Benjamin Franklin Would Have Made Smart Use of the Blogosphere, Author Says

If Benjamin Franklin were to step into the 21st Century, he would be an avid blogger lending his expertise on science, politics, finances, foreign diplomacy, world travel and perhaps dating.

This observation comes from Jane Hampton Cook in her just released book on the American Revolution entitled: "Battlefields and Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from the Revolutionary War."

Franklin, being one of the most influential founding fathers, had a powerful understanding of the ability to communicate persuasively to a wide audience Cook explained in an interview.

Although he was known worldwide for his inventions and experiments, Franklin's most enduring legacies may have been in the realm of philosophy and politics, Cook said.

"He would be one of the smartest, wittiest and clever writers on the blogosphere," she said. "The ability to instantaneously express his opinion would be irresistible to him. Blogging would thrill a man with his ability and creativity."

The overspending on Capitol Hill and the high consumption lifestyle of many contemporary Americans would probably figure into Franklin's commentary in light of his parsimonious lifestyle, the book suggests.

"Frugality was as essential to Franklin's religion as paper was to his press," Cook wrote. "Quakers at that time often expelled members if their businesses went bankrupt or if they fell into debt. Franklin embraced tightly the value of economy. Thrift kept Franklin's pocketbook zipped."

As it was, Franklin shared his view of finances with the public in his annual almanac where he inveighed against superfluous spending that interfered with more productive enterprises.

Throughout the book Cook seeks to demonstrate how key figures like Franklin absorbed setbacks and disappointment. There is a strong emphasis placed on the connection between religious conviction and the ability to endure.

"The issues people of faith struggled with during the Revolution are often similar to modern-day struggles for the meaning of life, the desire for integrity in leadership and the hope for peace from war," Cook writes in her introduction.

The book is set up in terms of week long periods that include two features -- "Sabbath Rest" and "the Revolution Today" -- which tell the story of American Independence from the point of view of key individuals. Sabbath Rest tends to focus on sermons, while the Revolution Today highlights ideas.

From the sermons of that era it is evident that some of the terminology used had a much more formal and reverential connotation than they do today, Cook said.

"When the word providence is used the colonists are not talking about good fortune or good luck as we would mean it," she explained. "Instead they are talking about a reverence for God."

Simeon Howard, a preacher in Massachusetts, is a good example of someone who used language and terminology in way that is quite separated from contemporary times, Cook pointed out.

Howard would tell listeners in his sermons that leaders needed "to fear God" before they could be effective. But he also offered up his own qualifications.

"The fear of God, in the language of Scripture, does not intend a slavish, superstitious dread, as of an almighty, arbitrary, and cruel Being," he said.

This speaks to a certain reverence for God that lent itself to integrity in leadership in the midst of difficult challenges, Cook explained.

"Howard's position here is that leaders must be truthful," she said. "We use more casual language today but I think we can still re-capture something from this period about the importance of integrity and what really is meant by having a `fear of God' when you are entrusted with a high position."

Even with the advancement of technology, the human condition remains quite similar to where it was during the Revolutionary War, Cook maintains.

"The human heart will always wrestle with despair, discouragement and dishonesty, while seeking to embrace peace, joy and love," she wrote.

Over time Cook hopes the book helps to bring readers closer to the founding period and to subtract some common misunderstandings.

Thomas Jefferson, for instance, was actually a "newbie" to the American cause when he first joined the Continental Congress in June 1776 as a "tall, slender 33 year old redhead."

"But he came with writing samples," Cook said. "He had a striking ability with the pen that was recognized. Jefferson would have made for a great blogger too."

The author is a former webmaster for President Bush who now works as a speaker and writer in Vienna, Virginia.


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