Ben Franklin. Ben “Ol’ Dirty Bastard” Franklin. The guiding light of the American Revolution, the pondscum of Philly’s redlight district. He has been called “the first American,” and I feel like that is not not accurate. Here was a man who’s greatness we have all read about in school—he invented about a bazillion things like ‘electricity’ or some shit, as well as created America’s first biblioteque, first fire department (thanks Ben) and the postal service, founded one of our very own bloggers’ small east-coast liberal arts college, and then was all about political theory and philosophy and being really smart and stuff—but today we are skipping over achievement for the umpteenth time in favor of salaciousness. Thank God! I mean, if you’ve got to spend today with at least one dad, make it a for shame! dad.
Born in 1706, Ben had his final year of formal schooling when he was 9. Wtf. If he helped create a new indivisible nation with liberty and justice for all with like 4 effing years of school, then I should have colonized Saturn by now. God damn. Oh yeah, and when he was 11, he invents a pair of ‘swim fins’ for his hands. Like the Creature from the Black Lagoon. There’s no point to that one, I just wanted to throw it out there.
Ok ok, so he starts apprenticing to be a printer with his older brother James in 1718, at age 12 which was a little old, but whatever. His brother probably saw his swim fins and thought, “This kid’s legit.” When he’s there, Ben starts writing all these wittyass letters to the editor in the guise of Mrs. Silence Dogood. It’s weird, because they really do sound like a middle aged woman, and Ben was like 15, but being able to successfully convince people you’re someone else has long been considered a mark of genius.
Now printing would seem to have been the gateway drug to the biddies for Ben, And though my sources differ on why he left Boston (Whether it was because his brother was arrested for publishing some nasty nasty shit about the Brits, or he ran away from the apprenticeship first), but what matters is that he’s technically a fugitive and goes to Philadelphia to start his own press. He takes lodgings with John Read, who’s daughter Deborah was pretty fly, so Ben, at the tender age of 17 starts to try and put a ring on it. But Debby ain’t havin’ that shit, and Ben’s dad denies him the cash money he needs to start up his own print shop, so with these heavy blows, our horny teenage hero sails across the sea to Britannia seeking employment and a respite from all his teen angst.
Oops, so it turns out that the Governor of PA, William Keith, who sounds like a real great fucking guy, and who was all like “Yeah Ben, I’ll totes give you a lot of money on good faith to use in England to buy printing equipment,” never actually gave Franklin any green, so he was stuck in London.
Yeah, and then, hey, Debs gets hitched while he’s gone. Whadayaknow! While across the pond however, you gotta figure Ben took out his anger and sexual frustration, as all good men do, on prostitutes. And thanks to My Strange Addiction, we all know once you develop a taste for something, you can never get enough. In 1726 he goes back to Philly and soon checks two things off his bucket list: starts America’s library system and has an illegitimate child.
It actually took Ben a while to acknowledge that William, the gentlemanbaby, was actually his. But by the time William was an adult, besically everybody knew he was Ben’s bastard child. But whatevs, to stick by the kid is fine if he’s in fact a really great guy right? False, he sucked. William Franklin was a Loyalist and a real stick-in-the-mud about all things chill, like getting the British hands out of our proverbial pockets and out of our methaphorical shit.
During this time he was employed by a printer named Keimer, and theirs was a stormy relationship considering he kept firing Ben. But the kid was just so darn good at his job that he would always rehire the sonovagun, and Ben was eventually elected ‘Official Printer for Pennsylvania.’ Whatever that means. Also, during this time, he’s hangin’ with the first wave of Philly hipsters in a society called the Junto. They talked about art and politics and literature and poor people and other things most people talk about. So kicks are going pretty ok: he’s go a job, he’s got his bros, he’s got some hos; he’s a 20something with the world as his oyster. BUT HOLD UP BITCHES. Guess who comes back into his life? That’s right. Deborah Rogers, nee Read. Turns out her husband got in a lotta debt, stole a slave (what??) and her dowry and hightailed it to Barbados. Without Deb.
I can hear Franklin open the door, sigh and unbutton his britches even now.
They get a ‘common-law-marriage,’ which basically means a ‘fake marriage.’ It’s like how I could say I was Bob Dylan’s common-law-wife, but he’s just away touring. Doesn’t mean anyone’s going to believe me. They started living together in 1730, along with William, who Ben finally recognized, and soon had a son. He died four years later, and they didn’t have another child until 1743. Either because the devastation of losing a child, even in a time when death before age 10 was incredibly common, caused multiple issues of physical and emotional intimacy in their marriage, or because he kept boning hookers.
