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The Key to Liberty is More than Revolution

One year after the storming of the Bastille in Paris, most people believe that the French Revolution is over. Even King Louis the 16th has declared himself "at the head of the Revolution." (Yes. His head will figure prominently in this Revolution, but not this year.) Work on the French Constitution is going slowly, but optimism reigns. Lafayette is commander-in-chief of the newly organized French National Guard. Last year he was presented with the Key to the Bastille, now a symbol of French liberty. It weighs more than a pound, so it is not the kind of key one carries around in one's pocket. He sends the key to his mentor, George Washington, as a gift in appreciation as if to say, "You are the one who made this happen." On July 14th, the French celebrate the new Federation of France. It will later be known as Bastille Day. In France, Lafayette is attempting to duplicate what George Washington did in America, but like riding a tiger, he can't control where it goes and he can't jump off without a plan for the tiger's teeth. (In two years he will evade a French arrest order and escape to the Austrian Netherlands where he will cool his heels in prison for 5 years.) [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
OK... it was a big love-fest in France. What went wrong? First, let's remember that we are a modern society looking back at a transition to what we would call a modern government, but to THEM it was a system that hadn't been seen since the ancient days of Athens and Rome. The only example they had was the USA and its new Constitution which was already being changed through the Bill of Rights. Under such circumstances, normal people would wait and see before adopting it for themselves. But a weak monarchy, food riots and near financial collapse were driving the French to make a radical change before they were prepared for it. The King was beheaded in 1793 but he was doing something critical that he needed to continue doing during that transition. (In this case he could have lent legitimacy to the process by giving it final approval.) In a modern context, it might seem that the boss is kicking back while you do all the work making widgets, but he is doing something. He may not be doing it well, but he is doing it. If he suddenly drops dead, the whole business can come apart unless there are people already in place to keep things going. I am thinking of an executive secretary or a floor manager or his buddy Bill who has been feeding him business all these years. Otherwise, once you finish making that last widget, you are going to be wondering, "What do I do next?" [7]

Say Good-Bye to Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin has been sick for a while. During the Constitutional Convention in 1787 he had to be carried to the Hall in a special chair so that he could attend. Two years ago when he was too sick to attend the July 4th celebrations, they arranged for the parade to pass by his window. He noted that "the clergy of different Christian denominations, with the rabbi of the Jews, walked arm in arm." And a month before he passes, he writes to Reverand Stiles, the President of Yale, "I believe in one God, Creator of the Universe. That he governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is doing good to his other children." Working to the last, he completes a letter to Thomas Jefferson regarding a question on diplomacy. His fever has worsened and he is having trouble breathing. His daughter, Sally, tells him that she is praying for his recovery. He replies, "I hope not." Then an abscess bursts in his lungs. There are no last words... only holding hands until he passes. His tombstone is simple. It reads, "Benjamin and Deborah Franklin." He was 84 years old. [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
And in case anyone was wondering, 20,000 people showed up for his funeral. I was going to write a list of Benjamin Franklin's accomplishments but I can't do it justice in a few words, so I'll repeat the quote that Walter Isaacson used in his biography of Benjamin Franklin. It is something that Franklin wrote in his early years as a printer... an epitaph.
The body of
B. Franklin, Printer;
(Like the cover of an old book,
Its contents worn out,
and stripped of its lettering and gilding)
Lies here, food for worms.
But the work shall not be lost:
For it will, (as he believed) appear once more,
In a new and more elegant edition,
Revised and corrected
By the Author. [13]

