tv Benjamin Franklins Legacy CSPAN July 25, 2016 2:33pm-3:41pm EDT
american." and it really is that sort of first authentic frontier voice of poking fun at the pretensions of the elite and the top establishment, poking fun at the mavers, cotton maver and increase maver and the families that were running puritan boston. and over and over again in the first set of essays, you see her sort of doing this type of humor, saying that she was thinking of sending a nephew to harvard, but it only turns out dunces and blockheads who know how to enter a room gentilely, and she says that's something they can less expensively learn at dancing school, so she's going to send her nephew to dancing school. so, you see this wonderful thing. of course, eventually, his brother who did go to harvard and was not a dunce or a blockhead, finally figures out that his young dan, his younger brother writing these things, and is not particularly happy,
makes him stop. and to cut the story a little bit, benjamin franklin actually runs away. he breaks his apprenticeship he had signed to be an apprentice with his brother for seven years and runs away to philadelphia. now, this is an important thing, because boston was very theocratic, one with very little separation from the puritan churches and the government. but philadelphia was a place where there was a great diversity of people. there were moravians and anglicans and episcopals and screws and slaves an freed slaves, and they all worked together in a place called market street. they all came to shop. and it was the first place of brotherly love, where you saw a diversity of people trying, people who are all immigrants, including the anglicans and episcopalia episcopalians, but all of them had come for a particular type of freedom, and they had to work
together in what was the first ethnically diverse society. an ethnic and religious and background diversity truly leads to creativity. it was that sort of bubbling mix there that allows philadelphia to become a place of great commerce but also a place of great middle-class entrepreneurship, start-up and innovation. benjamin franklin eventually decides after being an apprentice to a printer there to start his own print shop. he goes over to england, buys the type and the foundries and stuff. back then, philadelphia had i think 11 newspapers, and he starts the 12th. it was really great in the days, in which there was great competing voices. and there were newspapers for the anglicans and newspapers for the penn family and the proprietors and a newspaper for people very loyal to the crown. and ben franklin starts the first really independent newspaper, not affiliated with
any faction, but really being willing to poke fun at all factions and to stand up for what he called "we the midling people," meaning the middle class people of philadelphia. and he even starts a cloth, what he calls the leather apron cloth, in which they meet on fridays, and it's for people who wear leather aprons. he sometimes called it the junta. it was a gathering. and it was for people who were the shopkeepers and the artisans who got up early, opened up the shop at 8:00, put on their aprons, and knew how to create small businesses. his view was that small businesses and start-ups would be the backbone of a new economy. and indeed, one of the things that his group did is leather apron cloth, was they made a set of rules and maxims for how to be a good start-up entrepreneur
and innovator. if you've ever read his autobiography, you've seen the rules. he lists them there -- industry, honesty, frugality, diligence. and he's kind of a geek. he makes a chart and marks off how well he had done each week on conquering or mastering each one of the virtues. puts a little blot by his name in his commonplace book when he messes up on one of the virtues. and he's often erasing it to start over. he finally transfers the chart to a piece of slate so he can wipe it clean each week, have a clean slate, as the saying goes, which seems very american. the notion every week you start off again. and finally, after a while, he's ended up mastering all 12 of these virtues for a given week. he's got each one of them right. and he shows it off proudly to the members of the club. and one of them says, you know, franklin, you're forgetting a virtue you might want to try.
and franklin says, what's that? and the friend says humility. you might want to try that one for a change. what i love about franklin is he admi admits, i was never very good at the virtue of humility. i never mastered it. but i was very good, he says, at the pretense of humility. i learned to fake it very well. but here's the great genius of franklin. he says, and i learned that the pretense of humility was just as useful as the reality of humility. it made you listen to the people next to you, it made you hear what they were saying, it made you try to find the common ground, and that was the essence of the middle class democracy we were trying to put together. that notion that appearances helped shape reality, of course, comes from shakespeare. the mask turns into the man. turns into henry v.
we become the mask we wear. but it's sort of important, because nowadays, we're probably not quite as concerned about looking right, making good appearances, trying to show that you're doing the right thing. but as franklin said, that's what helps a civil society. he actually believed deeply in the notion of a civil society. he started as soon as he got his newspaper going in his leather apron cloth to use the club to create civic associations. almost every month he invented one, a volunteer fire department, a library, the free library of philadelphia now so that everybody could share their books. an academy for the education of youth in philadelphia. i was just talking to somebody up front here who's at a
freshman at penn. it becomes the university of pennsylvania. a militia, a street sweeping corps, a night watch corps. and what he realizes is that people like to work together. he also realizes that humility or the pretense of humility is really important at getting people to collaborate. whenever in his newspaper he had an idea for something he wanted to start, such as the library or the fire department or whatever, he would never propose it as an idea. he would always have it either be a letter in which somebody else proposes it, or he would say a friend of mine was talking and he proposes this idea, what do you think? and he was a first in poor richard's almanac, his almanac, to sort of put forth the notion that it's amazing what you can get done if you don't care about taking the credit for it. and so, he creates all of these
associations, all of these collaborations. and he has a particular motto that he uses, sometimes inscribes it on the wall of them, which is "the good we can do together exceeds the good we can do separately." it's that notion of collaboration and civic engagement as a society, which is one of the things, along with tolerance and inclusivity people of diverse background that set america apart from every other society of that time. and so, he tries to do this notion of forming associations voluntarily. toteville, of course, writes about this. i've never been actually, if i can admit it here, a big fan of toteville. i think he probably wins the award of the person who is most quoted but least read, meaning everybody always quotes him, and i say, yeah, do you remember what he actually said later on
about that, and nobody's -- i think i was the only one because i had to read it in college. and i thought, wait a minute, i'm not sure he quite gets it. he was a french wandering around america, and he was baffled about the fact that americans formed voluntary association, that they do things like the leather apron club or the volunteer fire department or barnraising or quilting bees. he said because they're so individualualistic, they're so frontier-oriented that it seems in conflict with this notion of association forming. i think ben franklin would not have seen any conflict, and i think most true americans don't, which is, you can be individualistic, you can be pioneering, you can be an innovator, you can be your start-up or your entrepreneur, but you also like in a voluntary way to form the type of association that help us collaborate in business, in society, and in our civic lives.
