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November 27, 1987


Page 7

American Almanac
A Case Study in Slander

Foreign Enemies Who Slandered Franklin

by Anton Chaitkin

Courtesy of Library of Congress

This statue of Benjamin Franklin stands in the Senate wing of the U.S.
Capitol Building, where it was placed in 1862, during the Civil War.

Benjamin Franklin is known today as an American statesman of the Colonial

and Revolutionary periods. But his achievements in science and statecraft
are not widely understood. That 20th-century academic historians are not

keen on the Founding Fathers' ideals is no secret; the greatness of Franklin

is, to say the least, under-reported.
This problem of misinformation began 200 years ago. The leaders of our
Revolution, founders of our nation (Franklin, Washington, Alexander
Hamilton, Robert Morris) were targets of slander and character assassination.
Slander was, and is, a weapon of the Empire against the Republic and its
adherents. In Franklin's case, the British published two books in 1779 as
part of a campaign to defame him and destroy the French-American alliance.
They depict Franklin as con-man, using America's Revolution to live in
You will see a wonderful likeness between the methods used against
Franklin, and Establishment media attacks on Lyndon LaRouche.
LaRouche's economic program, his role as author of SDI, promotion of
Western defense, leadership against the International Monetary Fundthese
do not appear in the New York Times, NBC-TV, or Soviet press. They print
instead wild abuse lies, and contradictory stories shaped to specific, different
In the Franklin case, we dissect an earlier, more original, but no less stupid
version of slanderers' craft.
Slander as a Profession
Original editions of the two books attacking Franklin are in the Rare Book
Division of the Library of Congress in Washington. They were both issued
by the printer Becket, located at Adelphi, Strand, in London. Both were
published as well in French.
They were The Green Box of Monsieur De Sartine, Found at Mlle. Du The's
Lodgings, attributed to Richard Tickell (a writer of the day); and History of
a French Louse; or the Spy of a New Species, in France and England;
containing a Description of the Most Remarkable Personages in those
Kingdoms, Giving a Key to the Chief Events of the Year 1779, and those
which are to happen in 1780. This too, Tickell may have written; viewpoint
and method are identical.
The Louse was published with the official "approbation and privilege" of
Britain's King George III.

The purpose of the French pro-republicans in backing America's fight for

independence, is demeaned in a concocted letter from Sartine.
Dear VergennesAlas! Vergennes, why did we ever listen to this
Beaumarchais? His wild speculation involved us with these cursed
Americans; they got in debt with us, and it became necessary at any
rate, to plunge France in a war, to give us a chance of getting paid.
One letter shows Franklin as a supporter of terrorism against the British, in
the Keppel affair:
Alas! Sartine, all our hopes about the riots are at an endwhether it
is, that violent paroxisms are transient, or that the expense of illuminations [i.e., financing riots] have the same effect as bleeding in a fever,
all this Keppelism [original emphasis] has entirely subsidedno
more city dinners in honor of innocence, no more stones and candles;
no more aldermen with blue cockades, or citizen's wives with Keppel
garters!He has refused the command, and his popularity fell with
his [admiral's] flag This was a promising scheme! but we must
set some other engine at work, to create that national disunion, which
must always be our great resource.
Sincerely and faithfully yours, Franklin
Mite of Truth, Pack of Lies
The professional liar tries to take some bit of truth, or near-truth, and
associate it with gossip or hoaxes otherwise entirely unbelievable. Franklin
was certainly involved with British politicians in opposition to the crown.
But his real interventions in the British Isles were much more interesting
than the slanders; thus, his open letter to the Irish, urging an Irish-American
trade alliance to stop Britain's suppression of Irish manufacturing.
The book also includes a faked letter from Franklin, to ridicule him as a
petty, conceited dandy, a loser. For those who knew him, this would be ludicrous; but for readers who had never met him? Again, mites of truth are
added, to make it more convincing.
Dear Sartine;
I cannot contain my rage. . . . I have been affrontedI, the Ambassador Plenipotentiary of the United Free States of America [sic], have
lived to see the day, when I must endure the contempt of the wretched

