Dr. Franklin. When did you live? Why do you have two birthdays?
BF: The date of my birth was January 6, 1705. In 1752, there was a change of calenders - from the Julian to the Gregorian - and 11 days were 'taken away' to match the change. My 'date of birth' was modernized to January 17 and the New Year, changed from Easter to January 1st, changed the date of my nativity to 1706. My final day on this earth was April 17, 1790. As to the two birthdays, please do not fret over them... celebrate both!.
Dr. Franklin. Why are you called "Doctor"? You only had two years of public education. Did you attend a college?
I never took study at University, but I educated myself with a wide interest in... everything. For my work with the electrical fluid (also called 'electricity') and other philosophical pursuits (now called science) I was given many awards:
Tell me a little about your home life.
Have you ever lived in a boarding house, habited by an entire troupe of players and mechanics? I remember 13 people at once at our table, the smell of boiling cattle-flesh in preparation of soap and candles, visitors, cousins, friends and the most intriguing conversations from travelers. It was a circus of activity: business, family, religious conversation and political. One had to pay attention to not be run over by the hurley burly of it all. And above it, or rather in the middle of it, like great rocks near the shoreline during a storm where you could mount a light house, stood my good father and mother, as solid as any who root a life on this earth.
It is rumored that you were a womanizer. Is this true?
A womanizer? A scandalous term, I am certain, and one to which I am not deserving. I have always appreciated and desired the company, and intelligence, of women. If you refer to my conduct while in France and Mr. and Mrs. Adams's statements as to my conduct, I must appeal to a worldly awareness of how things get done in French politics. One must win the affection and support of the French ministers to support the colonies in their hope of establishing independence from Great Britain. To win that support, the French Ministers must be convinced that A) the war is winnable and B) that the Colonies are worthy of the risk. The best way to convince the Ministers of anything is to have the ear, and the persuasion of their wives, daughters, mothers... and mistresses. They, being all women, and all women who seemed to have approbation of my character, I needed to flatter, flirt and converse with them to convince them to convince the men in their lives that our cause was just. This is what I did. As to the prowess suggested by the conquests hinted at in those 'rumors' think of this: I was 70 when I signed the Declaration of Independence. I had gout, pleurisy, psoriasis, kidney stones and age against me. I could barely walk and riding in carriages was excruciating. How much 'hopping' (bed or otherwise) would a mortal such as I be capable of, I ask you.
Which inventions of yours are you most pleased with?
Personally, the Armonica (the glass musical instrument) gave me great pleasure. Publicly, the lightening rod and Pennsylvania Stove I hope contributed to great general enjoyment.
How many relatives did you have?
My father had 17 children, 7 by his first wife Ann Child, 10 by my mother, Abiah Folger. 7 sisters and 9 brothers, of which I knew well about a dozen or so. There were too many cousins and in-laws to count easily, but the brood was large. My sister Jane (my favorite) was the only direct relative to survive me, we outliving all the others of our parents and siblings. My first son, William, illegitimate and well-proven so and my daughter Sarah (called Sally) survived me. My son, Francis, died of Small Pox when but 4 years old.
Questions from Friday Harbor, April 1, 2010.
1) Where did you find my inspiration for your scientific advancements?
Good Rebecca, thank you for your question. As long as I lived, I was curious about things that did not
make sense. Why did it take 3 or more weeks of longer to sail from England to America than it took to
sail from America to England? Why should fireplaces send most of their heat up the chimney? Why is
lightening considered to be a sign of a displeased Heaven? How could we prove that it is just a natural
occurrence? Why do two ships, built according to the same plans, sail differently? Why would one ship
out sail another when they are built the same? It is the questions that started my curiosity. Because of the
work of many other scientists (such as Newton, Priestly, Jefferson and others) we began sharing
information and establishing methods of examination (The Scientific Method) that removes prejudices
and establishes, as best as we could achieve, fact.
I received my inspiration for scientific advancement from the desire to see the world improved and my
fellow man served. I also just wanted to figure out the mystery about why Nature, and man, did things in
ways I did not think made sense. I wanted to make the world make more sense.
2) How long did you expect our constitution to last?
Not long, perhaps a generation or two (20 years or so). When President Washington was asked that
questions, he guessed: 25 years.
3) Why do you believe the efforts to involve more foreign countries in our war effort failed?
I am not certain what you mean. We eventually gained the support of France, The Netherlands and
Spain. Most every country on Earth eventually recognized us. Even Britain eventually regarded us as
independent. Not everyone wanted to risk their fortunes and status of friendship with Great Britain over
an untried and unproven experiment. I suppose, to your question, that would be a reason why the other
countries delayed their support - the fact that we were an unknown entity. We had no credit, no history as
an independent country. We had no future that they could see. Indeed, when France loaned us millions
in loans, we defaulted on much of it helping set their county up for failure later on, which led to their
French Revolution and the collapse of the very government that came to our aid. It should be recognized
that really, we were lucky to get anyone's support at all. It should also be recognized that, without the
help we received, we would not have survived as a new country at all.
1) How do you feel about the new health care bill?
Dear Tanner. Much of your world - I do not understand. That you can claim it is better to leave so much
of your population without fair access to a service and expect there to be no retaliation is... odd. But then,
you maintain that you are the most advanced country on earth, but too large a number of youth are
undereducated compared to children in other countries, your infant mortality rate is not the lowest in the
world, your rates of poverty are increasing and the middle class is disappearing. The middling classes, the
class of people I am from, are one of the main things that make America unique. Whatever the decision
your government makes, it needs to be by popular acclaim and reasonable minds. It is up to you to
2) Who was your favorite president and why?
George Washington. He was the only President I knew of. I died in 1790, soon after he was inaugurated.
3) Do you think that America is a better place to be now, or during your lifetime?
I lived in a 3 mile per hour world. Ships and horses were the fastest form of travel known. All printing
had to be hand-set. People died of disease you, in your time, could cure with a simple first-aid kit. We did
not understand the basic rules of biology - bacteria were unknown. Letters were the best way of
communicating, and it could take three to six months to get a letter back. Women died frequently in
childbirth. We had no refrigeration, radio, recording ability of images and ideas (other than writing and
painting). You have copy machines. You can store a library of 10,000 volumes on a device you can carry
in your pocket. You have almost everything that the Enlightenment wished for: universal access to
information, instantaneous travel and communication around the world, the examination and exploration
of the Universe. Yet, you cannot solve the issues we faced: Slavery, poverty, ignorance, prejudice, greed
and hatred. You still have war. If I lived in your time all the time, I would simply try and be as useful as I
could, inventing, innovating and assisting your time to the utmost of my abilities. However, since that is
not to be, I will simple enjoy my times and be of use to you however I may when I visit. I enjoy seeing the
growth of what I saw the birth of, but life is for the living, so I wish you well and simply offer my life to do
whatever good you would make of it.
1) What is your opinion/viewpoint on the political environment today? What seems to be the greatest
Well, Citizen Jenny. Your political world is very contentious. So was ours. However, if I were to ask a
crowd today "Who are Americans here?" there would be many hands raised. Yet, if I said "I am going to
stand for election, and my political party is not Democrat or Republican. My political party is that of an
American" I do not think anyone would understand what that means. It seems your time does not care
about creating a good solution, but destroying the other side, no matter how good their ideas must be. A
people advance when those who disagree with one another work together for the common good. The
largest difference in politics between our times is the fact that it is politically dangerous today for a
member of one party to support the best idea, if it comes from the 'wrong' political party. That way lays
destruction and I encourage you to work to correct it.
2) As one of the founding fathers of our American government, is this the country you expected and
envisioned and hoped it would become?
