Benjamin Franklin – Silence Dogood, No. 1 & 2

Introduction to Silence Dogood
In 1722 Benjamin Franklin wrote several editorial letters to the New-England Courant. The first two were published April 2, 1722, and April 16, 1722. He is writing them under the name of Silence Dogood, because he knew his brother (James Franklin) would not allow him to write in the paper. James was the owner of the press and the paper at the time.

In the first two papers, he introduces himself, and lets the readers know that he will only be publishing a few letters, and they will be spread out over time. There were a total of 14 papers published over a 7 month period of time.

Here is how he introduces Silence Dogood (I think the name also has meaning)

  1. Her father died celebrating her birth. “for as he, poor Man, stood upon the Deck rejoycing at my Birth, a merciless Wave entred the Ship, and in one Moment carry’d him beyond Reprieve”
  2. She was then raised by the Country Minister, a good natured young Man and Bachelor, that “labour’d with all his Might to instil vertuous and godly Principles into my tender Soul”
  3. Her mother died two years later, leaving her with no “Relation on Earth”.
  4. She kept “the best of Company, Books”.
  5. The Minister then “began unexpectedly to cast a loving Eye upon Me”
  6. They were then married. “This unexpected Match was very astonishing to all the Country round about, and served to furnish them with Discourse for a long Time after; some approving it, others disliking it, as they were led by their various Fancies and Inclinations.”
  7. They had two girls and a boy.
  8. The Minister died a sudden and unexpected death soon after.
  9. She is currently in a “State of Widowhood”, but “I could be easily persuaded to marry”

Now with that background, it will be easier to understand what Ben or Silence Dogood was trying to say in her letters published in the New-England Courant. In the second letter Ben or Silence Dogood closes with the following:

Know then, That I am an Enemy to Vice, and a Friend to Vertue. I am one of an extensive Charity, and a great Forgiver of private Injuries: A hearty Lover of the Clergy and all good Men, and a mortal Enemy to arbitrary Government and unlimited Power. I am naturally very jealous for the Rights and Liberties of my Country; and the least appearance of an Incroachment on those invaluable Priviledges, is apt to make my Blood boil exceedingly. I have likewise a natural Inclination to observe and reprove the Faults of others, at which I have an excellent Faculty. I speak this by Way of Warning to all such whose Offences shall come under my Cognizance, for I never intend to wrap my Talent in a Napkin. To be brief; I am courteous and affable, good humour’d (unless I am first provok’d,) and handsome, and sometimes witty, but always, Sir, Your Friend and Humble Servant.

I believe that the last paragraph tells volumes of what Ben actually believed. I am going to enjoy reading the rest of the Silence Dogood letters.

Full text of the letters can be found here:

Silence Dogood No. 1
http://franklinpapers.org/franklin/framedVolumes.jsp?vol=1&page=008a

Silence Dogood No. 2
http://franklinpapers.org/franklin/framedVolumes.jsp?vol=1&page=011a