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An impressive exit

Published Wednesday, April 17, 2013 @ 2:42 AM EDT
Apr 17 2013

Benjamin Franklin died in his home in Philadelphia on April 17, 1790. He was 84.

His funeral took place four days later, and was unprecedented.

Richard Saunders of the Poor Richard's Almanac blog wrote:

Like his life, Ben Franklin's funeral was extraordinary. Held in his adoptive hometown, Philadelphia, it was more like a parade. That's because he was not only the most famous citizen of Philadelphia- at the time, the largest city in America- but also the most famous man in the world. The citizens- 20,000 of them- poured into the streets to accompany his coffin to its resting place, Christ Church burial ground. Today, when hundreds of thousands gather to watch a football game or rock concert, 20,000 may not seem like much of a crowd. But back in 1790, the entire population of Philadelphia was only 28,500. Imagine more than two-thirds of the population of, say, modern New York City, London, or Mumbai taking to the streets for somebody's funeral, and you'll get an idea of what Dr. Franklin's funeral procession must have been like.

The sheer size of the crowd wasn't even the most amazing thing about Ben Franklin's funeral. The procession itself was like a microcosm of old Ben's entire life and achievements. It was led by the assembled clergy of Philadelphia, regardless of denomination, to honor the man who had made freedom to worship as one pleased a cornerstone of the new Republic and had done so much to raise funds for the building of the city's houses of worship. This may have been the first ecumenical gathering ever. There was even a rabbi- and this was back in 1790, in the same century that gave us the Salem witch trials!

Prominent Philadelphia dignitaries, including the mayor and the astronomer David Rittenhouse, carried the coffin. Behind it marched the city's printers (Franklin considered himself first and foremost a printer), then the philosophers (Ben had cofounded the American Philosophical Society), then the physicians of Philadelphia (Dr. Franklin was also a founder of the first medical school in America). The Society of the Cincinnati, an elite society of officers of the American Revolution whose members included George Washington, came next in the procession. From printer's apprentices to the most elite and exclusive society in America, from physicians to philosophers, from priests to politicians, Benjamin Franklin's funeral procession summed up the true work of his life, which was to bring people from all walks of life together in friendship, to their mutal benefit and betterment.

At heart, Benjamin Franklin was a plain man. So it's fitting that his tombstone, rather than some towering monument of curlicues and statuary, is a plain slab that simply reads "Benjamin and Deborah Franklin 1790." You can see his grave for yourself, as I have, in the churchyard at the corner of 5th and Arch Streets in Philadelphia. But the country and the world he made better places were not through showing their grief at his passing. At James Madison's suggestion, the House of Representatives wore mourning for a month. The French National Assembly also wore mourning to honor the man the French loved perhaps even more than his fellow Americans did. (As Count Mirabeau so ably summed it up, "He was able to restrain thunderbolts and tyrants.")

(Click here for the full article.)


People will accept your idea much more readily if you tell them Benjamin Franklin said it first.
-David H. Comins


Quotes by Benjamin Franklin:

A false friend and a shadow attend only when the sun shines.

A great empire, like a great cake, is most easily diminished at the edges.

A learned blockhead is a greater blockhead than an ignorant one.

A little neglect may breed mischief: for want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, for want of a horse the rider was lost.

A man compounded of law and gospel is able to cheat a whole country with his religion and then destroy them under color of law.

A Traveller should have a hog's nose, deer's legs, and an ass's back.

An egg today is better than a hen tomorrow.

An empty bag cannot stand upright.

Anger is never without a reason, but seldom a good one.

Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, and most fools do.

Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.

Beauty and folly are old companions.

Beware of the young doctor and the old barber.

Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he will never be disappointed.

Creditors have better memories than debtors.

Distrust and caution are the parents of security.

Don't judge a man's wealth-or his piety-by his appearance on Sunday.

Even peace may be purchased at too high a price.

Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.

Fatigue is the best pillow.

Genius without education is like silver in the mine.

Glass, China, and Reputation, are easily crack'd, and never well mended.

God heals, the doctor takes the fee.

Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.

Half a truth is often a great lie.

He is a fool that cannot conceal his wisdom.

He that cannot obey, cannot command.

He that displays too often his wife and his wallet is in danger of having both of them borrowed.

He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.

He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.

He that speaks ill of the mare will buy her.

He who waits upon Fortune is never sure of Dinner.

He's a fool that makes his doctor his heir.

Hunger never saw bad bread.

I haven't failed. I've found 10,000 ways that don't work.

If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it away from him. An investment of knowledge always pays the best interest.

If Jack's in love, he's no judge of Jill's beauty.

If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be without it?

If you can't pay for a thing, don't buy it. If you can't get paid for it, don't sell it.

If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect.

In rivers and bad governments, the lightest things swim at the top.

Industry need not wish, as Poor Richard says, and He that lives upon hope will die fasting. There are no Gains, without Pains.

It is the eyes of other people that ruin us. If all but myself were blind, I should want neither a fine house nor fine furniture.

Laws too gentle are seldom obeyed; too severe, seldom executed.

Life's tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.

Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.

Many foxes grow gray, but few grow good.

Many have quarreled about religion that never practiced it.

Many men die at twenty-five and aren't buried until they are seventy-five.

Most fools think they are only ignorant.

Necessity knows no law; I know some attorneys of the same.

Necessity never made a good bargin.

One good husband is worth two good wives; for the scarcer things are, the more they are valued.

One Today is worth two Tomorrows.

Our Constitution is in actual operation; everything appears to promise that it will last; but nothing in this world is certain but death and taxes.

Praise to the undeserving is severe satire.

Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.

The absent are never without fault. Nor the present without excuse.

The best is the cheapest.

The cat in gloves catches no mice.

The greatest monarch on the proudest throne, is oblig'd to sit upon his own arse.

The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.

There are no ugly loves, nor handsome prisons.

There are three great friends: an old wife, an old dog and ready money.

There is much difference between imitating a good man and counterfeiting him.

There is no kind of dishonesty into which otherwise good people more easily and frequently fall than that of defrauding the government.

There is nothing so absurd as knowledge spun too fine.

There never was a good war or a bad peace.

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety.

Think about these things: Whence you came, where you are going, and to whom you must account.

Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.

To be proud of knowledge is to be blind with light.

Too many parents make life hard for their children by trying, too zealously, to make it easy for them.

Well done is better than well said.

What maintains one vice would bring up two children.

Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.

When the well's dry, we know the worth of water.

Where liberty is, there is my country.

Where there's marriage without love, there will be love without marriage.

Who is wise? He that learns from everyone. Who is powerful? He that governs his passions. Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody.

Wise men don't need advice. Fools won't take it.

Write injuries in dust, benefits in marble.

You cannot strengthen one by weakening another; and you cannot add to the stature of a dwarf by cutting off the leg of a giant.

You may delay, but Time will not.

Categories: Benjamin Franklin, History, Quotes of the day


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