like such a slacker! Regarding the blocking of publications by the post office, remember that publishing is a business. If a publisher bounces a check to the post office, the post office might not accept mail for delivery until the publisher makes the check good. Even though it is a PUBLIC post office, it is not a FREE post office. Bradford owed the money. Franklin may have been motivated by bad feelings, but the post office was justified in refusing service. The real crime (or near crime) was the unethical behavior of Franklin's lawyer! I'm not a lawyer but it looks bad when a lawyer is hired to sue someone and then takes money from both parties. Whether it is an actual crime, I'm not sure. I leave the answer to that question as an exercise for the student. [3]

An Enlightened Despot Takes the Throne

Frederick the Great (or "The Old Fritz") becomes the King of Prussia this year. He is in his late 20s and he considers himself a benevolent absolutist. (That is a nice way of saying that he is despot that intellectuals agree with.) He begins his reign by reforming the government bureaucracy. He grants freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and he founds the Berlin Academy of Science. He also starts a war with Queen Maria Theresa. (I thought you weren't supposed to hit the girl!) Maria's father has died so she has suddenly become the Queen of Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia and other titles too numerous to mention here. Her relevant title for this war is Archduchess of Austria. The Old Fritz wants the minerals of Silesia which is considered the jewel of Austria. Queen Maria has been having trouble consolidating her power, so her advisors want her to give up part of Silesia in exchange for King Frederick's support, but she refuses. Thus begins a life-long fight between Queen Maria and the Old Fritz. He represents change and she represents a centuries-old order and the end of the line. [2] [4] [5] [6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Over and over again, people want to elect someone who will just get things done! No arguing! But such a system requires an authority with enough power to impose those solutions AND maintain them beyond the life of the people we have entrusted with that power. We may trust the guy in power now but how can we trust the guy generations down the line? The strategy in US politics is to give a lot of power to a few people to get things done. To be fair, they might get things done, but with so much centralized power, it becomes vital to get your own guy in there to hold that office. That is why you see so many political fights, name-calling and just plain lies because the stakes are so high. Of course, the real solution is to spread that power out amongst a lot of elected offices so that even if the wrong guy gets in, the damage he can do is minimal. But then I hear, "How will we get things done?" The answer is, "Carefully, or not at all." If it can't be done by Federal government, then it will be done locally. It might not be very efficient that way, but then again, a large, centralized government is NEVER efficient. The only organizations less efficient than a large, centralized government are: an insurance company, a MEDICAL insurance company, or worst of all... a MEDICAL insurance company run by the GOVERNMENT.

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1740, Wikipedia.

See Also

References

  1. Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0684807610. “Instead of retaliating, Franklin allowed Bradford's Mercury to be carried through the mails along with the Gazette and others--at least initially. In his autobiography, Franklin congratulated himself for being so open. In fact, however, that policy lasted just two years. Because Bradford never settled the accounts from his tenure as Philadelphia postmaster, Spotswood sent Franklin an order to "commence suit against him" and "no longer suffer to be carried by the Post any of his newspapers."” 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 340-341. 
  3. Franklin, Benjamin. "III Arrival in Philadelphia", Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, The. The Macmillan Company. “These two printers I found poorly qualified for their business. Bradford had not been bred to it, and was very illiterate; and Keimer, tho' something of a scholar, was a mere compositor, knowing nothing of presswork.” 
  4. Maria Theresa - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 26 February 2016. “The invasion of Silesia by Frederick was the start of a lifelong enmity; she referred to him as 'that evil man'.”
  5. Archduchy of Austria - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 26 February 2016. “The Archduchy of Austria (German: Erzherzogtum Ósterreich) was one of the most important states within the Holy Roman Empire and the nucleus of the Habsburg dynastic lands.”
  6. Silesia - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 26 February 2016. “The region is rich in mineral and natural resources and includes several important industrial areas.”

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