and that is what he mainly was able to do. when i wrote about the great innovators of the digital age, it occurred to me, having looked especially at benjamin franklin, that collaboration, this ability to work together, was the key to true entrepreneurship and great innovation. that flies in the face of what we sometimes teach about entrepreneurship and innovation. we make it seem like it's the lone great inventor or whatever. and we biographers have that dirty, little secret. we always make it seem like it's some guy or gal goes into a garage and they have a light bulb moment and innovation happens. but that's not the way it actually works in real life. as you all know as you reflect on your own lives, it comes from forming teams and teamwork. it's something our educational system is getting better at.
i think the woman who runs global area is here and we were talking about the program she has putting together games and teaching kids how to work together on games. but what we're learning, both in schools, colleges, whatever, is the importance of people being able to share thoughts, to work together, to collaborate. we used to do that, too, when i was in high school and college, but they had name for it. they called it cheating. and now i think we have to say, no, that's how we're training kids to succeed in the world. take any of the great innovations of the digital age. you know, the internet, the computer, the personal computer, all the great inventions of the digital age. but if you ask anybody who invented them, with all due respect to al gore, there's no easy answer. why? because they were all done as collaborations. having talked about penn a little bit, i'll say, you know,
the first computer was at the university of pennsylvania, iniac. now, if you tried to be a romantic biographer, you might pick john adanassaw, somebody out in idaho who created a logical circuit, came up with the ideas of the computer. some people say he's the inventor of the computer. you can find many people in history who people would say, oh, that person should be given the most credit. the problem with him was he was not a collaborator. he did things on his own. he didn't have a team around him. he used to do, whenever he had a problem, he would get in his car and drive for hours, sometimes all the way to the illinois border. i think partly to think but partly because you could buy alcohol by the drink in illinois and you couldn't in iowa, so he'd stop at a bar. but once he got it all put together, he got called in to the navy. it's early 1940s. and the computer gets sort of dismantled. and it would never quite work. he couldn't get the punch card
burners to work, he couldn't get the system, the circuit to actually work. and it was not until john mockley -- most people haven't heard of him because he was somebody who knew how to bring people together. he was a benjamin franklin. and he went out to many places, the new york world's fair, to dartmouth, to harvard, m.i.t., looking at people trying to make computers. he drove all the way to iowa and looked at the one that adanassof was doing, because of a 17-year intellectual property patent dispute, but it wasn't really stealing the idea, it was collaborating, it was bringing it together. and he goes back to penn and gets press ueckert, who is a great engineer and mechanic whose grandfather invented the turkish taffey machine. he gets all sorts of engineers who can help put it together. he gets six really great women ph.ds in math, because this is before we told women they didn't know how to do math, so more women got ph.ds in math in the
1930s than a generation later, and they did the programming for it. and it was a team of more than 100 people who end up creating the computer. same with the internet. it's not done by, you know, one person doing it. it was trying to tie together all of these computers that were in resource universities like iniac had started, and the defense department wanted them to network together and created the notion of a packet switch network, then told research universities they had to figure out how to connect. and the research professors did what research professors always do, is they delegated the task to their graduate students. so, you had 30 graduate students who kind of hung out, met every now and then to figure out how to do the original protocols for the package switch networks. and since they didn't want it to be top down or handed down or anything like that, they wanted to be purely collaborative, they didn't know what to call these. they didn't want to call them rules or regulations or even,
you know, protocols. and so, what they eventually called them, every time they came up with an idea of how you'd address a packet or how you'd put the address in or how you would recombine it if one of them got lost -- they'd call it request for comment. that made it feel very collaborative. rfc, request for comment, as they put it out. that's cool that that's how they invented the internet, but what's particularly cool is that's still how we're inventing the internet. i think the rfc process is now up to 7,000 or whatever it is, but it's still being done in a collaborative way. and that was the sort of notion of a benjamin franklin, which is bring people together in association, the good we can do together exceeds what we can do separately. same with microchips. one of my favorite stories about not wanting the credit is both bob noyes and his team in what
eventually becomes intel, creates the microchip. it's also done almost simultaneously at texas instruments by jack kilby and his team. you need a team to be able to do it. you need people who know surface state inducting, people who know, you know, the quantum mechanics of a surface state. you also need pole climbers who know how to amplify a phone signal. you need all sorts of people to put together on a team to do a microchip, and these two teams do it. noyes dies before they give out the nobel prize, so kilby gets the nobel prize, and the first thing he says is, you know, if noyes were still alive, he'd be sharing this with me. and when the presenter at, you know, the nobel prize ceremony, said it is based on your invention, sir, that this entire digital revolution has come about, kilby gets up and begins by saying, that reminds me of what the beaver said to the rabbit at the foot of the hoover dam -- no, i didn't build it,