envoys of every paltry principality. In short, all the ambassadors

refuse to rank with meDoria Pamphili, the Pope's nuncio, calls me a
quakerCount D'Aranda [of Spain] says, his Catholic Majesty loves
South America too well, to encourage rebel coloniesChevalier Zeno
says, the Venetians hate anything but a nominal republic. . . . Prince
Bariantinski loves the English, and his mistress, the Empress of
Russia, desires him to insult me. . . .
All this I could bearbut to see Count Sickingen, Baron Grimm,
Baron Thun and Monsieur Wolff give themselves airs, drives me to
madnessIn short, sir, I am insulted in all the languages of Europe
My religion is satirized in Italianmy politics in Spanish and Dutch
I hear Washington ridiculed in Russian, and myself in all the jargon
of GermanyI cannot bear itMake Europe civil to America, or I'll
follow Silas Deane.
Yours, Franklin
The slanders were produced by a desperate British government. American
patriots had just defeated the British in the Battle of Saratoga, with French
arms supplied unofficially via Pierre Augustine Caron de Beaumarchais,
Mozart's librettist. France had then agreed to ally officially with the
Americans. Britain was gripped by a domestic political hurricane.
In July 1778, a British fleet under Vice Admiral Augustus Keppel had failed
to win an expected victory against French ships. Keppel blasted Britain's
government for sabotaging him by sending him unequipped into battle, to
discredit him. This may have been true; Keppel was a member of Parliament, a foe of the ministry that began the war on America. Amidst riots by
the London populace, he was court-martialed. Acquitted, he was honored by
Parliament, and resigned his commission.
In the House of Lords, April 23, 1779, the Earl of Bristol condemned
government slander against Keppel. His words apply well to Franklinslanderer Richard Tickell (of the ministry's stable of literary prostitutes):
The tools and scribblers of power were employed in every quarter of
the town to whisper and write away his [Keppel's] exalted character. . . .
The poisoned vehicles of infamy, detraction and villainy poured forth
the dictates of their more infamous and profligate protectors and

The frontispieces of the British Crown's two books of slanders against Benjamin Franklin. Both books were published in 1779, in French and English,
to vilify Franklin and undermine the new French-American alliance. The
books are in the Rare Book Division of the U.S. Library of Congress.

'The Green Box'

The Green Box of Monsieur De Sartine purports to reproduce papers stolen
from the strongbox of a French nobleman intimate with King Louis XVI's
foreign minister Charles Gravier Vergennes. The Library of Congress catalog says that letters in the book attributed to the American ambassador to
France (Franklin) are "spurious."
One paper faked herein is a ledger of what the author calls the firm of
Messieurs De Sartine, Vergennes & Franklin, showing huge numbers of
livres (French pounds) accruing to the three men as partners. The implication is they are making vast personal profit by prosecuting the war, and
capturing British ships.

Before the American Revolution, Franklin was already the target of slanders.
Shown here, a crude cartoon from 1764 shows Franklin listening to the Devil.
The cartoon falsely attributes to him anti-German statements, in order to
defeat his slate in the Pennsylvania elections.

Then there is a listing called "Secret Service Money"supposed bribes to

Franklin and other Americans as French agents for carrying on the war
against Britain. Among the entries:
130,000 livres cash advanced to his excellency Dr. Franklin till the
arrival of his tobacco fleet.
100,000 livres to his other excellency Silas Deane to pay for his
transportation to America.
100,000 to his third excellency.
600,000 to Gerard [First Secretary of the French Foreign Ministry,
then in America] for private douceurs among members of Congress;
snuff boxes with the king's picture [Louis XVI] for their wives and
daughters, a rouge box, filled with the rouge her majesty uses, twice
as superb as Fayette's sword, for my Lady Washington, etc.

