tv Benjamin Franklins Legacy CSPAN July 25, 2016 10:00pm-11:06pm EDT
today anymore either. and i think washington would say that part of the reason for that is the fractiousness and the self-interest that comes with parties. >> well, thank you so much. you've given us so much to think about during this election season. >> okay. >> it's really fantastic. we really appreciate it. we have a small gift from your alma mater, a token of our appreciation. appropriate for the occasion, a bust of george washington. >> oh, terrific! >> again, thank you so much. >> okay, well, thank you so much. i appreciate it very much. i really do. terrific. >> yeah. and thank you for this amazing turnout. again, we welcome everyone to the lobby of the museum. we'll have a book signing, refreshments, and more good cheer. >> thank you so much, everybody, for coming tonight. i appreciate it. thank you.
[ applause ] okay. >> american history tv on c-span 3 continues tuesday night. starting at 8:00 p.m. eastern, a look at mismanagement of the u.s. nuclear arsenal from 1945 to 1950. after that the evolution of military weapons technology from napoleon to the military drones used today. and also a discussion about the 6,000 american soldiers captured during the siege of charleston in the revolutionary war. american history tv is on c-span each night this week, starting at 8:00 eastern. the democratic national convention from philadelphia starts today. watch live every minute on c-span. listen live on the free c-span radio app. it's easy to download from the
apple store or google play. watch live on demand anytime at c-span.org. on your desktop, phone or tablet, where you'll find all of our convention coverage and the full convention schedule. follow us at c-span on twitter and like us on facebook to see video of newsworthy moments. watch every minute of the 2016 democratic national convention starting today on c-span, the c-span radio app, and c-span.org. and this fall on c-span the presidential debates between hillary clinton and donald trump. the first of the three debates is monday september 26th at hofstra university in hempstead, new york. that debate is live here on c-span along with the other debates on sunday october 9th and wednesday october 19th. "washington journal" is live from the democratic national
convention in philadelphia. coming up tuesday morning, after the first day of the democratic convention, morning call washington correspondent laura olson will preview day two, including hillary clinton's expected formal nomination by roll call vote. and lead plaintiff in the ohio same-sex marriage case oebar ga fel v. hodges, james obergafel will talk about his role in the historic case and the role of lgbt rights and marriage equality in the 2016 political debate. also, new orleans mayor and u.s. conference of mayors vice president mitch landrieu will join steve benjamin, mayor of columbia, south carolina and dnc platform committee member, to talk about gun violence and police community relations. be sure to watch c-span's "washington journal" live from the democratic national convention beginning at 7:00 a.m. eastern tuesday morning. next on american history tv, author and journalist walter isaacson discusses the life and
legacy of founding father benjamin franklin. isaacson argues that franklin's innovation, networking methods, and passion for science epitomized what he calls "america's national character." the new york historical society hosted this program. it's a little over an hour. tonight's program, "benjamin franklin: american democracy and innovation," is the 2016 benjamin franklin house robert h. smith lecture in american democracy. we're proud, indeed, to partner with london's benjamin franklin house in bringing this lecture to our institution. benjamin franklin house is the only surviving former residence of benjamin franklin, today a marvelous museum and educational center, that inspires and motivates young londoners as well as general visitors through the example of our great american founder and innovator. the museum is a georgian terrace
house at 26 craven street, very centrally located. so on your next visit to london, i know you will want to stop there. i'm very glad, indeed, to recognize and congratulate the museum's founding director, dr. marcia baliciano, who is with us this evening representing benjamin franklin house. thank you, marcia. [ applause ] and i am also very glad to recognize and thank for all of her efforts on behalf of this institution as well as benjamin franklin house, benjamin franklin house trustee anita wean. thank you, anita. [ applause ] some of you might be curious about the coincidence of names, this beautiful space, the robert h. smith auditorium, and this august lecture, the benjamin franklin house, robert h. smith lecture in american democracy. robert h. smith was, among much else, the visionary developer of
crystal city just outside washington, d.c., which is today one of the district's most fabulous, young, hip and hopping neighborhoods. but bob smith was above all else a grateful american who did an enormous amount of good for institutions like ours and like the benjamin franklin house. it was he who first brought our two institutions together, and i know that he would have been really, really pleased to know that tonight's lecture is taking place here in this auditorium, which he very much envisaged as being used precisely as we're using it this evening, for a lecture that will surely engage us in the enjoyment of learning about american history. and i can surely say surely because walter isaacson, the celebrated journalist and biographer, is our lecturer this evening.
