Franklin Prophecy

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"The Franklin Prophecy", sometimes called "The Franklin Forgery", is an antisemitic speech falsely attributed to Benjamin Franklin, warning of the supposed dangers of admitting Jews to the nascent United States. The speech was purportedly transcribed by Charles Cotesworth Pinckney during the Constitutional Convention of 1787, but was unknown before its appearance in 1934 in the pages of William Dudley Pelley's Silver Legion pro-Nazi weekly magazine Liberation. (Pinckney wrote that he had kept a journal of the Convention, but it has never been found, and Pelley's claims that it was printed privately, and that the Franklin Institute has a manuscript copy, are unsubstantiated.)

Authenticity[edit]

Despite having been repeatedly discredited since its first appearance, the "prophecy" has proved a remarkably durable antisemitic canard. It has appeared most recently as a popular internet hoax promulgated on Usenet groups and antisemitic websites, where it is presented as authentic. On February 18, 1998, a member of the Fatah Central Committee revived this myth and mistakenly referred to Franklin as a former President of the United States.[1] Osama Bin Laden used this canard briefly in his October 2002 "Letter to the American People".[2] While its author is not known, many who have investigated the "prophecy" suspect Pelley of having penned it himself.

The U.S. Congress report Anti-Semitism in Europe: Hearing Before the Subcommittee on European Affairs of the Committee on Foreign Relations (2004) states:

The Franklin "Prophecy" is a classic anti-Semitic canard that falsely claims that American statesman Benjamin Franklin made anti-Jewish statements during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. It has found widening acceptance in Muslim and Arab media, where it has been used to criticize Israel and Jews...[3]

Franklin was a friend to the Jews of 18th-century America,[4] and contributed toward the building of Philadelphia's first permanent synagogue.[5]

Similar false antisemitic quotations have been attributed to George Washington and have been debunked.[6] In 1790, in a marked sign of religious tolerance, Washington sent a letter to the Jewish community in Rhode Island, writing "May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid."[7]

Use of 19th- and 20th-century antisemitic terminology (an anachronism) shows that the supposed "Franklin Prophecy" is a forgery, as Benjamin Franklin died in 1790.[8]

Elements of the speech[edit]

The setting for the purported speech is a dinner table discussion recorded by Charles Cotesworth Pinckney during the convention of the Continental Congress. Primarily, it is a polemic arguing against admitting Jewish immigration into the newly formed country. Among the points made are the following.

  • They (the Jews) will amass in the United States in large numbers and change the government.
  • They are vampires and will make Ben Franklin and his audience's descendants toil in the fields for their own benefit.
  • They will not integrate into the larger society.
  • They are derisive toward and will undermine the Christian religion.
  • They pine to return to Palestine, but would never go there to live if given a chance.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Franklin 'Prophecy': American Anti-Semitic Myth Finds Acceptance in Arab World", Anti-Defamation League. March 20, 2002.
  2. ^ "Full text: bin Laden's 'letter to America'", The Guardian. November 24, 2002.
  3. ^ Anti-Semitism in Europe: Hearing Before the Subcommittee on European Affairs of the Committee on Foreign Relations. United States Congress. Senate. Committee on Foreign Relations. Subcommittee on European Affairs. 2004. p. 69.
  4. ^ "The Franklin "Prophecy": Modern Anti-Semitic Myth Making", Facts. Anti-Defamation League. April–May 1954. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  5. ^ "Our History". Mikveh Israel. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  6. ^ "To Bigotry, No Sanction". Snopes. March 19, 2011.
  7. ^ Hirschfeld, Fritz (2005). George Washington and the Jews. University of Delaware Press. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-87413-927-3. Retrieved January 31, 2006. 
  8. ^ "Anti-Semitic Myth: The Franklin "Prophecy"". Adl.org. Retrieved 2013-02-01. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Allen, Henry Butler. "Franklin and the Jews." The Franklin Institute News. Vol.III, No.4, August 1938, pp. 1–2.
  • Beard, Charles A. “Exposing the Anti-Semitic Forgery about Franklin.” Jewish Frontier. New York, March 1935, pp. 1–13.
  • Boller, Paul F., and John George. They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.
  • Boyd, Julian P. “Society News and Accessions.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. Vol 61. April, 1937, pp. 233–234.
  • Kominsky, Morris. The Hoaxers: Plain Liars, Fancy Liars, and Damned Liars. Branden Press: 1970.
  • Lopez, Claude-Anne. “Prophet and Loss.” The New Republic. January 7, 1997.
  • Pelley, William Dudley, ed. “Did Benjamin Franklin Say this About the Hebrews?” Liberation. Vol 5, No.24. February 3, 1934.

External links[edit]