Think about it. He may have love Deborah, but she seems like kind of a drag in her later years, considering she was afraid of the ocean and didn’t want to come with him on his multiple and extended ambassadorial trips to Europe. It’s easy enough to take off a wedding ring before you walk into that room filled with comely French woman. It’s even easier to take off a fake one. Now we have no way for sure of knowing with how many women Franklin carried on with, and while one of his ’13 Virtues’ was Chastity: “Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace of reputation,” he wrote that mantra before he had an illegitimate child, set up with a bangmaid, and may or may not have contracted syphilis.
FACT: Ben didn’t die from a venereal disease, and there is no scholarly evidence to support that he didn’t have it, but, if he did, he most likely contracted one in France during the later half of his life spent in the French court, and so the overt symptoms such as insanity wouldn’t have presented themselves en force by the time he died. He did however, have at least two documented French amours, Madames Brillon and Helvetius, the latter to whom he proposed marriage in 1780 after Deborah died.
Also, Madame Helvetius had 18 cats. Just thought you should know.
To tell the truth, I know you’re confused. We all want to think of him as great you know? A founder of our country, a brilliant and socially aware model citizen, and he does a lot to convince us that his younger, wilder days were just a blip on the radar of an otherwise moral life (Plus, in my mind he sounds like Walter Cronkite, the greatuncle with the velvet voice and soothing colloquial wisdom I wish I had.). It’s hard to judge Ben’s mindset on the matter of sexual promiscuity, because like I said, he did not conveniently leave behind a laundry list of slampieces. It was clearly something that he thought about extensively though, and for my final argument that Benjamin Franklin was the greatest horndog of the Colonial Period, I present, ‘Advice Concerning Sexual Affairs.’ Ben does his best to help a brother out with all those unChristian urges he seems to be experiencing, and solidifies a reputation for layin’ honeydips more solid than Springsteen’s Jersey fanbase. I thus provide a lengthy excerpt:
“June 25, 1745. My dear Friend, I know of no Medicine fit to diminish the violent natural Inclinations you mention; and if I did, I think I should not communicate it to you. Marriage is the proper Remedy… But if you will not take this Counsel, and persist in thinking a Commerce with the Sex inevitable, then I repeat my former Advice, that in all your Amours you should prefer old Women to young ones. You call this a Paradox, and demand my Reasons. They are these: …
(Number 1 is some shit about them being wiser and better conversation. Whatever.)
2. Because when Women cease to be handsome, the study to be good. To maintain their Influence over Men, they supply the Dimunition of Beauty by the Augmentation of Utility. They learn to do 1000 Services small and great, and are the most tender and useful of all Friends…
3. Because there is no hazard of Children, which irregularly produc’d may be attended with much Inconvenience.
4. Because thro’ more Experience, they are more prudent and discreet in conducting and Intrigue to prevent Suspicion. The Commerce with them is therefore safer with regard to your Reputation. And with regard to theirs, if the Affair should happen to be known, considerate People might be rather inclin’d to excuse an old Woman who would kindly take care of a young Man, form his Manners by her good Counsels, and prevent his ruining his Health and Fortune among mercenary Prostitutes.
5. Because in every animal that walks upright, the Deficiency of the Fluids that fill the Muscles appears first in the highest Part: the Face first grows lank and wrinkled; then the Neck; then the Breast and Arms; the lower Parts continuing to the last as plump as ever: So that covering all above with a Basket, and regarding only what is below the Girdle, it is impossible of two Women to know an old from a young one. And as in the dark all Cats are grey, the Pleasure of corporal Enjoyment with an Old Woman is at least equal, and frequently superior, every Knack being by Practice capable of Improvement. (what??? motherfucker’s gonna put a BASKET on her head????)
6. Because the Sin is less. The debauching of a Virgin may be her Ruin, and make her for Life unhappy.
7. Because the Compunction is less. The having made a young Girl miserable may give you frequent bitter Reflections; none of which can attend the making an old Woman happy.
8. They are so grateful!! (I swear to Christ I did not add that second exclamation point.)
Yup. There’s not much else to say.
So let’s hear it all for Benjamin Franklin: Founding Father. Life-Long Lover. All-Around Tite Bitch.