we're pleased indeed to welcome mr. isaacson back to the new york historical society. mr. isaacson is the president and ceo of the aspen institute, a non-partisan educational and policy studies institute. during his prolific career as a journalist mr. isaacson has served as chairman and ceo of cnn and as the editor of "time" magazine. he's the author of many books, including "benjamin franklin: a life" and his most recent published in 2014, "the innovators: how a group of hackers, geniuses and geeks created the digital revolution." tonight's program will last about an hour, and it will include a question-and-answer session. there will be no formal book signing this evening, but mr. isaacson's books will be available in our museum store kiosk just outside this auditorium. before we begin, as always, i'd like to ask that you please make sure that anything that makes a noise, like a cell phone, is switched off.
and now, please do join me in welcoming walter isaacson to the stage. [ applause ] >> thank you very much. and it's wonderful to be back, especially on behalf of the benjamin franklin house, and to talk about of all the biography subjects i've ever written the one who's my favorite, of course, dr. benjamin franklin. this all started, and i like seeing marsia and michelle sitting together -- at least my involvement started when i was researching benjamin franklin. i would be over in london quite a bit. and i realized that the only house still standing in which benjamin franklin lived was a house on craven street, right behind whitehall, near parliament, near trafalgar square. and it wasn't renovated at all. it was pretty much an abandoned place, and there were people trying to make it into a museum for benjamin franklin. i happened to know robert h. smith, who had helped with
monticello, mt. vernon, all the great founders. and i said to him, let's have breakfast, because he had an apartment in the savoy, was it, hotel, which is only maybe what we would call four blocks from benjamin franklin house. he had breakfast and he agreed to be one of the major funders. michelle, his daughter who is sitting there who happens to be on my board of directors at the aspen institute. said never again will i allow you to have breakfast with my father. but we do believe, as anita, who is on the board of the ben franklin house, can attest, that it was a wise investment and dr. franklin would thank you. i'm going to talk tonight about franklin, talk about his relevance today as well as an innovator, but i'm going to do it, if you don't mind, just as story-telling, just to go through the stories about ben franklin and try to draw the lessons from them. i had thought about making it here's 12 things you need to know from benjamin franklin, but when i was growing up, i had a
mentor who said that two types of people come out of louisiana, preachers and storytellers. and he said, for god's sake, be a storyteller, the world has too many preachers, and it's the best way to get the lessons across anyway. as you probably know, benjamin franklin was born in boston. edit the tenth son of a puritan immigrant. and as the tenth son of a puritan he was going to be his father's tithe to the lord. his father was going to send him to harvard to study to become a minister. that was a long time ago, back when harvard knew how to train ministers more than hedge fund managers. but benjamin franklin was not exactly cut for the cloth. at one point they were salting away the provisions for the winter at his father's house and he said to his father, how about if i say grace over them right now, and we can get it done with once and for all for the entire year? so his father realized it would
be a waste of money to send him to harvard to be a minister. so he did the next best thing, or perhaps something even better, which is he apprenticed benjamin to his older brother, james, who had a publishing house and a newspaper. so benjamin franklin without a formal education, and i hate to mention this because sometimes i get asked to give graduation speeches and it's very difficult because whether it's steve jobs or albert einstein or benjamin franklin or bill gates or mark zuckerberg, anybody i write about, they all run away or drop out before they graduate. so benjamin franklin is apprenticed to his brother, and he teaches himself by pulling down the books from the shelf of his brother's publishing house and book store in boston. and it's addison and steele's essays and "the spectator" and publications from the great
essayists of london. and what franklin does is chops them all up, cuts them up and distributes the paragraphs around and then tries to put them back in a better order so he can teach himself how to write. he said that he was never quite sure that he became a great writer, but in fact what he does is he becomes the best home-spun humor writer, i think, in american history. his brother, who i mentioned was an older brother, and being an older brother would not let franklin write for the newspaper. so franklin ends up writing under a pseudonym, silence dogood. he puts a pen name on it and slips the essays he does under the door of his brother's print shop. and the brother and his friends. running the print shop in the new england courier newspaper. i have no idea where they're coming from. and franklin has put on the