Not at all. We had no idea that America would expand as widely and quickly as it has. We never expected
the Constitution to stand more than a few decades, certainly not over 200 years. In my time, 95% of
people were farmers. Now, there are barely any. You are very different than we envisioned, indeed, but
we still have hope that the experiment we began can turn out well, if Humans can ever become truly
3) Who was your closest/favorite political character while you were alive? Why?
One of my notable flaws was I did not have many truly intimate friends, especially male friends. I was
very close to many women: Katy Rae Green, Madame Brillon, Madame Helvetius, Mrs. Stevenson... I
admired many people (General Washington, whom I called 'the friend of mankind', Newton, Joseph
Priestly - the discoverer of Oxygen), Mr. Strahan - the printer, Voltaire - the writer. Mr. Jefferson, tho'
raised in much different circumstances than myself, was like me a Polymath. We were interested 'in
everything'. I thought his mind was very quick and his writing skills superb. He, like me, did not like to
speak publically, but was very warm and encouraging of friends and intellectual pursuits.
1) Did you enjoy living in France more than the colonies?
Greetings, Hannah. I loved France and often thought I might live out my life there. It possessed the
height of culture and art exemplified in the most civil people on Earth. Yet, I came home to Philadelphia
to spend my last years. I wish I had your areoplanes to speed my travel from one unto the other rather
than the almost 2 months it took. I preferred, it could be said, both. My regrets, but I am not always a
simple person to understand.
2) Do you think today's environment is condusive to young inventors?
I see many inventions you enjoy (information storage and playback devices, medicines, communication
devices, travel machines and uses for electricity all indicate some sort of conducive environment,
certainly.) However, in any time, more should be done to encourage the sharing of knowledge and
accomplishment with each other. I never patented any of my inventions. Instead, I let their use be open
for all, somewhat like your open-code software. I think it odd that the most important work being done
(education, improvement in life's needs, social and civil enhancements) are rewarded and regarded much
less than those who manipulate money markets. Your bankers get millions and those who improve life get
little respect or remuneration. I do not think, therefore, that today's world supports its inventors enough.
3) How long did you envision the constitution would last?
Maybe one or two generations.
4) Is society today anything like what you'd anticipate?
There are many things the same: families, music, curiosity, love, the need of companionship... but, one
aspect to be commented upon would be the confusing fact that some individuals in your time control
more wealth than some countries. How is that possible or workable? Also, how can businesses be
considered as individuals and deserving of human rights? This is not understandable to me.
5) How did you feel about your fellow politicians?
I said of John Adams that he was a loyal American, always honest and frequently a wise man... but in
certain things and at certain times completely out of his senses. Most of the people whom I had the honor
to work with were caring, thoughtful people. The best their country (what you would call now 'states')
could produce. But most could not see the forest for the trees, nor the nation for their particular country.
Still, I maintain hope over despair and can only wish for reasonable men (and now, I hear, women) to
support the best ideas, regardless of who sponsors them.
1) What are your thoughts about our economy today?
Well, Margaret, your middle class is disappearing, and that is worrisome. Some individuals control the
wealth of nations - of multiple nations - and that is worrisome. Your time may need many more inventors
to invent new power systems, new food growing technologies and ways of securing peaceful systems of
trade, education and opportunity. Then your economy can expand without the necessity of other
economies to suffer, it is hoped.
2) What do you think about technology today? Did you ever think of how far technology would come?
I would be amazed at wax cylinders recorders, let alone iPods, Blackberrys and iPhones. I saw the first
balloon flights, but could not conceive of airplanes. Space exploration was, to me, limited to looking up,
certainly not traveling away from this world. I hope I would become accustomed to it, but it does take a
while. I did write that I thought balloons might end war, as one country could float their troops behind
the enemy's lines and capture them. It seems I was wrong.
3) Is there one special memory, event, or invention that you are most proud of?
I have stood before five kings, fathered three children, witnessed the birth of a new kind of government
and known international praise (and condemnation.) I have been useful, it seems, to my fellow. That is the
greatest comfort to me. My lightening rod is perhaps one of the most universally applied inventions I
helped create. My favorite invention, personally, was the Glass Harmonica, a musical instrument.
4) What was your favorite invention and did you ever think that it would last?
The Glass Armonica was played all over Europe. Mozart and Beethoven composed for it and Queen
Marie Antoinette even played it. I hear it is still played today. I am surprised that it continues to be
popular, but music, as one of the pure arts, regards good ideas differently than those inventions of
industry. Industry will discard in a moment anything that does not produce the maximum return. The
Muses, if pleased, will keep antiques about for the pleasure of old things is the same as the pleasure of new.
1) How far has the government strayed from the original intents of the constitution?
Hello William. Even the Federalists (those favoring a strong central government) would be surprised by
the reach, the power and the enormity of your government. Your program of Judicial Review (where the
Supreme Court rules, actually tells Congress, if a law is Constitutional or not, is a surprise to me. A
standing army, navy and other forces, its ability to hold such a national debt, to establish agencies outside
its mandate, no matter the good in the intent, all would surprise me... but it is up to you to make the
government what you wish it to be. We did not intend our work to control you, just give you an ability to
make your own decisions. It would not bother us if you tore up the Constitution (figuratively) every
generation or so. Rewrite it. Improve on it. Do us the honor to better our attempt. Do not slavishly hold
to that which does not serve your children or the children of Humanity.
1) Is the United States anything close to what you might have imagined it would have turned out?
Good citizen Alex, greetings.
There are still farms, but not many are owned by individuals. Rather, they are owned by corporations.
How odd. Your largest cities are the size of nations - or even bigger than nations of my time. But there are
still schools, libraries and the need for police, printers, fire companies and a post office. Some things I
expected to last, but your increases are far beyond my thoughts. I did cast ahead a little, and thought your
time would be free of war, of disease and would have freedom from gravity. One out of three isn't a good
2) What do you think of Andrew Jackson?
I did not know him, for he came after my time. Mr. Jefferson (found at www.JeffersonHour.org) has some
of what you call 'Podcasts' dedicated to Mr. Jackson. I will let Mr. Jefferson speak of his observations for
3) What are your thoughts on the amendments to the constitution today?
There were none in my time. They only came after my life was over. I agreed, to see the Constitution
pass, to the Article delaying discussion on slavery, but I did submit a request pleading for the issue to be
taken up, for I, though a slave owner when younger, am a thorough abolitionist now. Congress did not act
on my request. The other amendments reflect their times and as such, are appropriate. If, however, any
give you pause or problems, consider chucking the entire document out and re-writing it. What would
your class create, if you had to write the US Constitution from scratch? Would you keep anything from
the old one? What new ideas would you place in it?
1) Do you think that your inventions have impacted the world today in a positive way? Or do you think
that the world would have been simpler and people would have been happier without those things?
Good day Liz. If I create a tool that other generations and people in other countries still find useful, then I
think you could call it positive. If I did not invent things like the Lightning Rod, the Stove, the Arm
Extender, Double Spectacles (bifocals), Swim Fins, etc., someone else would have, eventually. Your world,
I am sure, would still have had them. You are free to avoid the use of the lightning rod, but it is generally
thought that it is better to not blow. But, it's your decision.
2) Do you think that the United States is "behind the time" of today in the matter of drinking age (seeing
as we have so many teen driving-alcohol related accidents) and do you think that maybe it would be better
for our county (I think you mean 'country') and more practical to switch to a drinking age more like
Europe's so as to keep accidents down?
Life is for the living and such laws are the domain of your legislative process. However, with your
technology, I do not understand why any of your automotives can be operated when the driver is under
the influence of alcohol or any other substance. No one, teenager or adult, should be able to 'start their
car' if they are not sober. To determine if Europe is better off with a different driving and drinking ages,
you must look at the safety records, balance those data with their other requirements of training,
consequence for violation of drinking and driving laws, and determine who has the best system overall...
then adopt and adapt that system.
