Ben Franklin, under the pseudonym of Silence Dogood, wrote a series of essays for the New-England Courant. His twelfth essay, released in September of 1722, pertains to the “Vice of Drunkeness,” or the pastime of being intoxicated. Franklin writes from an anti-alcohol perspective, while still trying to appease those that drink by including minor examples beneficial effects, even if they are exaggerated or sarcastic.
Franklin’s essay begins with examples of how alcohol can be both beneficial and detrimental to a person’s character. For example, he states that alcohol sometimes helps people become more charismatic. He writes, “Some who cannot ordinarily talk but in broken Sentences and false Grammar, do in the Heat of Passion express themselves with as much Eloquence as Warmth.” Franklin then proposes the non-desirable effects of alcohol when he writes, “’Tis
strange to see Men of a regular Conversation become rakish and profane when intoxicated with Drink.” Franklin continues his pattern by giving another positive effect of drinking when claiming, “Dic. Ponder discovers an excellent judgment when he is inspir’d with a Glass or two of Claret.” This example once again affirms positivity towards alcohol, that is, until Franklin continues with a counter-argument. The quote continues, “… but he passes for a Fool among those of small Observation, who never saw him the better for Drink.” By making a fool out of himself due to his alcohol, the example of “excellent judgment” is nullified. For most of Franklin’s examples that favor alcohol, he provides a counter-example against it. This conveys a negative attitude towards alcohol.
Any positivity towards alcohol is quickly followed by the detrimental effects. Franklin uses this style to show that intoxication may cause short term benefits – like increased charisma and excellent judgment – but generally leads to a downfall – such as rackish conversation and foolishness. This technique is effective, as it highlights the negatives of drinking that exceed the positives. Franklin’s view on alcohol, through the words of Silence Dogood, accurately represent the virtues he sought to follow. To Franklin, practicing temperance made him a better man. Due to this, he spread his ideas through Silence Dogood.