persona of a widowed, elderly woman living in the countryside of massachusetts and writing these essays. the triumph of the imagination, a kid who was then 15 years old and never left boston, but writing in this voice. and it's a distinctly american voice. she begins and introduces herself in the first of the silence dogood columns in the "new england current" by saying "let me introduce myself. i'm a woman of strong national sentiments." "i really reject the notion of privilege, and i have a protective feel about all my rights. that's how you know i'm an 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 mathers, cotton mather and increase mather 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 genteelly, 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 ben, 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 presbyterians and episcopals and jews 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, as philadelphia means, where you saw a diversity of people trying, people who are all immigrants, including anglicans and 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 middling people," meaning the middle class people of philadelphia. and he even starts a cloth, what
he calls the leather apron club, 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 club, was they made a set of rules and maxims for how to be a good startup 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 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. 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 inculcate 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 club 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 of people of diverse backgrounds that set america apart from every other society of that time. and so, he tries to do this notion of forming associations voluntarily. toqueville, of course, writes about this. i've never been actually, if i can admit it here, a big fan of toqueville. 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 associations, that they do things like the
leather apron club or the volunteer fire department or barn-raising or quilting bees. he said because they're so individualistic, 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 associations 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 i. d. terl is here and she runs global area and we were talking about the program she puts together 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 in high school and college but they had a 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 anyone who invented them-w 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 the first computer was at the university of pennsylvania. eniac. now, if you tried to be a romantic biographer, you might jump shot john atanasof, there's somebody in iowa state who create aid logical circuit, came
up aw. a lot of the ideas of the computer something, people say he's the inventor of the computer. you can find many people in history who people say that person should be given the most credit. the problem with atanasof is he was not a collaborator. he did things on his own. he didn't have a team around him. he used to whenever he had a problem just 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 atanasoff was doing, caused 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 he gets press eckert, you know, a great engineer and mechanic whose grandfather invented the turkish taffy 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.d.s 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 research universities like iniac had starred, and the defense department wanted them to network together and created the notion of a packet switch network and then told the 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 packet 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 header 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. the rfc process is now up to number 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 associations. 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 conducting, 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 grand 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 that's so 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 dottering 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 there were 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 electric charges, static electricity, they're collecting it in batteries, putting it on out wires and doing all these tricks. he figures out it's not two different fluids as they had thought at the time but it's a single fluid that goes from negative to -- 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 had -- at what we now call franklin house there, peter colinson. 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 will fall to the ground and break. i need to know how to put use to such theories. so at the end of that 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 the 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, that they're jagged, that they have a sulfurous smell and then he says, okay, they seem to be the same thing. 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 keep
saying i'm going to have as my mistress experience and experiment. over and over again, he says let the experiment be made. that's pretty obvious. actually, it's not obvious these days. but up until recently it used to be obvious that the scientific method was something you used and you had a theory and you tested it and then you looked at the data and you would find your theory. and that was the scientific method that we all got from the age of hook and galileo and the various -- but it starts to some extent with people like leonardo and the renaissance. but for franklin it ties in to the whole concept of the enlightenment. which is you have to understand science to understand society, that there are social sciences as well as natural sciences. and he would have thought you a philistine if you knew all the humanities and you know 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. but we kind of 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 and a 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 that 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 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 laws? 