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January 6: Benjamin Franklin and the “Franklin Prophecy”

January 6, 2014
Great+Seal+(1776)Benjamin Franklin, America’s most fascinating colonial polymath and Founding Father, was born in Boston on this date in 1706. (This occurred nearly half a century before Great Britain switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar — and although Franklin then began to count January 17th as his birthday, many in the American colonies refused to switch.) During the days of the Constitutional Convention, Franklin, the son of Puritans, urged that the Great Seal of America depict Moses on the shore of the Red Sea while Pharaoh drowns, with the motto, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” Franklin was also alleged to have made an extensive anti-Semitic speech at the dinner table of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, a delegate to the Convention, which became known as the “Franklin Prophecy.” The speech was unknown to historians, however, before its appearance in 1934 in the pages of William Dudley Pelley’s pro-Nazi weekly magazine Liberation, and has been widely shown to be a forgery. Nevertheless, the so-called “Franklin Prophecy” — which warns against permitting Jewish emigration to the new America because “they are vampires and vampires cannot live on other vampires — they... must live among Christians and others who do not belong to their race.’ — has been invoked in anti-Semitic writings throughout the decades, including in a speech by Osama bin Laden. “I cannot find a single original source that gives the slightest justification for believing that the Prophecy is anything more than a barefaced forgery. Not a word have I discovered in Franklin’s letters and papers expressing any such sentiments against the Jews as are ascribed to him by the Nazis — American and German. His well-known liberality in matters of religious opinion would, in fact, have precluded the kind of utterances put in his mouth by this palpable forgery...” —Charles Beard