but it's based on my idea. his whole point was we've got to share the credit, we have to be great at collaboration. another lesson of benjamin franklin important for the digital age is that period after he's become a successful publisher he decides to become a scientist. he decides to really try to learn science. we think of him sometimes as some doddering old dude flying a kite in the rain, you know, saying a penny saved is a penny earned. but, no, he actually wasn't that old and the electricity experiments that he was doing during that period in his 40s were the most important scientific theories and experiments of that era. the most important since newton's theory of gravity. the notion that electricity was a single fluid went from positive to negative, could be captured in a battery, all these words that he invented because he did that, the notion that you
could then make a practical use of it. a lightning rod. because up until then, they had stored gun powder sometimes in churches because they were so afraid of lightning and lightning was just a horrible, you know, tragedies that were happening over and over again. and but the lightning and they would consecrate the bells of the church so the lightning wouldn't strike but i think like 1,200 lightning strikes on churches the year he was doing his experiment and franklin writes to a friend you would think we would try some other theory and he comes up with the lightning rod. and it was so great because he was somebody who loved both the theory and then implementing it like a great entrepreneur or an innovator. in fact, the first year of his electricity experiments, on the banks of the river in philadelphia, they're doing all sorts of things, they're creating electrical charges, they're collecting it in
batteries, putting it on out wires and tricks and he figures out it's not two different fluids but it's a single fluid that goes from positive to -- well, negative to positive because the -- signs aren't exactly right. but so when he gets it all figured out he says the theory is great but we have yet to find practical use for it. he writes his friend in london, the person who becomes his friend who we call franklin house there, peter collinson. he's lamenting they have come up with the great theories but he said, you know, what use is a theory if you can't find practical utility for it? he even said of newton, it's fine to know a theory of gravity but i don't need to know the full theory to know if i let go of my crockery it fall to the ground and break. i need to know how to put use to such theories and so, at the end of their very first summer of electricity experiments, the
only use they find of it is getting near thanksgiving, actually thanksgiving didn't really exist yet then but the harvest feast, and they decided to kill the turkeys they were going to eat by shocking them with big jolts of electricity. franklin writes to peter collinson that they were uncommonly tender. these turkeys. those of us who are southerners and enlist the inventions of benjamin franklin like to put somewhere on the list, just sneak it in, the inventor of the fried turkey. but eventually, he comes up with a notion that -- well, if you look at a spark of electricity and you look at a lightning bolt, he puts it in his journal, all the comparisons that they snap like that, they make a sound, they're jagged. they have a sulfurous smell and then he says, okay, they seem to
be the same. a spark and a lightning bolt and he just writes at the bottom, let the experiment be made. i'm writing about leonardo da vinci now and leonardo is one of the first people in history who instead of trying to take the wisdom of the ancients says i have mistress experiment. he says let the experiment be made. that's pretty obvious. it's not obvious these days but up until recently it was obvious that the scientific method is something you used and you had a theory and you tested it and you looked at data and refined the theory and that was the scientific method we got from the age of hook and galileo and, you know, the various -- but it starts to some extent with people like leonardo and the renaissance. for franklin, it ties into the whole concept of the enlightenment, which is you have to understand science to understand society. that there's social sciences as
well as natural sciences and he would have thought you a philistine if you know the humanities. and you knew greek and latin and whatever but you didn't try to keep up with science. nowadays we kind of say stem education, we have to do s.t.e.m. education. but with all due respect to most of you in this room -- because i see most of you are not high school students -- it's sort of -- we say our kids should learn s.t.e.m. becauut we kind joke that we're not very good in math or we don't know c++ from python or what java script is or how to do coding or anything like that. and to me i think benjamin franklin would have found that somewhat appalling that if you think somebody is a philistine because they don't know the difference between hamlet and macbeth, you should also feel that they're a philistine if they don't know the difference between a gene or chromosome or an integral and a differential equation. but we don't make as much effort
sometimes to say science has a beauty. so that's why franklin both as an entrepreneur and as a social scientist, as an enlightenment thinker, really tried to make sure he understood everything about science. that he looked at botany, that he figured out the progress of northeastern storms by watching through his various postal system mates exactly when a storm hit as it moved up the coast. he goes to england his very, very first time to get that printing equipment i told you about and the captain of the ships have told him that it takes one day less to get to england than it does coming back, something not explained by the prevailing winds or the rotation of the earth and so he drops buckets and barrels into the ocean to take the temperature of the water because he's heard people say that there's a stream in the ocean. and he becomes the first person to publish a map of the gulf stream by having done this.
