March 29, 2013

March 30 | Misquote Ben Franklin Day 2013
Tomorrow marks the fourth year that I have encouraged others to take part in Misquote Ben Franklin Day, a day in which we make up things Ben might have said or could not have said. The roots of this exercise is to vanquish the glurge about beer being proof of God's love. He said this about wine, not beer.

It's been heavily debunked for over 5 years and it simply refuses to go away. Ben Franklin never said it. He said something strikingly similar about wine in a 1779 letter to André Morellet:
Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.
 (Source: Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003. p.374.)

Though I see just as many instances of the misquotation as I ever had (These pictured examples hit my feed just this week.), at least the numbers of people refuting the misinformation is growing. I'm also keenly aware that some of  my beer business friends post signs or have t-shirts celebrating this utter falsehood. Bah! What's a righteous blogger to do? I've actually had a few people now admit that Franklin may not have said it, but certainly may have said something close to it because, after all, he was a brewer.

Was he? I don't actually believe he was. I can't find anything but baseless supposition online. Someone please cite a primary source. The sources I found seem to imply that he thought less of ale than he did wine. In any case, cider, not beer was the concoction of choice in that era. Discussion with citations on these points are welcome.

My latest crusade is the bacteria quote, a quote that uses the word bacteria in a way that would not have been used until decades after Franklin's death.
In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria. -Benjamin Franklin
Bacteria, it is true, was first observed by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek in 1676 though he did not name it as such, referring to them as "animalcules". Further, there was no connection of bacteria to disease until many others contributed findings. This lead to Louis Pasteur's germ theory in the 1870's.

Bacteria was a word rooted  in the Latin bacterium, meaning "small rod". It was introduced as a scientific term in 1838 by German naturalist Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg.

Benjamin Franklin died April 17, 1790.

If you think he was that prescient, then perhaps you should tweet or add to your social media status a whopper like these tomorrow!
"In several generations, all of my writings about beer produced in the home (HOMEBREW) shall also apply to a set of conventions which issue forth instructions on a small communication device to be held in the palm of one's hand. All of my quotations on WINE will apply to a set of conventions and instruction which will ensure the matrimony of two libraries. These are not conventional libraries to which we are accustomed... but we have no time for that now. If you remember nothing, place all of your fortunes on the colonial NAVY in the America's cup." - Bejadamus Franklinus.
 Upon the condition that one has the time, so too is it that we have the beer. - Ben Franklin


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