To the chagrin of the royal agency paying for this trash, Franklin had won
immense respect throughout the civilized world; his diplomacy was largely
responsible for Britain's defeat. The Promethean character of Franklin's
international work, like that of LaRouche today, is something the upholders
of Empire have tried always to keep from public view.
The Slanderer as Insect
The History of a French Louse dumps a cargo of garbage from the Secret
Intelligence Service, to depict Franklin as an ugly, base huckster.
Fittingly, this faked gossip is told by a flea! The author has taken up successive residences in the hair of French personalities. One victim is a Chevalier
d'Eon, a man dressed as a woman. There was indeed a transvestite by that
name, an espionage agent for King Louis XV who defected to Britain.
[Transvestite carries flea to a party] at the house of his excellency
Benjamin Franklin. . . .
By good fortune I found myself placed directly opposite to monsieur
ambassador; and here I must acknowledge that I was not able to
forbear laughing heartily when I contemplated the grotesque figure of
this original, who with a vulgar person and mean appearance, affected
the air and gestures of a fop. A sun-burnt complection, a wrinkled
forehead, warts in many places. . . . With these he had the added
advantage of a double chin, to which was added a great bulk of nose,
and teeth which might have been taken for cloves, had they not been
set fast in a thick jaw . . . a large pair of spectacles hid two-thirds of
his face. . . .
My heroine [the transvestite] left her seat to place herself close to the
master of the house [Franklin] to whom she sung some verses of her
own composing, which I should not have thought excellent but for
that circumstance; however they were greatly applauded. I plainly
observed his excellency express his gratitude to his Apollo by an
ardent kiss, but without quitting his spectacles; at the same time he
whispered in her ear, shall it be this evening, my goddess? [original
From these few words I guessed a little tte--tte was going forward;
it was what I wished for, as I should have been of the party, and the
thoughts of it diverted me greatly. I had been witness to many

assignations of this kind; and I imagined this of his excellency and

the female chevalier would be curious.
The Louse features a dialogue from the mouths of "Benjamin le Frank" and a
neighbor. It contains a slander about Franklin torturing a dog, and misrepresentation about his blaming the British crown for outlandish thingsjust
like slanders of LaRouche. Apparently, today's scribblers can't even lie
without plagiarizing.
B. le F. [Franklin] was born in Boston, in New England; his parents
were in low circumstances, and could not give him a very liberal
education; his first employment was that of a workman to a printer.
Behold him then in reality a Man of Letters; for you know, neighbor,
that a printer is more than any other a Man of Letters, since if there
were no printers we could not have any books. . . [original emphasis].
Neighbor: But how did this gentleman of four-pence a day, raise
himself to his present elevated station?
B. le F.: By little and little. The gentleman acquired a profound
knowledge of electricity; he commanded the thunderbolt to fall where
he pleased; he bid it roar at a distance, and at a distance it roared; he
stood on one side of a river, and electrified a dog on the other; the
poor animal made piteous moans, but knew not who caused its
By these rare and wonderful talents he rose to be a collector of the
customs for the king of England in the port of Philadelphia, which
place brought him five hundred pounds sterling a year (about 12,000
Neighbor: Oh mighty well! This was somewhat better than fourpence a day; but how could he contrive to spend such a sum?
B. le F.: As to that he acquitted himself extremely well; he took a
wife, he had children, a cellar stored with good liquors; a plentiful
table. He was then a zealous royalist, because it was for his advantage
to be so. He procured his son a commission in the army; and this son
continuing steady to his duty and attachment for his Britannic Majesty, is still governor of New Jersey for the King.

The doctor understands his personal interests perfectly well; perhaps

he was apt to attend to them too much, if we may judge by the event;
for after being a considerable time in possession of this employment,
he was very politely thanked for his services and turned out of it. . . .
He left no means untried to get back his place, but he did not succeed;
hence originated his animosity to his king and even to the whole
British nation [emphasis added].
Neighbor: But how did he subsist?
B. le F.: Electricity having taught him that there is fire everywhere,
and in everything, he took a fancy that by this discovery he might live
in the grand stile [emphasis added]: accordingly, he electrified the
minds of the Americans, making them believe that all the evils they
suffered proceeded from St. James Palace in London; that in that
palace the resolution was taken to consider them as slaves and to force
them by an arbitrary exertion of power to pay all the taxes and imposts that interest and caprice could invent.
There needed no more to excite a revolt among the doctor's patients:
he was sent to London with propositions from them full of insolence,
and even injurious to the majesty of the throne: these propositions
were rejected, as the electrifier expected. When he returned to his
own country, he enumerated injuries on the part of the British
government towards them which never existed; he inflamed their
resentments, counselled them to shake off their chimerical dependence
on their mother country; held out the prospect of a glorious freedom
to them and their posterity; commenced their legislator, established a
republican government, and subjected them to the despotism of the

A forthcoming issue of New Federalist will print Benjamin Franklin's

prescriptions on how to deal with slanderers, which Mr. Chaitkin has kindly
supplied us.