he understands how science is beautiful and relates to our lives and, by the way, he went back and forth i think seven, eight times from europe to the united states. last time he was 80 which back then was rather old and then -- but he still -- that final trip he's still on the deck lowering the barrels, taking the temperature of the ocean because he always had that curiosity. and i think that notion of curiosity, how do the sciences and social sciences work together, is such a key to understanding the enlightenment and the founding of our country. for example, in his works he talks about do we need better poor law? in other words, more welfare. you know, what happens when people are put out of work by looms and automation? should they be given welfare and he decides not to be ideological about it but to test out how the laws are working in england and
goes through all the midlands of england and different counties have different welfare and dole and poor laws and he tries to do a correlation between making sure people can, you know, live a good life but also making sure they have an incentive to work. likewise, on the state tax he was very much in favor of an estate tax because he figured out and tested that in places where there was a higher estate tax more people were more motivated to work rather than live off of inherited wealth. so it was that type of notion of let the experiments be made that i think helped inform franklin and helped inform how we created our society. he also when he gets to london and then france, is great at balancing idealism and realism, something we're having trouble doing in our foreign policy today. because when he gets to paris
the beginning of the revolutionary war he realizes that we have to explain why we're in this revolution. he'd been one of the drafters of the declaration and a decent respect for the opinions of mankind. very first sentence. so when he gets to paris, what does he do? he builds a printing press and starts printing the wonderful documents coming out of america and all the ideals that america is fighting for. but he also knew there was a balance of power realist game so he worked with the french foreign minister to understand that if france comes in on our side in the war -- which is really just part of a centuries or hundred years of struggle between britain and france that if bourbon pact nations -- france, spain, the netherlands, will have -- it will help tip the balance of power to them, they'll get navigation rights on the mississippi, all of these
things, that notion of finding the right balance, that, too, comes from an appreciation for science, from newtonian mechanics but also for that notion of let the experiments be made. let's find the right balance. something i think if i may say we also aren't fully getting right in our day and age. you know, the main thing, too, was that if you combine all of these traits -- balance, a respect for evidence, tolerance or respect for diversity and inclusivity -- what you get is a sense that we have to work together and collaborate and sometimes that demands some compromise and treating well the opinions of others. as i said, he was on the commit -- committee right when he came back after i think 17 years off
and on -- mainly on in england. trying to hold the british empire together with america. he comes back to philadelphia. they're kind of wondering, is he going to come down on the side of independence or is he going to stay loyal to the crown? he has to first deal with his son who's a royal -- illegitimate son. they've had a good relationship but now his son is the royal governor of new jersey and they have a split and franklin comes down on the side of independence so they put him on that committee, the continental congress appoints in order to create that document addressed with a decent respect for the opinions of mankind, the declaration. and it may have been the last time congress created a good committee. [ laughter ] it has ben franklin on it, john adams on it, thomas jefferson is on it. thomas jefferson gets the write the first draft for reasons that bugged john adams but franklin
is thrilled that his young protege jefferson is doing it and one of the things you can see both as an editor but there's the notion of balance and compromise is the greatest sentence ever written, i think, by man, which is the second sentence of the declaration. you watch them write it collaboratively. and the very first draft which is in the library of congress jefferson starts "we hold these truths to be sacred." and you see benjamin franklin, his little heavy black printer's pen crossing it out with the back slashes the printer uses and he writes "self-evident" he writes, something that comes from scholars like hume. self-evident. sentence goes on they're endowed with certain inalienable rights. you see john adams' handwriting,
i think it is, "endowed by their creator." with certain inalienable rights. so you can see just in the editing of one half of one sentence this notion of collaboration requiring balance and compromise as they balance the role of divine providence and the role of rationality in getting to our rights and liberties. i was actually working at cnn when i was looking at the various drafts of the declaration and writing this part of the ben franklin book and i came in one morning after i was studying this a bit and it was 7:00 a.m. because we used to have meetings at an ungodly hour at cnn and somebody said "oh, we have a 'crossfire' show tonight." and i said, yeah. and it was -- there's a judge in alabama, he's put the 10 commandments on the steps of his courthouse and a federal judge says he has to take them down and he won't take them down so
they want to send in the federal marshals and everybody says, "great who are we going to have for the 10 commandments, who are we going to have arguing against the 10 commandments." i said great. and when i went back home late that evening and went back to working on the ben franklin biography i said, man, this is really bad. here we are watching the 10 commandments being used as a wedge issue to divide us is when the founders were just showing how to do that balance that used religion to bring us together not tear us apart. franklin also is wonderful at creating that notion of balance when it comes to the constitutional convention. once again he's come back put his last trip, 1787, back from europe, back mainly from paris, where he's negotiated the peace but stopping in england to see his exiled son and not reconciling with him fully but
he gets back and he's part of the constitutional convention. they have to carry him. four people carry him on a chair the two and a half blocks from his house on market street to what is now called independence hall. and in that hot summer of 1787, there were some of the greatest minds ever, of course, doing the constitution and you need when you're going to have great leadership doing a startup -- and make no mistake, this was the world's greatest startup they were doing in 1787 -- you need people who are passionate and visionary and have great ideas, people like a jefferson or a madison. you need people of great high rectitude who really people trust, like a george washington. you need people who are passionate like samuel adams and his cousin john adams but you also need that special type of person who can make everybody collaborate and make them come together and so after the
connecticut compromise has gone down in flames and it looks like the convention may break up on the big state/little state issue, whether there should be equal votes for state and congress or vote proportional to population in congress, how it was going to balance the role of being a collection of states in the national center, franklin finally gets up and he proposes that there be a house and a senate. a house with some proportional representation, he's the one who makes that motion that had been discussed before but he's the one who actualyy makes that motion and he gets up and he says, "i'm the oldest person here." he was not only the oldest person, his age in the early 80s was twice the average age of everybody else in the room. and he said "the older i get, something really strange happens to me i realize i'm wrong at times, i realize i'm fallible, i
realize i've made mistakes." he says "it's going happen to you, too, you're going to get older and realize that you're wrong." so, they were all in little round tables. "so look at the person at your table, look at them, think about what they're saying and realize that you may end up being wrong about some things and they may end up being right and he said when we were young tradesmen here in philadelphia and we had a joint of wood that didn't fit together you'd take some from one side and shave some from the other side and you had a joint that would hold together for centuries so we, too, here must each part with some of our demands. the notion that comes from tolerance and inclusivity and collaboration and humility, or at least the pretense of humility, is that compromisers may not make great heroes but they do make great democracies.