3) How did our country become such a (capitalist) possession-based society when the majority of our
country's people are of Christian beliefs? (Where the goal is to achieve oneness with god and not be
concerned with material things. The same is true with other religions as well.
I tried to live simply and avoided fancy things for most of my life and stayed out of debt as much as I
could. However, people in my time (as well as yours) lived beyond their means and went into debt to
obtain material goods that they did not need to be happy. I have not found that anyone's religious beliefs,
on the whole, prevent this. Although some sects achieve the goal of necessaries and no more with better
results than others, Christianity itself may save a person's soul, but does not, in my experience, necessarily
save them from ostentation. Most probably, the "How" is answered by the power of vanity and
encouragement of debt over the frugality and self-reliance generated by virtue. This is something that has
plagued Mankind since before the time of any religion, I fear.
1) Did you ever think that electricity would become this huge, needed and expanded?
Good day, Preston. No. We did not know what good it could be used for, outside of killing pigeons and
turkeys. I would be amazed. Now, what can you do to create it without burning fossil fuels?
2) What in your mind was your favorite achievement or memory? Why?
The Glass Armonica was my personal favorite, for it produced such beautiful sounds. Being a useful and
well-regarded person, especially considering my beginnings born to neither a situation nor position of
influence in society, is a source of happy thought to me. The founding of what became the first non-
denominational College in America (the University of Pennsylvania) and the first free hospital, the lending
library, improvements in lighting, sailing, the Post Office, Firefighting methods, Scientific discovery,
education, printing, monetary policy, laws... all these give me great pleasure.
3) How do you feel about John Hancock signing his name huge on the Declaration of Independence?
Mr. Hancock was the President of Congress and was the first to sign the paper. Actually, he and the
Secretary of Congress Mr. Thompson were the only two to sign it on July 4th. The rest of us signed
around the beginning of August. Mr. Hancock reportedly said he signed it large so King George could
read it without his reading glasses. A rather bold statement as each signature was, to the British way of
seeing things, a declaration of treason. But Mr. Hancock was used to bold moves, as he was what some
would call a smuggler and had been hunted by British forces before.
4) What was your favorite dance move? Show us!
I would have known some as a youth, but when in France, I barely walked much, let alone danced. Thank
you, though, for thinking I did.
1) Why France? Why not Spain?
Good Alisha, I assume you mean why did we seek France's support in our war with Britain and not Spain.
In fact, we sought assistance from both Kingdoms.
2) If you could chase anything in the country today, what would it be?
Being of use to as many people as I could.
3) If you had the last vote, to decide who would be our president in the last election, for whom would you
have voted for?
I think you still have a secret ballot, do you not? I cannot say, although I would have tried to work with
either candidate, had they won. I congratulate on electing President Obama, for it shows that your world
has done something that ours could not have done. You have advanced.
1) What do you have to say about our youth today?
Good day to you, Citizen Hannah. It looks, surprisingly, a great deal like the youth I knew. I know, within
them, are the answers to the problems they are given. If they take the best of the past and combine it with
their observations, they can solve what the generations before could not.
2) Our Country has obviously take a step towards a European style strong government interference with
health care, how would you and the other founding fathers react and/or change this?
The Founders would say, "Life is for the living. What is it that you want?" Also, "What does your
Constitution say?" And we would say "Is your system fair and equal?" I would want to know how the
common citizen is treated, and if it is the same treatment as your wealthiest individual receives. Do they
both have the same access to the best care? I would examine the data to compare the infant mortality rate
of various countries, the frequency of preventable diseases, the quality of life for the average citizen, the
unrest that is caused by the death of children when we have easy ways of saving them. I would ask if our
rates of infant mortality are the best and if not, why not? Remember, I helped found a free hospital to
bring health care to those who could not afford it. Are we an enlightened people if we allow our good
citizens to suffer when we are comforted? Is it strictly a matter of "The best care to those with the best
wallets"? I do not see Health Care as a Right (as, say, Free Speech) for that would mean the Doctors are
mandated when that is a chosen profession. However, can we let our fellow citizens fall as we thrive when
medicines and treatments are all that separates us?
3) In order for the up coming generations to thrive in this world, what would be one piece of advice you
If one piece of advice is all I am allowed, it would be this: Read widely and deeply of a world of thought,
then turn that thought into actions benefitting your fellow man, regardless of where they are from, their
status or situation.
1) If you were alive today, how would you react to the political environment?
Greetings good Megan.
With humor and patience... and the best ideas I could muster presented with the best Socratic arguments
I could create to support them against all opposition.
2) How was the atmosphere in the United States different from that in France during the time you were
We are a rough-hewn people in America. France had the most civilized people I had ever enjoyed.
They were a Monarchy helping a country of farmers overthrow their King. Politics is a strange business.
3) As one of the Founding Fathers, did you imagine the country turning out differently than it actually
did? What would you wish was different?
Yes, we thought it would be a nation of farmers for the most part. Different? More time for friends and
1) What is your biggest regret and do you believe it influenced history?
I had many regrets. My son Francis' death at the age of four from smallpox. My first son William's staying
loyal to Britain against the American forces. My wife Deborah's death while I was in Europe. The failure
of the Albany Plan in 1756 to unite the Colonies. The Failure of increasing the British Empire with a
respected American people as its new center of population and prosperity. Of all of them, the last two
would have changed History, I am certain.
2) Do you feel like we as American people staying true to what our founders imagined?
We did not want to frame your lives, but give you some sort of freedom to decide what World you would
build, only keeping the Rights of Man intact. If you have done that, then we are happy.
3) How do you feel about a black man leading this country? Would you have imagined anyone other than
a white make being president in the future?
It is not within our powers of comprehension to imagine such a thing as a man of color being the
Executive of the Country. But if you have elected this man, then give him all the support you can. Most of
us, even we abolitionists, felt that the future of the blacks, once freed, would be separate from those who
once owned them. If you have crafted a country where people of all colors can live together, you have
surpassed us. And well done for that.
1) What first inspired you to pursue science?
Curiosity and the chance to understand the mysteries they examined.
2) Did you enjoy science or politics more?
Without a doubt, Science.
3) Were you happy with the way the constitution was written? Are you satisfied with where it has lead this
No, it was a compromise. But I think it was the best we could do and so supported it. As to the 2nd part,
Life is for the Living. The question is "Are _you_ satisfied with where it is taking you now?"
1) Why were you chosen to be on the $100 bill?
Hello Emily, well met. I have no idea about your money. We did not want people's faces on our money, it
reminded us too much of Kings. I have never been able to find out why they chose me, but choose to
accept it as an intended honor. They should replace all the people on your money with things from
2) How do you feel about the recent health care reform bill?
It seems some wish to make health care more accessible to the many. If it is about fewer children suffering
death, I am in support of it. If the argument is that you time needs to restrict health care to secure the
wealth of those controlling the service, I have questions.
3) In your opinion, is anything taught in my pre-calculus class actually worth knowing in the real world?
Calculus, as founded by one of the greatest scientific minds of all time - Newton - is one of the essential
discoveries of our Enlightenment. May I suggest you spend a little time examining why the minds of our
time thought so highly of it and what it is used for? Then, the reason for your study may be more clear. I
regret that the enthusiasm so many of us felt has failed to come to you intact.
1) Why do you think your face was picked to be on the 100-dollar bill?
I will assume that it was to be a compliment and honor. I thank them for that, but would recommend they
use an image of a sturgeon.
2) Do you think that America today has stayed true to the original values instituted by the Founding
Fathers? Would you be proud to be an American today?