In Other News

  • A UFO touches down in France. French peasants actually touch the glowing globe of fire. What is it really? No idea. [14]
  • The First USA Patent Law is passed. You must prove that your device is useful? Back to the drawing board. [15]
  • Washington, D.C., founded. Hooray...? George Washington is authorized to select the exact site. [12] [16]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1790, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Bastille Key. George Washington's Mount Vernon (2016). Retrieved on 19 May 2016. “The principal key to the Bastille is made of cast iron and weighs one pound, three ounces. Washington's prominent display of this celebrated souvenir in the presidential household illustrated his appreciation to his French pupil as well as recognition of its symbolic importance in America. Shown first at a presidential levee in New York in August, the key continued to be showcased in Philadelphia when the seat of government moved there in the fall of 1790.”
  2. Storming of the Bastille - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 2014. “In 1790 Lafayette gave the cast-iron, one-pound and three-ounce key to the Bastille to American President George Washington. Washington displayed it prominently at government facilities and events in New York and in Philadelphia until shortly before his retirement in 1797. The key remains on display at Washington's residence of Mount Vernon.”
  3. Fete de la Fédération - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 19 May 2016. “The inaugural fête of 1790 was set for 14 July, the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. At this relatively calm stage, many people considered the country's period of revolutionary struggle to be over. This thinking was encouraged by counter-revolutionary monarchiens, and the first fête was designed with a role for King Louis XVI that would respect and maintain his royal status. The occasion passed peacefully and provided a powerful, but illusory, image of national unity after the divisive events of 1789–1790.”
  4. Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  5. Fraser, Antonia. Marie Antoinette. N.A. Talese/Doubleday. ISBN 038548948X. “Political compromise seemed of the essence to preserve the King's remaining authority. On 4 February, on the advice of Necker, the King went so far as to describe himself as "at the head of the Revolution" in a speech to the Assembly, having spent a rather pleasanter portion of the day stag-hunting.22 This placatory scene infuriated royalists abroad, who from exile found it easy to denounce the diminution of the King's power.” 
  6. Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 19 May 2016. “After the storming of the Bastille, Lafayette was appointed commander-in-chief of the National Guard, and tried to steer a middle course through the French Revolution. In August 1792, the radical factions ordered his arrest. Fleeing through the Austrian Netherlands, he was captured by Austrian troops and spent more than five years in prison.”
  7. Louis XVI of France - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 19 May 2016. “On 15 January 1793, the Convention, composed of 721 deputies, voted on the verdict. Given overwhelming evidence of Louis's collusion with the invaders, the verdict was a foregone conclusion – with 693 deputies voting guilty, none for acquittal, with 23 abstaining. The next day, a roll-call vote was carried out to decide upon the fate of the former king, and the result was uncomfortably close for such a dramatic decision. 288 of the deputies voted against death and for some other alternative, mainly some means of imprisonment or exile. 72 of the deputies voted for the death penalty, but subject to a number of delaying conditions and reservations. 361 of the deputies voted for Louis's immediate death. Philippe Égalité, formerly the duke of Orléans and Louis' own cousin, voted for Louis' execution, a cause of much future bitterness among French monarchists; he would himself be guillotined before the end of 1793.”
  8. Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. Simon & Schuster. 0684807610. ISBN 0684807610. 
  9. Ben Franklin Creative Citizen. Adler University (March 11, 2011). Retrieved on 19 May 2016. “During the July 4 celebrations that year, he was too sick to leave his bed, but the parade marched under his window. For the first time, as per arrangements that Franklin had overseen, "the clergy of different Christian denominations, with the rabbi of the Jews, walked arm in arm." And when he was carried to his grave two years later, his casket was accompanied by all the clergymen of the city, every one of them, of every faith.”
  10. Our History. Congregation Mikveh Israel (OFFICIAL SITE) (2016). Retrieved on 19 May 2016. “1788 Subscription List Members of the congregation, including Rev. Seixas , returned to New York , Charleston and other locations when British occupation ceased. Left with debt incurred by synagogue construction loans, a subscription list was addressed to 'worthy fellow Citizens of every religious Denomination.' Among the contributors were Benjamin Franklin; David Rittenhouse, astronomer; Hilary Baker, city councilman (later mayor); Thomas McKean, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Chief Justice and later Governor of Pennsylvania; William Bradford, Attorney-General of Pennsylvania; and Thomas Fitzsimmons, a drafter of the U.S. Constitution, first president of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and the city's leading Catholic layman.”
  11. Mikveh Israel and Christ Church. Mikveh Israel History (May 8, 2013). Retrieved on 19 May 2016. “The Pennsylvania Packet of July 9, in its account of the parade, reported, 'the clergy of different Christian denominations, with the rabbi of the Jews, walking arm in arm'. Benjamin Franklin, though at 82 too sick to attend the parade, watched as it passed beneath his window. He had overseen, with the chair of the committee on arrangements, Francis Hopkinson, who was also a signer of the Declaration of Independence, 'the clergy of almost every denomination united in charity and brotherly love'. This was nowhere more evident than when, at the end of the parade where people gathered at tables heaped with food and drink, the Jewish Patriots were escorted to their own separate table of kosher food.”
  12. 12.0 12.1 Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 366-367. 
  13. Alex Shrugged notes: I drew heavily from Walter Isaacson's "Benjamin Franklin: An American Life". This makes two biographies I've read by him. The other was Albert Einstein. Great reads.
  14. Keel, John A.. Why UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse. Manor Books, 66-67. “The witnesses, a group of French peasants, told him that an enormous globe had appeared that morning, moving with a rocking motion, and that it crashed into the top of a hill, uprooting the vegetation. Heat from the object started grass fires, and the peasants rushed to put them out before they spread. The huge globe was warm to the touch.” 
  15. Patent Act of 1790 - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 15 May 2016. “Cases of infringement were dealt with by a jury, which assessed the damages made and appropriate punishment. The person who infringed, if found guilty, was made to hand over all of the infringing devices to the owner of the patent. Patents could be repealed by a district court within one year after it was granted if found to be infringing. However, if one was to bring his case to trial and lose, he would have to pay all costs.”
  16. Washington, D.C. - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 19 May 2016. “On July 9, 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act, which approved the creation of a national capital on the Potomac River. The exact location was to be selected by President George Washington, who signed the bill into law on July 16.”

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