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 estate 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 that are 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 400 years of struggle between britain and france, that the bourbon pact nations, spain, france, the netherlands, will have -- it will help hip 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, for 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, a 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 committee right when he came back from franklin, craven street, 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 that 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 to write the first draft for reasons that bug 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 it says "self-evident," he writes, something that comes from hume, the other scholars of the enlightenment, newton, this notion of self-evident truths. sentence goes on they're endowed with certain inalienable rights. you see john adams's handwriting, i think it is, it says "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, judge moyne, he's put the 10 commandments on the steps of his courthouse and a federal judge has said he has to take them down. he's not going to 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? we've got a great "crossfire." 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. you know, here we are watching the ten commandments being used as a wedge issue to divide us, 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 chaise, 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 that summer 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 per 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 actually makes that motion, and he gets up, and he says, "i'm the oldest person here." he was actually not only the oldest person, his age in his early 80s was twice the age, 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 you're going to realize that you may have been 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 quite 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 it, line up by state to 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 walked 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. 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, charles angov, 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 is the key notion upon which it was built. so he donates to the building built in philadelphia, and 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. and he wrote the fund-raising document for it and began by saying, 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 we should listen, for we might learn something. and on his death bed, he was the largest individual contributor to the mikveh synagogue, 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 rabbis and the jews 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. why don't you all come to the mikes and i'll -- thank you. thank you. come to the mike. i think people know the routine, the drill, and i will answer questions. yes, sir. >> you'd mentioned that when franklin arrives as a diplomat in france and in england he sort of disregarded his initial american enterprise.
how did he use the collaborative nature of his being as a diplomat? i mean, how did that work in france and in england? >> well, i'll do both. you know, in england he was part of that group of dr. johnson and all others, the coffee house group, and he realized that spreading the word through discussions, you know, through being part of the company, even though it was not yet a democracy yet in england. that that was going to help. and his house on craven street, the thing we're celebrating now, with mrs. stevenson as the landlord, there would be that carriage there, and every day somebody would be there, small house. you got to go visit it. but he always, sort of, tried to bring people together, including -- and he said the empire is like a noble vase. once it gets broken, it is going to be hard to put together. and, so, he had some of the
great politicians, but mainly he had the thinkers. he was the first to realize that there was an intellectual class. i mean people like dr. johnson, but david hume and others, 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 in poci, as i said, which is right on the suburbs of paris, is where he creates his printing press, he disparages john adams because he is too aloof in what would 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 poems to his mistresses, and lounging on the pillows while they corrected him. but also benjamin franklin, as i said, 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 could 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 the philosophers. so when he comes to paris, he is -- you know, up until jerry lewis, like the most famous person from america ever in paris because of his lightening rods 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. i mean, you can't do it as a shy person in the corner. and he wears a backwoods coat with a coon skin cap. now, here is a man who had lived on market street and craven street, you know, in philadelphia, london. had barely ever been to the frontier, except for once, when, you know. but he comes as sort
of this frontier natural philosof and he is brought to the steps of the academy france where he then hugs voltaire. so in some ways his collaboration is through an intellectual and public policy intellectual networking type, sort of the aspen institute of this time. yes, sir? >> you mention a nexus between franklin's scientific achievements and the enlightenment. how much of the enlightenment comes from newton, in fact, and that rationalism and gender therein and then how much of the theology of the time? if you could address that. >> yeah. i'm not a true expert, but i do believe newton is, you know, 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 and these rules might actually apply, you know, to places, and you can do experiments. you can test acceleration. you can test, you know, how force and masses work together. so that is, to me -- or not to me, because i'm not an expert. but to franklin that sort of a foundation of the enlightenment. and it's interesting because in that day and age, the reason franklin and jefferson and most of the other great founders really loved science is because it was something that the ordinary person could kind of understand, newtonian mechanics. i wrote about einstein, and one
