I don’t know a whole lot about Ben Franklin (1706-1790), but recently I saw a documentary that suggested he was a man who enjoyed many pleasures, included many pleasures of the flesh. After doing a bit of reading on him, superficial at best, I would like to think this is an accurate portrayal of his character.
Wikepedia begins by saying about Franklin:
“A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. He invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, a carriage odometer, and the glass ‘armonica’. He formed both the first public lending library in America and the first fire department in Pennsylvania.”
He was also a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He is one of the most beloved and respect of the Founding Fathers, on both sides of the Atlantic. And he loved pussy.
Although Franklin espoused the virtues of religion and of virtues themselves (he made up a list of thirteen virtues, including chastity, when he was a young man), especially in maintaining a strong Republic, he, like most great men, had tremendous appetites that needed to be satisfied. Apparently he took on many lovers. Most incredible of all, in 1758 when he was in England, he may have attended a notorious “gentleman’s club” of the time, the Hellfire Club. This was a club founded in Britain in the eighteen century by and for the aristocracy. The details of what exactly went on in this club are hard to ascertain, but it was rumored that included in the boisterous activities were the circulation of erotic art and literature, free sex, and perhaps even orgies, in addition to the usual bawdy drinking and unrestrained partying for which aristocratic societies are notorious. Being part of the nobility meant you had the means and power to enjoy things that the rest of society simply could not. It is not sure exactly what Franklin’s activities were at this club, many suggest he may have been spying, but I like to think that when he was there he enjoyed whatever pleasures he found, even if he had been spying. Franklin seems like the type of man who would take advantage of most situations to get the best out of them, including sexual ones.
Franklin was an Alpha of his day. His numerous accomplishments are more than most people can ever dream of. The fact that he enjoyed sex, and lots of sex, is a natural progression from his constant, over active, restless and curious personality. The fact that he signed the Declaration of Independence reveals also a man of courage, as he most likely would have been hanged if the British had won.
The religious fundies want to cleanse our country of all immorality. They make the argument that the Founding Fathers were all pious Christians, when in fact many if not most were Deists. The Founders, such as Franklin, saw the value of virtue and religion for a strong society, believed in some sort of divine being and divine plan for the universe, but they were not puritanical or dogmatic about it. As with Franklin, many had extramarital affairs in their own lives, such as Jefferson and Washington. They were men who did not flee like prudes from the erotic nature of life. Tony Perkins and the Values Voters crowd would have a hard time digesting such facts about the Founding Fathers, as it contradicts their fantasy of what many of the men were like in reality. I wonder how they spin Franklin’s obviously less than morally pure life.
This is for another post, but more and more I am seeing the great struggle of our times as between religious fundamentalism, whether Islamic or Christian, and a society based on the rational, scientific, political, cultural, and intellectual advancements of the past few hundred years. Faith and Enlightenment are not mutually exclusive. But a society that wants to base all decisions on some final divine authority, reserved ultimately for clerics to dictate, such as in Iran, or what is starting to emerge in Libya and Egypt, is unhealthy, and even dangerous. It is certainly a threat to liberty. And I see little difference between the religious extremist elements of Islam and those of Christianity. We have our own Taliban like elements emerging in our society, such as in the Value Voter’s Summit at which all the Republican candidates had to make obeisance. For instance, many of the sponsors of that meeting would like to actually re-criminalize homosexuality. Perhaps they can eventually pass legislation to hang homosexuals, such as they do in Iran, all in the name of God and traditional family values? After all, in their morally pure, legalistically rigid religious minds, it is merely a question of degrees of punishing “sexual deviants”. Or, as St. Ignatius of Loyala famously said, “If the Pope says black is white, then I will believe black is white”. I am sure the Neo-Traditionalist, Opus Dei, Legion of Christ adherents would blindly agree with such a statement, but as a person of faith myself, I utterly and completely reject this sort of fanatical nonsense. No, St. Ignatius, the Pope is wrong, black is black and world is round, after all. Galileo was right and the Church was wrong.
So this is why men like Franklin are so appealing. He was a man of great character, but a man who also knew how to enjoy life, and women. He was man of reason, learning and brilliance. He also enjoyed eroticism. He probably indulged in the erotic art and literature of his own day. And he loved beautiful women! I can only imagine what a pleasure it would have been to hang out with such a man.