and so they all end up voting for, line up by state, do so and franklin looks at the back of washington's chair, said i often wondered whether that was a rising sun or a setting sun behind the general's chair but now i know it's a rising sun. as they walk out of the hall in philadelphia mrs. powell, one of the grand matrons of philadelphia comes up and famously says "what have you wrought in there, dr. franklin, what have you given us?" and he said "a republic, madam, if you can keep it." he knew it was up to each one of us to be able to pull it together, to keep it healthy even in a year like the year we're having now. [ laughter ] during his lifetime, benjamin franklin donated to the building fund of each and every church built in philadelphia. he believed that much in
inclusivity, that the strength of our nation was that we brought different types of people together. one of the great historians of america once said all franklin ever gave us is -- a dismissive sentence -- was the notion of a good natured religious and ethnic tolerance. look around the world today and think wow, that actually was a very important notion, not something to be dismissed. it's the key notion upon which it was built. so he donates to the building fund of each and every church built in philadelphia. at one point they were building a new hall in philadelphia for itinerant preachers who came during the great awakening. it's still to the left of your independence hall, it's still called the new hall, even though it was built way back. he wrote the fund-raising document for it and he said even if the mufti of constantinople were to send somebody here to preach islam to us and to teach
us about the prophet muhammad, we should offer a pulpit and listen because we might learn something. on his deathbed he's the largest contributor to the first synagogue built in philadelphia. so when he dies instead of his minister accompanying his casket to the grave, all 40 ministers, preachers and priests of philadelphia link arms with the rabbi of the jews and there and bring his casket to the grave. that's what they were fighting for back then and that's still what we're fighting for around the world and, yes, even here at home today. thank you all very much. [ applause ] thank you, thank you. come to the mike, i think people know the routine, the drill. i will answer questions.
yes, sir? >> you mentioned that when franklin arrives as a diplomat in france and england hes sort of disregarded his initial american enterprise. how did he use the collaborative nature of his being as a diplomat? how did that work in france and england? >> i'll do both. well, you know, in england he was part of that group of dr. johnson and all others, the coffeehouse group. and he realized that spreading the word through discussions, through being part of -- even though it was not yet a democracy in england that that was going to help. and his house on craven street, the thing we're celebrating now,
with his landlord, there would be that carriage there everyday, a small house, you have to visit it but he always tried to bring people together including -- i mean he said the empire is like a noble vase, once it gets broken it will be hard to put back together and so he had some of the great politicians but mainly he had the thinkers. he was the first to realize there was an intellectual class. people like dr. johnson, but david hume, others who were part of the salons that he created. when he went to france, first of all he learned french very well, unlike john adams who was also there, and on the suburbs of paris he creates his printing press he disparages john adams because he's too aloof and won't really be part of the people in paris. he says that john adams learned french by studying grammar books and that he, ben franklin, learned it by writing bagatelles, little poem to his mistresses and lounging on the
pillows while they corrected him. but also benjamin franklin was very into perceptions. you know how he rolls the carts of paper up and down the streets of philadelphia as a young printer so he can seem industrious. well, he wanted that impression in france, at least, of being sort of the frontier philosopher type. he knew that the french had read rousseau perhaps once too often and they sort of believed in the natural man and philosophers. so, when he comes to paris he is -- up until jerry lewis like the most famous person from america ever in paris because his lightning rod experiments were first proven correct in paris. so he comes to paris and he lands at the coast and they bring him in and people are lining the streets to see benjamin franklin because he realizes that part of making people work together is, indeed, publicity at times. you can't do it as a shy person in the corner.
