c. 1775 | Pennsylvania

Let Us Now Praise a Famous Man

A tribute to the useful wizardry of Benjamin Franklin.

Would you believe that the great electrical discoveries of Mr. Franklin have not only preserved our barns and our houses from the fire of heaven but have even taught our wives to multiply their chickens? 

The invisible effects of the thunder are powerfully felt in the egg. If, while a hen is hatching, there happens a great storm, not one chicken will appear. (I can express myself but very imperfectly.) To prevent this electrical mischief, our wives, without going through a course of lectures, have been taught to place a piece of iron in the bottom of their hens’ nests in such a manner that it touches the ground. By what magic I know not, but all the mischief is prevented, and the eggs bring prosperous chickens. Can the name of that distinguished, useful citizen be mentioned by an American without feeling a double sentiment: that of the pleasure inspired by our calling him our countryman and that of gratitude? Before the erection of his iron conductors, the mischiefs occasioned in Pennsylvania and everywhere else by the thunder annually amounted to a great sum. Now everyone may rest secure. These rods fetch from the clouds (strange to tell) that powerful fire and convey it into the earth alongside the very house which it would have consumed had it accidentally fallen on its roof. Happy Pennsylvania! Thou Queen of Provinces! Among the many useful citizens thou hast already produced, Benjamin Franklin is one of the most eminent of thy sons.

From Letters from an American Farmer. Born in Normandy in 1735, Crèvecoeur served in the French and Indian War and went around some of the British colonies as a trader and surveyor before marrying an American-born woman and becoming a New York farmer in 1769. Crèvecoeur went back to France in 1780, and his Letters were published to wide acclaim in 1782. He returned a year later to his New York estate, Pine Hill, to find his house incinerated and his wife dead.