To the first, I would say yes, if your government has kept a balance between its three parts, where one
does not ride in control over the other. Also, if the two houses of congress, and any parties that may
develop in those houses, work together for the common good rather than the political expediency of
ideological supremacy, then yes. If you honor farmers, educators, philosophers (scientists) and the
middling sort of hard working shop keepers and others who create real wealth from hard work and effort
as much or more than those who create money from money, then yes. If you never give up your essential
liberties for a little temporary safety, then yes.
To the second part, I would be proud to take part and assist in any government, any civilization that
considered itself an Enlightened people. The goal of a man from the Enlightenment (an ideological
philosophy of religious tolerance, examination, free sharing of discovery and universal betterment without
undo regard to financial profit) is, no matter where you travel, if it is to another Enlightened land, you feel
at home. I hope I would feel that way in coming back home to America.
3) Did you and George have any inside jokes?
Do you mean General George Washington, King George II or III or George Wyth (a great tutor of
Thomas Jefferson)? The answer to all of them was 'no'. General Washington was not a man with whom
one joked or regarded with anything other than a reverential respect. I saw King George the II, attended
the Coronation of his son, King George the III and knew of Mr. Wyth's work (he was only 20 years my
1) Why do you think Almanacs were so popular in your time as opposed to now?
Good day to you Shaughn.
Almanacs were how people knew when the seasons were to start, when the full moons were happening,
and used them to plan trips, voyages, plantings, meetings and such. For many people in the Colonies,
their library consisted of the Christian Bible and an almanac - usually my almanac. I understand that
almanacs are still printed and used by many people even in your day.
2) How successful did you think the revolution would be when it was just starting?
We did not know. It certainly seemed daunting, taking on the most powerful army and navy in the world
with little more than handguns and small packets (a type of ship). However, we hoped Britain would tire
of the expense of fighting the Colonials and would strike a bargain soon that would accommodate our
needs. We knew, from the Seven Year's War (what some call the French and Indian War) that the
logistical and financial burden of fighting a war 3,000 miles away was a chore too dear to continue for
long. A reality I hope you never experience.
3) Why do you think American rebelled and Canada never really did?
Have you heard of the Separatist Movement in Quebec? They have been trying to rebel or at least leave
Canada since the French lost that area to Great Britain.
Canada was very sparsely populated (it may be so even to your day). I went on an expedition into Canada
around 1776 where we tried to convince them to join us. There were some who wanted to join us, but not
enough. The mission was a failure and I almost died on the trip. But to your question, Canada was not
affected as the other Colonies were by the legal prejudices, trade embargos, attacks and other indignities
we faced. They simply never had the same motivations we did nor the common complaints the 13
1) What was a direct example in your life that motivated you to sign the declaration of independence?
My experience in the courtroom called "The Cockpit" at the hands of Lord Wedderburn is what forged
me into an American from remnants of what had been a loyal Britain. Lord Wedderburn's treatment of
me was so foul, they could not print the entire transcript in the papers the next day. I reportedly said, as I
left that savage rendering of my character, 'For this, I shall make your King a small man.' If there was a
singular moment that brought me to be able to sign that wonderful, treasonous document of the
Declaration of Independence, it was that moment.
2) Where is the most exotic place you place traveled? Why?
Ireland and Scotland. America was largely unexplored and undeveloped and thus close to its natural state.
But Ireland and Scotland have been inhabited for centuries, yet so much of the landscape is stark, raw
and natural, bearing only some marks of peoples long gone. On the other hand, Stonehenge on Salisbury
Plain, where my son and I stopped on the way to London is an example of another wonderful, mysterious
place, although in England.
3) In our country's current economic crisis, what advice would you give our government and did our
country fulfill your vision when you and our other forefathers were setting up the government?
As to your current economic crisis, I recommend you examine the other times when your economy
collapsed, and in England, and Rome, and Constantinople... It is through the close examination of the
cycles of human endeavor that we gain insight into the possible results of our own actions.
As to fulfilling our vision... If you have continued to serve the quest for freedoms and the rights of man for
all mankind, then you are indeed fulfilling our vision. If you seek universal access to knowledge, open, free
and fair elections of your representatives, the improvement of health and dissemination of that ability to
stay well, if you regard people not for their birth, heritage, blood or wealth, but by their contributions to
society, then you have surpassed our vision, as is right and proper, and we are happy.
1) What's your favorite invention in the history of the world?
What an intriguing question, Alex. The consideration of such a query opens up many avenues of
consideration. Would it be Language? Or Music, Friendship or Humanity? Personally, I enjoyed my
musical instrument, the Glass Armonica, but for the good of Mankind, the Lightening Rod. Fire?
Agriculture, Domestication of animals, gardens, the Printing Press, which allowed the masses to have
access to the collected thought of History's greatest minds. Community Organizers, Fire companies,
Lending Libraries... Of all those, if I had to choose, I would possibly say "the realization that we can
change our world for the better."
2) How do you feel when people refer to $100 bills as Benjamin's?
It seems a logical choice. Our coinage was referred to as "Colonials" for that is where they were from. I
choose to regard the honorific as an intended honor.
3) What was the best part about life when you were a kid?
Swimming. I loved the water and was always about or in it. Kite flying comes in a close second. O', of
course, Reading is above those two as a very rewarding activity. Making friends was also very important
and continues to be so.
1) Did this country turn out how you thought it would?
Good day, Roy.
No it has not. We thought there would be a majority of farmers, and you have become a nation of cities
with some farms.
2) What do you think about global warming?
We had issues with our world, with rivers fouling or the land losing its fertility. In London, there were
issues with smoke from all the fireplaces spoiling the air. In both countries, there were troubles caused by
how we handled waste removal. There was, evidently, some shift in the climates going on, but we were
only beginning to be able to collect data sporadically. But, certainly, we had to adopt new innovations and
improvements to try and repair and improve the world as we were harming it. If your world is facing a
negative return of livability, and the impact of the practices of the Humans living here is in any way its
cause, I would have to ask, what is being done? For if you live on a farm, and the soil depletes, and the air
and water is bad, you cannot live there long. You live on a very large farm (the Earth). If it is being
spoiled, I would have to answer your questions "What are you doing about global warming?"
3) What would you do different about the Iraq War and troops?
Life is for the living, so it is up to your time to decide how you are to proceed. I would caution your time
to remember, during our revolution, we (the Colonials) were the insurgents and Great Britain was the
super power of the world. Yet we, the insurgents, won the war. Is the United States so certain that they
can win, 3,000 miles from home, a war against insurgents? It seems that this conflict began over uncertain
reasons and may not win conclusively. In twenty years, it seems some people expect the basic structure of
the area where you war is being executed, its people and practices, to look remarkably the same as it did
in 2,000. What will you actually gain by your continued participation in this war?
1) What do you think about the United States economy and political system today?
In addition to what I have already stated (see the comments to your fellow classmates on like-phrased
questions) much of your world and the artificial financial markets are quite surprising to me. I was not
quite the physiocrat* Mr. Jefferson was... I used interest on loans to build wealth and saw there was some
use to financial speculation). However, the extreme manipulations of stock markets, money markets,
profiteering from fees and penalties more so than investing in community - would astound me.
[*Physiocrat - someone who believes that all wealth comes from the physical world. Farmers are
physiocrats. The spelling may have changed from my time to yours.] I would certainly ask questions, and
use my pen to encourage others to ask questions, of the balance of such practices, especially when the
people needs support a failing banking system, yet must bear with incredible bonuses to the executives of
those failing banking systems. Especially the executives who brought about that failing.
2) Is there any of the past that you wish you could re-live?