of the downsides of einstein is he makes science like, whoa, you can't quite understand the quantum uncertainty and relativity is not like newtonian physics where you have to be a genius to maybe understand how he could come up with a calculus that describes motion, but you can kind of grasp the concepts of motion. so i would think for people like franklin the notion of newtonian mechanics is the science that underlies the enlightenment. yes, sir? >> one of the many things that benjamin franklin is known for is being an abolitionist. it's very complicated. that's something in his last year -- last years took and active role in. earlier you would find advertisements for slaves in his newspapers and over a period of 40 years, he owned several
himself. can you talk about slavery? >> yeah. thank you for asking that because it's truly important, especially in this day and age when we're 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 eratta and the rectification. and it starts with running away from his brother as an apprentice, and he rectifies it because when he dies he pays for the education of his brother's children. but as he gets to the end of his life, there is one big error he made, a huge one, and he realizes it, 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. you know, it wasn't -- 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 heros, he had signed onto the compromise that allowed slavery. not to be mentioned in the constitution. it's not mentioned, but it's implied, permitted in the constitution. so how does he rectify that? 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 -- you know very first hoax is a silence do-gooder as a 15-year-old writing, you know, i'm a women
very proud of my -- his last hoaxes are things like a speech from the devon of algiers talking about how in the parliament of algiers -- he had this published in the newspaper, the devon had said how important it was to enslave white people because they were the only one that could make the north african plantation 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 say they are human and that they recognize when they make mistakes and that they could change when they made mistakes as opposed to having to cling to i will 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 and it took him a while. >> you speak about franklin, the importance of his humility and his ability 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?
>> yeah. i think it's important. i mean, you know, when i wrote about steve jobs, it also made me think, okay, that's why i want to do a book called innovators. it's about collaboration, not the guy who goes into the garage and creates the apple two. steve was very much of a collaborator in some ways. he and wozniak and then they created 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 know, you still have the johnny ives, the shellers, eddy q's, these people of 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, you know, kind of tough on people at home, unless you have the charisma and the 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 one of the paradox in the book is how could you be so tough as wozniak would say or andy herzfeld, 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 i-pod or the iphone or i-pad or apple or first macintosh. i don't know. he said you weren't listening to me. he was quite tough on me at times, too. he said creating a conduct, a great product, can be hard. but what's really hard is to create a great team that will continue always to create great product. so the best thing, best product i ever made, was the team at apple. so he got the notion of collaboration. it's why the book has to be 600 pages, 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. >> yeah. 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. >> yeah. >> so as -- >> as he was for america. >> i'm a phili girl, so he's my
patron saint. as a distinguished publisher, innovator, civic activist, statesman and really supreme collaborator, how do you think benjamin franklin today would grapple with the really ugly social media stuff going out there, especially in light of what's going on politically? thank you. >> thank you. next question? did you have a question, actually? i will do both, if you want. i will get -- i think it's a good question you asked. 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. it's a few years ago, so i may be a little cloudy on this. but his landlord's daughter -- >> mrs. poly stevens. >> poly, right. she was married to a doctor who was dissecting bodies. >> correct. and had bones in the basement, right? >> right. they found these bones, and, apparently, he got
infected by some disease which killed him eventually. >> killed him meaning the husband of poly, not ben franklin. >> right. poly's husband, right. so i know he was very close to his landlord, and -- and poly. and then in his last trip home to america he -- poly went back to america with him and was at his bedside when he died. was she like a daughter to him or something more than that? >> first of all, i am going to have marsha stand up one more time. it is a good question, and you are right about it. i'll do that and the social media. he -- it was odd. he had a common law marriage with deborah franklin, deborah reed franklin in philadelphia and a daughter, who was wonderful, and the son who he was estranged from at times. i told you that. 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, you know, what type of romantic relationships. i think he actually just wanted