Interview with Benjamin Franklin

benjaminfranklin (Photo Courtesy of brainpickings.org)

Interview with Benjamin Franklin

I smoothed the crinolines under my skirt after stepping out of the coach, hoping the state of my nerves was not obvious as the wrinkles. My family owned a newspaper, but my father was most unhappy about my interest in journalism. He did not feel women should pursue any endeavors outside of the home. Nonetheless, I wished to be a journalist. Thankfully, Benjamin Franklin was forward thinking enough to indulge my desire to interview him.

A distinguished looking Negro butler answered the door and graciously invited me inside. I followed him to the study, where Mister Franklin waited. He offered a chair and tea, and once a cup was in my hand the butler excused himself, and I was alone with the subject of my interview.

Franklin gazed at me over his wire-rimmed glasses, an impish grin crossing his puffy face. “You are quite brave, my dear. Pursuing a career in journalism at such a young age is nothing short of scandalous in these times.” He chuckled, “But I like scandalous… so where shall we begin?”

My throat was drier than I’d ever experienced, I gulped a bit of tea, then opened my notebook.  “Mr. Franklin, much has been written about your life and your pursuits, I would like to concentrate on your reflections of your life. Could you tell me what in your life has brought you the most joy?”

“Besides enjoying the intimate company of a beautiful woman?” He paused, expecting me to blush. I prayed I had not done so, although my cheeks felt somewhat warm. His eyes sparkled for a brief second, then he became serious.

“Many things have provided happiness in my long life.” He tented his fingers, lost in thought before he spoke again. “I have to say, fooling my brother James when I wrote the Mrs. Silence Dogood letters was great fun. He was most unhappy when he learned I created her and used her to promote my own thoughts.” Franklin chuckled, “I am convinced he was more embarrassed the Widow Dogood received marriage proposals from the men he felt I had deceived.”

“Are you embarrassed by your behavior, Mr. Franklin?”

“Heavens, no, it was way too much fun.”

“What are the other joys in your life, sir?”

“My family, my beloved wife Deborah… we were common-law husband and wife. She couldn’t remarry after her husband’s disappearance. She gave me two fine children and welcomed my illegitimate son William into the family. My regret is she never accompanied me to Europe, too afraid of the water.” His eyes wandered to the windows, “I miss her.”

Hoping to reestablish his jovial mood, I asked, “I would like to know more about your fascination with science. I, too, am interested in science.”

“How does your father feel about that?”

“I think you can imagine, sir, but this interview is about you. What prompted your love of science?”

“I have an inquisitive nature, meddling nature my wife would call it. I love to observe, to tinker, to invent. I owe German scientist Otto von Guericke a great deal of gratitude for my early studies of electricity. I have dabbled in so many areas, oceanography, meteorology, but creating the lightning rod was exciting.”

“Did you really stand outside during a lightning storm with a kite in your hand to prove your theory of electricity?”

Franklin laughed, “I’ll never tell. Frenchman Thomas-François Dalibard conducted the experiment I proposed using a tall iron rod instead of the kite and elicited sparks from a cloud. I may or may not have done the experiment myself, as I said, not telling. If I did, believe me, I would have been very careful. Too many fools died doing the experiment without proper thought.”

“You founded a newspaper empire and help found a country, which accomplishment are you most proud of now?”

“Both have brought great pleasure, but I must say I wonder whether two hundred, three hundred years henceforth if anyone remembers the so-called Founding Fathers. George Washington yes, I think he will be remembered. He’s vain enough to hope so anyway, but the rest of us, maybe. The important legacy is for this nation to survive. That’s all I hope for.”

“Do you have any regrets, Mister Franklin?”

His eyes darkened, his voice soft as he spoke, “I failed one of my sons by not inoculating him with a dose of small-pox to provide him the strength to fight the disease. He became ill the conventional way and succumbed at five years of age. I regret my inaction bitterly to this day. He didn’t have to die.”

Listening to Mister Franklin’s painful recollection of losing his son, my heart broke. I decided to ask one last question I hoped would bring him past the sadness. “What is your hope for the future of this new country and its citizens?”

“I have been writing my autobiography and I discuss the various virtues I believe we should live by, temperance, order, frugality, sincerity, justice among them. I certainly don’t practice all of them, at least to the extent I should, but they are virtues we should strive for and benefit from.”

It was time for me to leave, “Mister Franklin, thank you for your kindness in agreeing to my interview. I will send you a copy before the story is published.”

“My dear I wish you well. Stay strong against the wishes of your father and follow your dreams. Do not, however, forget to consider my virtues.”

I smiled at this wonderfully kind and complex man, “I will never forget you, and I suspect neither will history.”

page-divider

This ‘interview’ was written in response to an exercise for Fiction Writers Boot Camp on Facebook. The exercise was to interview a historical figure. The purpose to develop dialogue skills. Fiction Writers Boot Camp was created to address the fundamentals of writing. https://www.facebook.com/groups/674413989356676/

Information regarding Benjamin Franklin sourced at:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Franklin

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Interview with Benjamin Franklin”

  1. I loved this whole idea and due to your wonderful writing, I became very fond of both Benjamin Franklin and the young lady interviewing him, who I can imagine being you!!! The reference to his wife and to his young son whose early death due to lack of inoculation against small-pox…..you made this character so real with this hon and brought tears to my eyes. Great piece of work.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s