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. No evidence exists for the document's authenticity, and some of the author's claims have actively been disproven.

The speech[edit]

The setting for the speech is a dinner table discussion purportedly 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 United States. The text is as follows:[1]

"There is a great danger for the United State of America. This great danger is the Jew. Gentlemen, in every land the Jews have settled, they have depressed the moral level and lowered the degree of commercial honesty. They have remained apart and unassimilated; oppressed, they attempt to strangle the nation financially, as in the case of Portugal and Spain.

For more than seventeen hundred years they have lamented their sorrowful fate — namely, that they have been driven out of their mother land; but, gentlemen, if the civilized world today should give them back Palestine and their property, they would immediately find pressing reason for not returning there. Why? Because they are vampires and vampires cannot live on other vampires --they cannot live among themselves. They must live among Christians and others who do not belong to their race.

If they are not expelled from the United States by the Constitution within less than one hundred years, they will stream into this country in such numbers that they will rule and destroy us and change our form of Government for which we Americans shed our blood and sacrificed our life, property and personal freedom. If the Jews are not excluded within two hundred years, our children will be working in the field to feed Jews while they remain in the counting houses, gleefully rubbing their hands.

I warn you, gentlemen, if you do not exclude the Jews forever, your children and your children’s children will curse you in their graves. Their ideas are not those of Americans, even when they lived among us for ten generations. The leopard cannot change his spots. The Jews are a danger to this land, and if they are allowed to enter, they will imperil our institutions. They should be excluded by the Constitution."

Authenticity[edit]

According to Pelley, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney wrote that he had kept a journal of the Convention, but it has never been found; no evidence exists for Pelley's claim that it was printed privately. The Franklin Institute has rejected Pelley's claims that it owns a manuscript copy of the speech.[2]

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,[1] and contributed toward the building of Philadelphia's first permanent synagogue.[4] The Anti-Defamation League noted that the reference to a return to Palestine was an anachronism, since the modern Zionist movement did not arise until nearly a century after Franklin's death.[1]

Similar antisemitic quotations have been attributed to George Washington and have been disproven.[5] 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."[6]

Usage[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.[7] Osama Bin Laden used this canard briefly in his October 2002 "Letter to the American People".[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "The Franklin "Prophecy": Modern Anti-Semitic Myth Making", Facts. Anti-Defamation League. April–May 1954. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  2. ^ Benjamin Franklin vindicated: an exposure of the Franklin "prophecy" by American Jewish Congress, 1938, p. 9-10 via Archive.org
  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. ^ "Our History". Mikveh Israel. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  5. ^ "To Bigotry, No Sanction". Snopes. March 19, 2011.
  6. ^ Hirschfeld, Fritz (2005). George Washington and the Jews. University of Delaware Press. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-87413-927-3. Retrieved January 31, 2006. 
  7. ^ "The Franklin 'Prophecy': American Anti-Semitic Myth Finds Acceptance in Arab World", Anti-Defamation League. March 20, 2002.
  8. ^ "Full text: bin Laden's 'letter to America'", The Guardian. November 24, 2002.

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]