Benjamin Franklin on Despotism

Never Forget

So today we get TWO quotes o’ the day, but when presented with a bounty one must simply accept it and share it with one’s friends. Really, this one is a stunner. I’d add my own thoughts, but what Benjamin Franklin and Gore Vidal have said really cannot be improved upon by my words. It would be like painting the Lincoln Memorial or something.

From We Are the Patriots, by Gore Vidal, here is what Benjamin Franklin had to say about the future and the implications of the newly-written Constitution of the United States of America:

“There is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and I believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other.”

And here is what Gore Vidal has to say in his opening paragraphs:

I belong to a minority that is now one of the smallest in the country and, with every day, grows smaller. I am a veteran of World War II. And I can recall thinking, when I got out of the Army in 1946, Well, that’s that. We won. And those who come after us will never need do this again. Then came the two mad wars of imperial vanity—Korea and Vietnam. They were bitter for us, not to mention for the so-called enemy. Next we were enrolled in a perpetual war against what seemed to be the enemy-of-the-month club. This war kept major revenues going to military procurement and secret police, while withholding money from us, the taxpayers, with our petty concerns for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But no matter how corrupt our system became over the last century—and I lived through three-quarters of it—we still held on to the Constitution and, above all, to the Bill of Rights. No matter how bad things got, I never once believed that I would see a great part of the nation—of we the people, unconsulted and unrepresented in a matter of war and peace-demonstrating in such numbers against an arbitrary and secret government, preparing and conducting wars for us, or at least for an army recruited from the unemployed to fight in. Sensibly, they now leave much of the fighting to the uneducated, to the excluded.

During Vietnam Bush fled to the Texas Air National Guard. Cheney, when asked why he avoided service in Vietnam, replied, “I had other priorities.” Well, so did 12 million of us sixty years ago. Priorities that 290,000 were never able to fulfill.


5 thoughts on “Benjamin Franklin on Despotism

  1. You’re welcome. I seriously love that man, even though I’ve never made it all the way through United States. Golgotha was pretty snappy, too, if you like religious criticism.

  2. I haven’t read that. It’s now on the list, which never seems to get shorter.

    I haven’t made it all through the US either, unless we count flying over the boring and flat states (that’s often redundant).

  3. Well that’s what I get for speed reading first and thinking later. If you meant the book (US) I’ve not read that either. I’ve read Lincoln and Washington, DC. Loved the latter, preferred Sandburg’s Lincoln.

    I stand by my comment about flat and boring states.

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