I wrote that I would not mind reliving my life and would only ask to change certain errata (printer's slang
for mistakes). And if I could not change those things, then I would still enjoy the reliving of my life,
mistakes and all. But since that can not be allowed, it would seem, I will revisit my life in memory, and
share those memories with you, if any be interested to hear an old man tell his tales.
3) What is your favorite, or most proud invention?
My personal favorite was the Glass Armonica. The most practical invention in the terms of the assistance
it provided to the greatest number of people would probably be the Lightning Rod.
4) Are you happy with the way our country turned out?
Happy means, to me, useful. It is your world. Imagine I gave you a gift of a hammer. If it is useful to you
then it is happy that it works for you, but you may make of it, or with it, what you will. I hope you use it
well and work to serve your fellow creatures. But it is up to you do decide what to do with our ideas,
thoughts, labors, innovations and inventions.
1) What do you think about the political system now in the 2,000’s?
It would be very confusing, very fast-paced, and very loud. I would ask questions as to how the work being
done truly serves all the people. Or, I would ask, is it designed only to help those that support those
making the laws. I would ask if your Representatives are representing the People of the United States, or
only those in their party, and those in whose pockets that representative lives.
2) What did you have the most interest in out of all the different things you did?
I, like Mr. Jefferson, am a polymath. I am interested in everything. However, the mysteries of the
Electrical Fluid captivated me like no other challenge. To be able to assist in the removal of an ingrained
fear of all mankind was very satisfying.
3) Did the U.S. come out to be anything like you imagined it to be like? Is it better or worse?
Part the first: No.
Part the second: It is different. I cannot make a judgment. I would be happy living in your time, for I feel I
may still be useful. If you are happier, your children (or your younger siblings) better educated than
yourselves and their future brighter than yours, then our experiment is succeeding. If, however, your
children face a lesser world than the one you inherited, then I would have questions as to 'Why?'
1) What is your opinion about the political choices being made currently?
Greetings, Shawn. This question is often asked, it seems, and my usual answer must stand: Life is for the
living. I refer you to the former answers. I encourage you to look at the past to similar situations and see
what was attempted and what the consequences were. I ask you to consider if you wish those
consequences to occur again. If not, what will you do to avoid poor results? If you do this, I think you will
be in the minority, for far too often, it seems, people do not learn from History and are therefore doomed
to repeat it.
2) Who was your biggest influence in your life?
I had the privilege of learning from many people and my life changed due to their influence.
My father and mother instilled in me a belief in hard work and taking responsibility for my own fortunes.
My brother, James, instilled in me the despising of arbitrary use of power. He also began my career as a
writer and printer, a most useful occupation and trade that allowed me much happiness in life.
The book, Pilgrim's Progress' was very influential in my early thinking (written by Mr. Bunyan). Cotton
Mather's works in industry and social good, another. Locke, Hume (societal philosophers), The Quaker
Governor Keith (who sent me on a fool's errand to England) & Thomas Denham who helped me return
to the Colonies. Various preachers and scientists. The Penn Family & Lord Wedderburn fought with me
and helped form many of my political opinions, since I had to challenge them and that challenge made
me strong in desire to see what I held right to become truth. That struggle helped forge me into an
American. The Salons of Mdme. Helvetius & Mdme. Brillon in France and their witty and educated
guests. My Uncle Benjamin, my friends in the social club (called 'The Junto') and their debates formed my
social awareness and desire to help others. My acquaintances in Congress, Assemblies, the Iroquois
Confederation, the writers in the English magazine 'The Spectator'. My son who died and my other son
who betrayed me. Mr. Adams who opposed me and Mr. Jefferson who respected me. All these and many
more. I re-invented myself many times in my life. I had no idea that I would accomplish what I did.
Along my way, countless people assisted, influenced and informed my thoughts. I give thanks most to
Provenance, for without the protection and beneficence of the Creator of all things, I would not have
enjoyed the many blessings I received.
3) Did you ever have multiple girlfriends?
I had the honor and pleasure of the friendship of many young ladies, in America, England and France.
4) What would you change in modern day society?
It is not for me to say. If I lived in your time all the time I would look around me and see what brings
unhappiness to your people (in a real, not superficial way) and assist in its improvement. Such things
might be in helping improve the use of new power sources or improving social institutions. I looked at my
world, saw what brought discomfort or challenged happiness, and tried to improve it. You can do the
same. Any and all of my efforts wait to help you pattern new innovations.
1) How do you feel about being on the $100 dollar bill?
Thank you for your questions, Charles. I am oddly amused by it. The United States, when it began, did
not want people's faces on our money. We felt it was too much like what the Monarchy did. As I
understand it, the present faces used were decided upon in the mid-20th Century. I do not know why I
was chosen for the $100 bill, but I suppose they mean it for an honor and thank them for the thought. I
would recommend they get a picture of a tree or some other item of Nature.
2) What is your favorite invention?
Personally, it is the Glass Armonica, the musical instrument I invented.
Other inventions/innovations I created: Double Spectacles - what you call bifocals; a better street lamp,
the Philadelphia Stove - what you now call The Franklin Stove; the Lightening Rod, and others.
3) Were you close to your family?
To my immediate family, I was civil and polite and quite warm in affection. I was more intimate in my
care and concern, it seemed to others, to my acquaintances and more distant relations such as my grand
4) Who was your closest friend in school?
I was only in public school for just shy of two years. I had chums, but not many close friends.
1) What are your favorite guilty pleasures?
Well, Miles. This is a personal question. But, as you want to know, I did enjoy chess, and sometimes
avoided healthy walks to play a long game. In my youth, I was an athlete, but when an Ambassador in
France, I spent so much time negotiating with other agents of government, dining fancily at Salons
(delightful discussion groups)
2) How does it feel to be the only non-president on a dollar bill?
I will assume you mean on your paper currency, since only General Washington is on the dollar bill.
Two thoughts on this. A) Mr. Hamilton, on the Ten Dollar bill, was president when?
B) I had been President... of Pennsylvania, and several social orders. But never President of the United
States. But in any case, I would not have known. I was put on your 100$ bill many years after I had died.
3) Who in your opinion was the most irritating during the constitutional convention?
According to many, on both sides of the Atlantic, that honorific was myself. Some called me the most
dangerous man in America.
1) How did you come up with the idea to capture electricity?
Greetings Tessa. Experimenters had been capturing electricity for quite a while before I got involved.
Leyden Jars (a type of battery) captured and held a 'charge' from our static electrical generators. I simply
came up with a method (first confirmed in France by other scientists) for proving that Electricity - as
played with in our simple laboratories, was the same substance as what was held in the skies that came to
Earth as lightening. I was looking for a tall steeple to attach an iron rod to, but the tallest planned church
was not finished yet, so being very familiar with kites as a child, I built one to carry an iron needle into
some storm clouds and draw down some of the electrical fluid to our Leyden Jars. It seems to have
2) How much did you travel in your lifetime?
Extensively. Although I invented an odometer to measure the miles traveled by postal riders, I did not
track my total miles traveled. But I did travel (when I ran away from my home in Boston) to New York,
then to Philadelphia. I crossed the Atlantic Ocean 6 times (approx. 3,000 miles times 6 - 18,000 miles.)
Plus, as Postmaster for the Colonies, I rode through all the Colonies determining the best routes for the
riders to take, which meant riding some of the routs many times. I also rode through France, Scotland,
England, Scotland and some in Ireland in my time. I traveled back to Boston a number of times and
visited family and friends in many places throughout the Colonies. So: many, many miles.
3) Was it hard founding the first city hospital and the v of penn?