and he wears a backwoods coat with a coonskin cap. here's a man who lived on market street and craven street in philadelphia and london. had barely ever been to the frontier except for once but he comes as sort of this frontier natural philisoph and he's brought to the steps of the academie francaise where he hugs voltaire and in some ways his collaboration is -- he's got a public policy network -- sort of the aspen institute of the time. yes, sir? >> you mention the nexus between franklin's scientific achievements and the enlightenment. how much of the enlightenment comes from newton, in fact, and the rationalism endured therein and how much from the theology of the time, if you could
address that. >> i'm not a true expert but i do believe newton is sort of -- for franklin at least the driving force, the good thing about newton's science was that it was very comprehensible and even analogous to things in real life, like every force has an equal and opposite reaction or that, you know, it's sort of force and mass and acceleration, they're rules and it makes it seem like okay, i get it, these rules may apply. and you can do experiments, you can test acceleration, you can test how force and mass work together so that is to me -- well, not to me, i'm not an expert, but to franklin that's sort of a foundation of the enlightenment. its's interesting because in those days the reason delay really loved science is because it was something the ordinary
person could understand, newtonian mechanics. i wrote about einstein. one of the downsides about einstein is he makes science seem -- you can't -- you know, the notion of uncertainty and relativity is not like newtonian physics where you have to be a genius to maybe understand how he could come up with calculus that describes motion but you can kind of grasp the concept of motion. so i would think that for people like franklin the notion of newtonian mechanics is the science that underlies the enlightenment. yes, sir? >> one of the many things benjamin franklin is known for is being an abolitionist. it's very complicated. that's something in his last year he took a very directed -- last years took a direct and active role in. earlier you would find advertisements for slaves in his newspapers and over a period of 40 years he owned several slaves himself.
can you talk about slavery? >> right. yeah, thank you for asking that. because it's truly important especially in this day and age and trying to figure out whether we take down statues of andrew jackson or whatever it may be. i'll start with his brother. benjamin franklin kept a ledger in his life of every error he made and how he tried to rectify it. the errata and the rectification. and it starts with running away from his brother as an apprentice and he rectifies it because when his brother dies he pays for the education of his brother's children. but as he gets to the end of his life there's one bigger error he made, a huge one, and he realizes which is as you said he allowed the advertisement of slavery in the pennsylvania gazette, his newspaper. for a while he had two household slaves although they kind of just wander off. it wasn't -- but he had owned slaves. he knew that.
and he realizes that that was abhorrent and worse yet at the convention this notion i told you about that compromises make great heroes, he signed on to the compromise that allows slavery. not to be mentioned in the constitution, it's not mentioned but it's implied in the constitution so how does he rectify that. it's a great errata. he becomes i think around age 80 the president of the society for the abolition of slavery he realizes he had just gotten it really badly wrong and he says so and he writes -- his very first hoax, as i told you, as a 15-year-old writing "i'm a woman very proud." his last hoaxes are things like a speech from the divan of algiers talking about how in the parliament of algiers the devon had said how important it was to
enslave white people because they were the only ones who can make the north african plantation -- whatever work and it was all the arguments they were using for slavery but just transposed for somebody from africa saying it about white people and he does quite a few of these written things and parodies to try to push the cause of abolition and i think it's important that we all remember as we look at history, these are real flesh-and-blood human beings, they make mistakes, they're flawed and the important thing is not to say, okay, these guys are perfect but to say they're human and that they recognize when they made mistakes and that they could change when they made a mistake as opposed to having to cling to i'll never apologize for anything i do. so i think franklin on slavery is actually inspirational even though it was something where he had to get his mind in the right place but it took him a while. >> you speak about franklin's --
the importance of his humility and built to compromise and work with others and i'm thinking about another book you wrote about an innovator, steve jobs, and these were not characters that came across at all. could you talk about that and the differences? >> i think it's important, when i wrote about steve jobs it also made me think okay, i want to do a book called "the innovators" because it's a book about collaboration, not the guy who goes in the garage and creates the apple 2. steve was very much of a collaborator in some ways. he and wozniak create a great team to do the original apple. he was a strong and sometimes difficult personality but the amazing thing about him was that even though everybody talked to me about -- you know, he was so difficult to work with, they all
said but i never would have given up the chance to work with him. it was the best thing ever. he drove me crazy, he drove me to distraction but he drove me to do things i didn't know i could do. and so, if you look at apple and his top people there even though he was a tough leader, they stick with him from like 1998 or so when he comes back until the present, you still have the johnny ives, the schillers, you know, these people have great genius who all want to stick around him. and i hope the book i wrote conveys by the end that don't try this being kind of tough on people at home unless you have the charisma and vision to be like steve jobs and cause people to want to walk through a wall for you, as they did. and so that's sort of the paradox in the book is how can he be so tough, as wozniak would say, or andy hertzfeld, why were you always so mean, but yet why
did you inspire a certain loyalty that very nice bosses don't always inspire. and i'll -- you know, when i asked him in his last year what was the product you were most proud of -- i thought he was going to say the ipod or iphone or ipad or apple or first macintosh, i don't know. he said "you weren't listening to me." he was kind of tough on me at times, too. he said "creating a great product can be hard. what's really hard is to create a great team that will always continue to create best product. so the best product i ever made was the team at apple." so he got the notion of collaboration, it's why the book had to be 600 pages. [ laughter ] because it's not all that simple of how he got from being a tough leader to being a collaborative leader. >> this will be our last