I assume you mean the University of Pennsylvania, what our humble Philadelphia Academy developed
into. Both the Hospital and the Academy took the work of many goodly people and a system of public
private partnerships. We raised private funds and received public funds (from the government) to establish
both. The Academy was the first non-denominational educational institution in America. The Hospital
was open to everyone who needed care. I suppose one could say we offered a public health care option.
1) How did you come up with the idea for lenses that help improve eyesight?
Hello Kelsey. If you mean the idea of spectacles (what you call eye glasses) I did not invent those. They
were known in the Middle Ages. Glass lenses have been in use for thousands of years. If you mean my
double spectacles, what you call bifocals, those I caused to be made and this is how that happened. In my
later years, in France, I had a pair of glasses I wore to see things far away, such as the lips of the person
seated across the table from me. I did this because I could not hear as clearly as I used to and, since I was
in France, the person was speaking French. Although I spoke French, it was not so well that I could
understand what was being said, especially in the very noisy setting of having dinner with so many people.
I had to put on another pair to see the food I was eating and trade them with my glasses for seeing across
the table. I had to do this over and over. I realized I was only using the top of the glasses to see the person
across the table from me and the bottom of the glasses to see my food. So, if the two lenses were combined
(hence 'bifocals' or two lenses) I could have two sets of glasses in one.
2) How were you a ladies man? You're so smart and proper it wouldn't seem like girls would like you?
Are you saying young ladies do not like smart, proper men? If this is the case in your time, things certainly
have changed. In my time, women appreciated being treated with respect, being sought out for their
opinions and being treated with manners consistent with gentlemanly ways. I think my way worked well
3) Did lightning have anything to do with the founding of electricity?
Electricity has existed for as long as we know. It is part of Nature, and in that is like rain and sunshine. We
amateur experimenters determined that electricity (as we knew it in our laboratories) was the same
substance (just not as powerful) as the lightning in the skies.
1) What are your thoughts on the new health care plan?
Good day, Chelsie.
What you and your representatives do for the best interest of all the people is up to you. Please, simply
become as informed as you can and advise your representatives how you want them to react. Then
prepare to live with their actions. What I would do in your world if addressing the Health Care issue is ask
questions. Questions such as: Is health care itself the question, or is it who will pay for it, or who has access
to it? Do we want people to not be able to have health care for their children? Do we only want
Americans? Remember, most Americans in your time came from immigrant stock at one time or another.
Should health care be available for people who were born here, or who have lived here for 5 years, or 10
years or more? Should it be a system where it's cash only, no insurance companies at all? Like buying
gasoline for your cars. If someone gets sick, just like running out of gas, if they don't have the money,
should they just be left on the side of the road? What is the cost of not caring for people? Is it cheaper to
let people use the emergency rooms for care? Should we deny emergency room care except for people
with insurance or with the cash to pay for it?
It is a difficult issue, I can imagine. Questions, and looking at the full consequences of ones decisions,
usually make the simple arguments of the extreme sides of an issue look a little less simplistic.
2) What kept you motivated on inventing?
I am curious about why things are the way they are. I do not accept the fact that because something 'is' a
certain way (such as 'Lightning is a punishment from the Heavens' or 'Fireplaces waste heat and give us a
lot of smoke and that's the way it is'). I want to understand all about an issue, take it apart and examine all
the parts and see what can be improved. I am also motivated by the belief that the Creator, however we
imagine that to be, wants us to be good to our fellow creatures. So, if I create something that can make life
better for others, then I want to do that. I never patented any of my inventions, so they could be widely
distributed for the good of Human kind.
3) What did you do in your leisurely time?
I read. When young, I swam and played with my friends and read. When older, I spoke with friends and
listened to what they thought and what they had learned from elsewhere, what they had read, and read. I
wrote letters, articles, stories and read. I invented, innovated, raised money for good causes, and (you
guessed it) read. There is a great difference between a man of leisure and a man of laziness. I tried never
to be lazy, but with my leisure to the most good I could.
1) Why did you use a kite and not another object to raise the key in the air?
Greetings Quinn. I had considered the steeple on the tallest church, but it was not yet completed. There
were no other objects around tall enough to put a point that far into the air to run into clouds. Hot Air
Balloons were not invented yet. I would have been open to other ideas. What other objects would you
2) Why did you choose Pennsylvania to live in?
I was told I might be able to find work there. I became very fond of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and
adopted it as my new hometown.
3) Were you really a ladies man?
I quite appreciated their company and conversation so tried to cultivate in myself the traits that ladies,
and men as well, would find pleasing and rewarding for the gift of their acquaintance.
1) How would you react to the political environment today?
I would react with good questions, reasonable suggestions and a reliance on good sense. I would work to
organize others to debate, research History and discuss with other thinkers from across the world what the
best solutions might be to help the most people with as little of profit involved. I would tend to seek out
philosophers, artists, workers and inventors. I suppose politicians and lawyers could help too, if they had
good ideas that helped everyone, not just their political party or clients.
2) What was it like before electricity?
I assume, since as far as I know, there never has been a time on Earth before electricity, that you mean
before humans began to harness electricity. Before light bulbs and refrigerators, air conditioning and
iPhones. If you have ever experienced a power outage, it was somewhat like that, except we did not expect
there to be power. When the sun went down, you still had candles, but for the most part, it was dark.
Perhaps the moon was shining, but that would be your other main source of light. There were some
groups who met when the moon was full (one such group was called the Lunar Society because they only
met when the moon was full so they had light to walk home by). We had no telephones, no television,
radio, flashlights, no Internet, no World Wide Web, no CD's, voice mail, electric cars, laptop or table top
computers, electric lights, copy machines or electric heaters. We had all the real needs that you do, but
had to supply all the work ourselves. If we were cold, we had to cut wood and burn it for heat. If we
wanted to write a letter, we usually just wrote it out by hand. If we had to do calculations, we had to do
those by hand as well. If we wanted to search out a fact, we had to go to our personal library or the library
of a friend and look up the book. There was no Google. We hardly had any medicine compared to your
time, nor machines to help people stay alive when they were very sick. But, with all that we did not have,
we still managed to raise and educate our families, sail the seas, eventually obtain flight (in hot air
balloons) create buildings that still stand in your day and write, and print, some amazingly influential
3) Did you think it was actually a good idea to go out in a lightening storm with a kite?
You are correct; it was a dangerous thing to do. It is something I would not recommend for anyone to do.
We were experimenting and, at the time, considered it worth the risk.
1) How long did it take you to come up with the light bulb?
Dear Chloe. I regret to inform you, but thank you for the compliment of the question, but I did not invent
nor even work on the light bulb. I believe the first electric light or any sort wasn't created until 1805 or so,
after my time.
2) Who was your biggest supporter in life?
I was very fortunate to have many, many supporters in my time. My parents, Mr. Denham the Quaker
who brought me back from England, people who showed me great and little kindnesses, Dr. Rush,
General Washington, Thomas Jefferson, at times even Mr. Adams, my wife Deborah and for a long while,
my son William. The Printer Mr. Strahan, my hosts in Passy France, my shop patrons... if you would like
a story as to the many people I listed who influenced or helped me, may I recommend the book I wrote
that your time calls my Autobiography. It is filled with the names of many of my supporters and the
stories of how they helped me.
3) How many tries did it take you before you came up with the final outcome of the light bulb?
Again, my regrets, but I had little to do with the light bulb but for the preliminary work of exploring how
electricity flowed, giving the various parts of the science names (such as positive and negative, charge,
battery, insulator, etc.) and establishing some of the rules by which it could be tested. Perhaps our work
was of some use to those who continued on the research. I think you may find some reference to what you
think of as the light bulb by researching a Mr. Thomas Edison and a Mr. Nicola Tessla, if I have those
names correctly informed to me.
1) How was time and life back then?
Hello Maria. Our time was much slower then. A fast trip was on a ship at full sail or on a horse at full
gallop. It would take days to travel 50 miles; a trip you can do in under an hour. Everything pretty much
had to be done by hand. That would mean you or those in your household would have to grow much of
your food, make the cloth and your own clothes from that cloth, walk most places and probably rarely
travel out of your home town. Very different than today's world.
2) How was it living in Pennsylvania when you were younger?
Very nice. I loved Pennsylvania and especially Philadelphia. Philadelphia is a very well laid out city.
3) Did you ever see yourself becoming a well-known person?
Certainly not as famous as I evidently became. I had hoped to be a successful printer. Then, achieving
that, I hoped I would be useful as an experimenter and dabbler in inventions. Then, I became an
evidently useful agent for my colony in England. Opportunities kept opening themselves to me and I was
happy my simple talents could fulfill the needs required of me.
1) Why did you think using a kite in a lightning storm would produce electricity?
Hello Rainah. The kite was simply a way to place an iron needle amongst the clouds where its natural
abilities to transfer the electrical fluids (discovered and proved in our laboratories) would bring the charge
down the string to the key.
2) What inspired you to keep trying after all your failures?
Many of my guesses turned out correctly, I am happy to say. In addition, I had read many treatises on
other scientific discoveries, so knew if I did my research and based it on what worked before, I stood a
good chance of victory. Many of my political ideas were not accepted, however, but I kept trying to do
what I thought was best. I had the great advantage of working with others. Together, we brought together
the best ideas we could and, eventually, that is what came to be what worked out best.
3) How did you persuade the French to be on our side?
I talked extensively with not only their politicians, but with the politician's wives and lady friends. I spoke
with intellectuals and men of religion and men of the military. I spoke with everyone I could, giving them
all the best information we had on the strength of the American cause and the American army. Our cause
was helped tremendously when the American Forces won the Battle of Saratoga in New York. Then the
French saw that victory was possible. The French were very interested in getting revenge on Great Britain
after the Seven Year's War, so were agreeable to fight the English by helping us. We could never have
won the war without the assistance of the French. Other countries also helped tremendously.
1) Where was your favorite place to think?
Dear Kia, thinking of the answer to this question is most pleasant, thank you. I remember doing much
thinking while onboard ship crossing the Atlantic the 6 times I did that. With each voyage about 7-9
weeks, I had lots of time to think and not very many places to go. After my retirement, I spent a great deal
of time in my laboratory. When young, I read and wrote a good deal in my sleeping room. These were
some of my favorite places to think.
2) How did you come up with the idea for the light bulb?
I did not come up with the light bulb. You should seek Mr. Thomas Edison and Mr. Nicola Tessla. They
had much more to do with it than I. We experimenters simple did the basic worth they built upon.
1) What do you think about all the new technology now?
Good Elizabeth, your world has many amazing tools that you can use. Indeed, many of our greatest
thinkers would be amazed at what your world can do, store, view, communicate, calculate and observe
with your tools. I think we would also be confused by the fact that, despite having all these wonderful tools
of technology, there is still hunger in your world, still slavery, war, easily preventable and curable diseases,
poverty and ignorance. When those are cured, you will definitely be an advanced people.
2) How do you think the government is doing now?
Well, your country still exists, which is a good sign. When Rome no longer manufactured their own
products, when they 'outsourced' all their labor, when they lived in too much luxury and let their
neighbors suffer, Rome fell. I hope that does not happen to you. There is a great deal of potential for
greatness in American in your day. Most of that potential lives in the youth of America (you.) I wish you
the best with the challenges you face. If there is anything my work can do to help, I would be very
3) What would you change about our government?
Nothing, for it is not up to me to make those decisions. The question is: What do you want to see made
different? Look at us as examples of History. If you liked what we did, do that. If you do not like what we
did, do what you think would be a better idea. That is how life is supposed to become better.
1) How much time have you dedicated to helping America progress?
Good day, Emma. I have spent the majority of my life in the service of my country. From inventing better
ways to swim, my Poor Richard's Almanac (which tried to encourage frugality and self-reliance), to my
inventions and innovations, to serving on civic councils and in social improvement clubs, to being a
representative to England from my country, to being an Ambassador from my nation, being a soldier, a
commander, of being in charge of commissioning ships, raising funds for worthy causes and helping
employ many individuals with honest work, all of these things tried to help America progress.
2) What is the initial reaction to presenting a new invention?
If the invention is truly useful, people will usually pick it up right away. I usually tried it out myself, then
showed it to friends and asked for their improvements. Then I would write up my thoughts and again give
those to my correspondents for their suggestions. Then I might advertise the invention in my news-papers.
If an idea is truly useful, the reaction is generally positive.
3) How far have you traveled for the colonies?
I travelled across the Atlantic Ocean six times and travelled all over the eastern seaboard. So, I have
travelled quite a few miles on shipboard and many miles on the back of a horse or in a carriage.
4) What invention do you credit as the greatest success?
It would have to be the lightning rod, as it was used all over the world and still is being used, saving
millions of lives and countless buildings.
5) How much discussion was there about the declaration as it was being written?
We spent much time discussing the Declaration of Independence. The committee to create it was formed
in June 1776. Mr. Jefferson finished his draft in a few days. Mr. Adams, a few others and myself gave him
some initial ideas about minor changes. Then several days were spent removing almost a quarter of the
text (which upset Mr. Jefferson quite a lot). The Declaration then was considered by all the colonies and
eventually was finished being signed in August of 1776.
1) What do you think of modern society?
Good day to you Hannah. Modern Society is, in many ways, familiar. Your society has many people
working very hard to support their families. Social groups, such as the Rotary Club, Lions Club and the
like continue to support their societies and communities. There are many honest people in government, in
the press and in business who wish only to see the world improved. There are still musicians, artists,
builders and writers searching for truth and beauty and ways to express it for the good of the general
population. And, conversely, there are still many whose only goal, it would seem, is to amass wealth,
control others and gain power. Much of your world is much like my world. Really, Humanity is very
much unchanged. The tools available to you have changed. The tools of communication, travel,
medicine, and what you call 'data storage'. I would have relished the ability to send emails, read the
thoughts of others and explore their inventive ideas, share philosophy (science) and be able to work
together with so many of your world's finest minds.
2) How would you fix the budget/depression?
Your financial situation and your banking systems are, in many ways, far beyond my own times in
complexity, governance and power. However, I would probably call for more savings to be made by your
citizenry, more frugality by all, more transparency for financial institutions and ways to strengthen your
middling class - that wonderful group of hard working small businessmen (and now, I suppose, business
women). I do not know if that would 'fix' the issue, but I believe in those practices.
3) What is you opinion on the "War on Terror"?
I said, "There is no such thing as a good war or a bad peace". So, I must admit, operating a war, that
must in itself create terror, to end terror, does not seem practical. And, from what I have seen, it has not
solved the issue, as governments promised it would. It seems always that terror begins in hearts and minds
of the frightened, uneducated, hungry, hopeless and disrespected peoples. If those aspects can be
addressed, if people have a way to house, feed, protect, teach and love their families, contribute to their
societies and it would seem to be the best way to proceed.
1) Where did the idea of the Post Office come from?
Hello Tisha. There have been versions of a post office for as long as I can find reference in Human
History. Every culture that had writing had to have some sort of messenger service to deliver those
writings, and of produce and products, from one place to another. There have been many advances in the
messenger services people used: The introduction of horses; The use of addresses; We invented an
pedometer so we could track distances to help determine the shortest routes and, in your time, the
introduction of postal codes (zip codes) and your barcodes to help your machines sort the mail more
efficiently. There is an expression you may have heard: "Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of
night stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" Many people
think that is the Post Office Motto, but it is simply inscribed in a very large post office back east.