question. >> i'm sorry. i'm taking too long. >> hi. our team has just created a social media collaboration tool in which benjamin franklin is our chief inspiration officer. >> yay! >> so as -- >> as he was for america. >> and i'm a philly girl so he's my patron saint. as a distinguished publisher, innovator, civic activist, statesman and supreme collaborator, how do you think benjamin franklin today would grapple with the ugly destructive social media stuff that's going on out there especially in light of what's happening politically. thank you. >> next question. [ laughter ] did you have a question, actually? i will do both if you want and i'll get -- i think it's a good question and i want to formulate an answer but i don't want to be mean to you because you have something written down. >> i visited franklin's home in london and it was a few years
ago so i may be a little cloudy on this, his landlord's daughter -- >> polly stevens. >> polly, right. she was married to a doctor who was dissecting bodies -- >> and had bones in the basement, right? >> they found these bones and apparently he got infected by some disease which killed him eventually. >> killed him, meaning the husband to polly? >> polly's husband, right. so i know he was very close to his landlord and polly and his last trip home to america polly went back to america with him and was at his bedside when he died. was she like a daughter to him or something more? >> first of all i'm going to have marsha stand up one more time because people have questions about how i should talk to her and it's a good question and you're right about it. i'll do that and the social media. it was odd, he had a common law marriage with debra reid franklin in philadelphia and a daughter who was wonderful and
the son who he was estranged from at times but it's odd because he goes to london and almost replicates just having a family. i don't know and don't pretend to know what type of romantic relationships i think he actually just wanted people and a family around him. so he has that and polly is very close to him. he comes over when he's dying and there with him when he dies. on social media and other things. benjamin franklin believed very strongly that the free flow of ideas and free opinion of -- spread of ideas would empower people and eventually in a very raggedy way lead to more democracy, more liberties, more individual empowerment. he believed that if there were 11 papers there was room for a 12th. he believed nobody should control the free flow of information and he helped instill in america's dna by
bringing thomas paine over, for example, and helping payne print pamphlets like "common sense" and hand them out on the street corners. he was able -- and by the way, thomas paine, ben franklin, they're like the first bloggers, in a way, i mean, these are pamphleteers and they're spreading ideas. nowadays if you look at china, which is once again cracking down on the free flow of ideas, and you look at what the free flow of ideas is doing around the world, it is slowly and sometimes in a messy way bending the arc of history towards individual empowerment and democracy. and franklin felt that the countries and societies that were most comfortable with the free flow of information, most comfortable, not centering people, everybody stand on the street corner and put our their pamphlets and thomas paine's pamphlets were as rough and as bad as some things you'll see
on -- i won't mention whatever cable news show i'm thinking of. [ laughter ] but he believed that that was at the core of what was going to make a democracy strong in america so frankly, he would have loved it that there is a raucous flow of ideas and he probably would not have liked the days of journalism that i call the golden age in which there were three newsmagazines and two or three newspapers and three networks and the elite person there got to say that's the way it is and there was one source of information. he would like the spread of information. he would even like the notion of pseudonyms which we sometimes use in the internet it's more pure anonymity. but what he wouldn't like is the fact that there's a total loss of civility. and i think that comes from pure anonymity. it's somewhat an open question when he writes "poor richard" uses that pseudonym for the almanac.
or silence dogood or anthony afterwit or all the pseudonyms he uses, he basically knows though you're responsible for your own words. certainly people knew poor richard was benjamin franklin but he believed you took responsibility for your work. i think he would be appalled at the crassness that sometimes flows from the anonymity of our free press. he would believe everybody has the right to free expression, great not to have gatekeepers trying to say, you know, here's the information you get and here's the information you don't get, but he would have felt that that basic respect, that ability to sit down with other people and try to find the common ground, that was the goal of argumentation, not to divide us but to bring us together, and that required people to take responsibility for what they said so that's the change he would make in our society today.
thank you all. [ applause ] >> thank you. c-span 3's american history tv in primetime airs during this week's democratic convention. each night at 8:00 eastern time. tonight's theme is america's founding. leading off primetime, a look at the constitutional convention and the bill of rights. at about 9:00 p.m. we're calling the debate in 1789 about what to call our new nation's first elected leader. then author and journalist walter isaacson discusses the life and legacy of benjamin franklin. all of this coming up tonight on american history tv on c-span 3.
first time in our nation's history. that a woman will be a major party's nominee for the president of the united states! >> at the democratic national convention, hillary clinton becomes the first woman nominee of a major political party for president of the united states. starting at 4:00 p.m., live coverage of the 2016 democratic national convention in philadelphia. first lady michelle obama and senator bernie sanders scheduled to speak this evening. tuesday, former president bill clinton will address the convention. president obama and vice president biden will speak on wednesday. vice president nominee tim kaine will also address the convention. and chelsea clinton introduces
her mother before she accepts the nominee for president of the united states. coming up next on the presidency, author richard brookhiser discusses the constitutional convention and the debate over whether the documents should include a bill of rights. mr. brookhiser explores the conflicting opinions of founding fathers -- george mason, james madison, thomas jefferson and alexander hamilton -- while also addressing how the bill of rights were eventually ratified by the new states. the new york historical society hosted this hour-long event. so tonight's program is james madison, father of the constitution, and it's part of our carl menges lecture series in american history. i'd like to thank carl menges
for all his support and for helping us to create this series and for all he does as a valued member of new york historical society board of trustees, carl, thank you. [ applause ] i'd also like to recognize and thank trustees lon jacobs, cy sternberg and all our chairman's council members with us for all their great work and support as well, let's give them all a hand, too. [ applause ] so the program tonight will last an hour and include a question-and-answer session and there will be a formal book signing following the program and our speakers' books can be found in our museum store and he will be signing on the central park west side, and we are thrilled to welcome richard brookhiser, renowned historian and author back to the new york historical society. mr. brookhiser is a senior editor of national review as well as a columnist for american history.