Herodotus, a Greek historian, evidently said it about 2500 years ago. He was praising the Persian
messengers of the day. So, the Post Office, or institutions like it, has been around for a very long time.
2) In what ways did you compromise to have good relations with foreigners?
I usually strove to find what things we had in common, what interests they had that I might be able to
assist and worked to bring those interests to the fore. I also found that sometimes asking a favor of
someone, even someone who did not like me, might make them more interested in my thoughts and could
help make us friends. That may sound odd, but it did work for me on several occasions. I usually tried to
collaborate and combine efforts and interests, rather than compromise, however, compromise was indeed
necessary on several occasions, such as in getting the Constitution passed.
3) What kinds of hobbies do you have, and were they easy to come by doing?
I enjoyed many things, reading and conversation chief amongst them. My father saw to my education in
the handling of many tools and the practice of many trades, which has ever been useful to me in my little
experiments. I enjoyed my electrical experiments, playing music, creating innovations to improve life,
listening to plays and other people play or sing music, opera, dance, architecture, natural history,
philosophy, writing, walks (when I was younger). When younger, I also enjoyed swimming, lifting weights,
boating, fishing and working to improve life in my community.
1) Did you actually want to be a scientist?
Good day, Karissa. We called such work Philosophy in my time. And I did not really have the time for
such things until I was able to retire at the age of 42. Exploration of natural phenomenon such as
electricity or fossils or improvements in dynamic air flow and heat exchange (as indoor stoves involve) take
much time. But many amateur philosophers, or scientists as you would call them now, used their simple
instruments and powerful imaginations to try and solve the questions we had. It was also very important
to the process to share results and ask other experimenters for their opinions on our work. It was some of
those reports that made me interested in participating in the process of experimentation and discovery.
2) Did you want to get involved with the Constitution?
Towards the end of my life, when I returned from France where I had been sent to secure assistance for
our Revolution, I had expected to spend my remaining years playing with my grand children, their
families and seeing my friends. However, there was a convention called in Philadelphia to improve the
Articles of Confederation that the new States were using to maintain some sort of Union. I was appointed
to that convention as a representative. While there, rather without instruction, we created a much more
powerful federal government than any state legislature had approved. I eventually agreed to its many
compromises for I felt it was best at the time. I also hoped the people of these new United States might
improve on its structure in time.
3) What was your motivation?
To agree with the Constitution? My motivation was to see what we have fought for be given the strength
and protection to keep its promise alive. If the government of these new United States failed, we could be
taken over by foreign powers. To prevent that was a large motivation for me as well.
1) How was it back then?
Hello Martin. It was challenging and rewarding, in equal proportion to the work one put into one's life
1) How were the powdered wigs?
Greetings Cameron. If you mean 'How were they powdered' it was usually with a chalk. If you mean
'How were they to wear', they were a little scratchy if they were not made well.
1) What were you goals and inspiration when you were younger?
Greetings Valeria. My goals were to be a businessman that could support his family. I wished to be well
thought of and regarded for my conversation and reading. I wished to be like the people I read about and
help contribute to a better social order and community.
2) What was it like to live in Philadelphia back in the day?
Dusty. We did not have many paved streets early on. That began to change as people saw the benefit of
such things. It was sometimes very noisy, dirty, unsafe and confused. But several citizens worked very hard
to improve the community and, in many ways, we succeeded.
3) When the Constitution was written, did you agree with everything that was in it?
No, I did not. This is what I said towards the end of the Convention: "I confess that there are several
parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them:
For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller
consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be
otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay
more respect to the judgment of others."... "It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching
so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence
to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that our States are on the
point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another's throats. Thus I
consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the
best. The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable
of them abroad. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die."
I gave up my objections to see the Constitution passed. However, even though slavery is not discussed in
the Constitution, indeed, discussion on it is prohibited by the Constitution for a period of years.
Article I Section. 9.
"The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to
admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight,
but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person."
My last letter written to the Congress shortly before I died pleaded with them to take up the issue of
slavery. I regret that we were not able to solve that issue, but had to pass it on to the younger
generations... at a terrible price.
1) What inspired you to try and try again to find a good way to create illumination even when you went
through many obstacles to perfect it?
Hello Karrisa. If you mean the invention of the light bulb and other forms of artificial illumination, I only
did the basic research in how electricity might be understood. I never developed a light bulb. However, in
most of my experimental work, there were many failures but each failure taught us something new. So,
even though we had to try over and over again to improve our experiments, we got better with each
attempt and more knowledge was gained after each attempt. That kept us interested in trying again and
2) Did you enjoy your travels and the people you met along the way?
Very much. Traveling was usually a time of great interest for me and I always enjoyed making the
acquaintance of people the world over, if they be stable hands, farmers, governors or royalty.
3) What invention did you have the best time making and was most enjoyable to make?
That would be my Glass Armonica. It produced such beautiful sounds that I commented that it was the
most personally satisfactory of all my innovations.
1) What was it like to write the Constitution? How long did it take? What do you think was the most
Good day to you Chelan. The Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation on March 4th 1789.
The effort to create the Constitution took approximately four months and was based on writings from the
recent and more distant past.
To the question of who actually wrote the Constitution, it is generally agreed that James Madison
contributed greatly to its formation. For a longer list of names involved I include here one article from the
In none of the relatively meager records of the Constitutional Convention is the literary authorship of any
part of the Constitution definitely established. The deputies debated proposed plans until, on July 24,
1787, substantial agreement having been reached, a Committee of Detail was appointed, consisting of
John Rutledge, of South Carolina; Edmund Randolph, of Virginia; Nathaniel Gorham, of Massachusetts;
Oliver Ellsworth, of Connecticut; and James Wilson, of Pennsylvania, who on August 6 reported a draft
which included a Preamble and twenty-three articles, embodying fifty-seven sections. Debate continued
until September 8, when a new Committee of Style was named to revise the draft. This committee
included William Samuel Johnson, of Connecticut; Alexander Hamilton, of New York; Gouverneur
Morris, of Pennsylvania; James Madison, of Virginia; and Rufus King, of Massachusetts, and they
reported the draft in approximately its final shape on September 12. The actual literary form is believed
to be largely that of Morris, and the chief testimony for this is in the letters and papers of Madison, and
Morris's claim. However, the document in reality was built slowly and laboriously, with not a piece of
material included until it has been shaped and approved. The preamble was written by the Committee of
The most important part to me was that we agreed that such a document was necessary to secure a
framework of government responsibility and authority to keep the various needs of this new county intact
and that the work could be amended to keep up with the changing needs of the American People.
2) What was life like in the 1770's? What was the culture like?
In all these wonderful questions, I advise the looking over of other questions, as there is much information
listed before on like points. In addition, life in the 1770's was fairly slow, based on three miles per hour
transportation and weeks for local letters to travel and months for international news to arrive. Most work
was done by hand and by people near to your home. Philadelphia was one of the largest and most
culturally advanced cities in all of America. It became, before the Revolution, the second-largest city in
the British Empire after London. We had theatre, art, music, libraries, social clubs and educational
institutions. It was an exciting time, in many ways, with so many new developments in government, new
discoveries in what you would call science and new ideas for what a People could be and their place in the
World. I think this has not changed in your time. You live in a time of great promise and great challenge.
You are capable of great things. I hope some of the things we left you are of good use.
I remain now, as I have ever been, your obedient and humble servant, B. Franklin.
Answers to the Students of San Juan Island High School for a Chautauqua presentation made on April 1,
I hope they are of use.
My very best, G.Robin Smith. firstname.lastname@example.org