in 2004, he acted as historian curator for new york historical's exhibit "alexander hamilton, the man who made modern america." and in 2008, mr. brookhiser received the national humanities medal. he has also written numerous books on revolutionary america, including the biography of james madison which is why we have him here tonight. before we begin, i'd ask that you please turn off cell phones, electronic devices for the duration of the program and now please join me in welcoming rick brookhiser. [ applause ] >> thank you all for coming. i was just speaking with carl menges and we were remembering that we had first met in 2002 when carl had a program at his alma mater, hamilton college,
about alexander hamilton, and we were saying we were early adapters and the world has certainly caught up with our interest in that respect. the first 10 amendments to the constitution which we know of as the bill of rights were ratified on december 15, 1791. so that was 224 years ago yesterday. and james madison was a major player in that story. and you will meet him in the course of the evening. but i want to begin with george mason, another virginian, and i want to begin on september 12, 1787. the constitutional convention has been meeting in philadelphia since the end of may with only one break. they have been hard at work. on september 12th, the committee of style gave them the final draft of the constitution.
all the provisions that they'd hammered out had been given to governor morris, delegate from pennsylvania, and he trimmed, polished, edited, wrote a lovely preamble and now it was on their desks for their final discussions and fixes. and on that day george mason was recognized and he said "we have not written a bill of rights. we haven't done it. we could look at the bills of right that the states have in their constitutions. it would only take, he said, a few hours to write one. so elbridge gerry of massachusetts moved that there be a committee to do so, mason seconded. there was only one speech by roger sherman of connecticut, he said the state bills are still in force, we don't need another one and the vote was unanimous. every state, including mason's
and gerry's voted no, to have no committee. so, on september 17th, the constitution was finally fixed, signed and it was sent to congress who would send it out to the states for ratification without a bill of rights. so what i want to talk about tonight is why mason suggested such a thing, why his colleagues, including james madison, hadn't done it, but how the bill of rights then came to be written and ratified and i'll have a few remarks about its later history. bills of rights were a feature of anglo american political thought and the beginning of it was said to be the magna carta, the great charter of 2015. we celebrated its 800th anniversary this year and this was a document that was signed by king john.
king john was very good at collecting taxes. he was very bad at waging foreign wars. he also had a reputation for cruelty. he probably wasn't crueller than most kings of the middle ages but he had the reputation for it. winston churchill in his history of the english-speaking peoples talks about the disappearance of one of john's rivals and he writes that "he was murdered by john's orders was not disputed at the time or afterwards. though whether he was mutilated or blinded beforehand remains unanswered." so the barons of england felt they were oppressed and misgoverned and they were at the verge of revolt. the compromise that prevented actual civil war was the magna carta or the great charter and
it is not a bill of rights as we would understand it today. it is a feudal contract between a king and his most important liege lords. it lays out his obligations to them, theirs to him. a lot of it is very detailed on medieval property questions. there's a lot about forestry law. there's a whole section on how to deal with wales which had been newly acquired by england. but there were several points that would later on become items of later english and american bills of rights. one provision said that no freeman shall betaken or imprisoned except by the lawful judgment of his peers now freeman there means a nobleman, it doesn't mean a wealthy commoner, even a wealthy one, but this does set up the principle of trial by jury,
judgment of his peers. it also says the lawful judgment of his peers so there's an implication of due process of law even as early as 1215. if you're going to be imprisoned or punished you have to be judged by your peers and there has to be some lawful reason for it. now, there would be many holes in this over the years but this principle is being laid down. magna carta also says barons can petition to have transgressions regressed. they can go to the king where their petitions, with their complains, and he has to listen to them, doesn't have to answer them, doesn't have to satisfy them but he has to listen to them and that again is a very important point, the right to petition about your grievances. the next step in this history is 1688. we have another unpopular king
in england, this is james ii. he was the last ng of the house of stewart. he had risen to the throne after the death of his older brother charles ii. now, charles and james agreed with each other on their policy positions. they were both catholics who were sympathetic to catholicism and they both believed in royal power. but charles was charming, cautious and lucky, and james was none of these things. charles only converted to catholicism on his deathbed. and although he had 20 children, none of them were legitimate so he wasn't going to pass on anything to his heirs. one of his -- his most popular girlfriend was the actress nell gwynn and she stopped a mob which was attacking her carriage by crying out "good people, i'm the protestant whore" so they left her alone. [ laughter ] now, james was an honest, earnest fo