Silence Dogood Letter #12

Kally Morse

Professor Allison

CI-H133: Creating America

3 February 2016

  Silence Dogood Letter #12

During his apprenticeship at James Franklin’s printing shop, Benjamin Franklin took up a pseudonym by the name of Silence Dogood. This identity was used as a means to get published in his brother’s paper, The New England Courant, as sixteen-year-old Franklin knew that his older brother would never publish his works.

Silence Dogood was a fictional widow of a “Reverend master” with three children. Franklin’s pseudonym penned fourteen letters to the New England Courant between April and October of 1722. The essays focused on various topics, including drunkenness, women’s education and many other talking points of that time, eliciting positive receptions from the Courant’s audience.

In Silence Dogood’s twelfth letter, Franklin discusses drunkenness as a vice and shares Silence’s observations of it in a rather ironic tone. He claims that those who drink in moderation do so for the “Talent of a ready Utterance” where they’re able to discover their thoughts in a comprehensible manner. Franklin states that the consumption of alcohol “ does not improve our Faculties, but it enables us to use them,” and notes that alcohol can be used to help people become successful orators.

However, Franklin has a different view for those who drink for the sake of drunkenness. He claims that those who consume excess do not receive enjoyment, but rather descend “to Impertinence and Nonsense” while drunk.  He asserts that drunkards maintain “only the Shape of a Man, and [act] the Part of a Beast.” Franklin continues to observe the ways in which being intoxicated can affect a person’s demeanor. For example, he states, “’tis strange to see Men of a regular Conversation become rakish and profane when intoxicated with Drink” and continues with observations of how liquor affects religious views and the imagination. He identifies that “the Effects of Liquor are various, so are the Characters given to its Devourers.”

Franklin explains that words such as “boozey, cogey, tipsey, fox’d, merry, mellow, fuddl’d, groatable” have been invented – and are invented daily – by drunkards as substitutes for the actual word “drunk.” These words are listed so drunk men, normally of “Sobriety and Temperance” are able to escape any accusations of being drunk by labeling themselves with a phrase that Franklin lists in this letter.

Silence Dogood #7

The seventh letter to the New England Courant from Benjamin Franklin’s fictional Silence Dogood is a strong piece of satire that pokes fun at the severe lack of any poetic writing in the New England colonies. Even at 16 it appeared that Franklin had a strong grasp on writing in a satirical manner–for could the praising of an elegy as the “the most Extraordinary Piece that ever was wrote in New-England” be anything but satire? This piece at first expounds upon the fact that many foreigners criticize New England for not producing any “good Poetry.” Franklin, as Mrs. Dogood, disputes this claim, arguing that the elegy of one Mrs. Mehitebell Kitel is one of the most “moving and pathetick” pieces he’d ever read. He then lightheartedly seems to analyse the piece for all of its merits and symbolism, explaining the merit of the supposed literary masterpiece to his audience. Franklin, of course, does not stop there. He continues on, urging others to take up the pen and write their own masterpieces, offering his assistance in the form of giving his own personal recipe for writing an elegy for a woman who has departed.

This tongue-in-cheek letter to the Courant is a prime example of the way Franklin tends to address problems he sees in the world around him. This matter-of-fact, satirical tone is present in many of his satirical works, such as the The Speech of Miss Polly Baker. His tone isn’t caustic–it is more on the gentle side of satire but is nonetheless jaded in its purpose. He is urging his fellow New Englanders to take up the pen like he has and express themselves in words other than for writing elegies. He is trying to cultivate the growth of a literary culture within the colonies, hoping that his words will inspire others to usher in works of poetic art that will prove wrong foreigners that may criticize them for their lack of them.

Franklin was a masterful craftsman of words, and this talent is easily displayed even in the works of his 16 year old self. The letters from Silence Dogood were Franklin’s means of speaking his mind and expressing himself, and would set him down a path that would allow him to usher in change in the New World.

Silence Dogood: Essay 8

      Benjamin Franklin wrote Essay 8 under the pseudonym Silence Dogood in July of 1722. This essay was a letter for the Author of the “New-England Courant”, to put in his newspaper,in which Benjamin Franklin quotes an article previously printed in the “London Journal”. In this essay Silence Dogood writes about freedom of speech as well as freedom of the press for printers.

      Silence discusses the benefits of freedom of speech by stating that “Without freedom of thought there can be no such thing as wisdom”. Freedom of thought fosters the growth of intelligence in mankind through free speech and by taking the freedom away the world is left unchanged and non evolving. Although freedom of speech is beneficial there must be limits put in place so that no person is left offended or hurt by another. Freedom of speech is essential in a nation so the citizens within have a say in the government so that they can be governed in a fair and free way. Benjamin Franklin speaks of King Charles the Fifth and his decree banning freedom of speech and creating complete opacity in the government by doing so. When a freedom is taken away by the government the citizens begin to rebel, especially when ban takes away the translucency of the government. The government is essentially dealing with “the interests and affairs of the people” and when the citizens are taken out of the government tyranny takes over and creates a non working nation. High ranking officials take away freedoms so they can have complete control over their citizens and because “Only the wicked governors of men dread what is said of them”.

      When a nation is governed with the citizens and equality in mind as well as taking in the suggestions of the people then the nation is able to prosper and live in peace. It is best to represent “public measures truly when they are honest” because it can benefit the government and the people.  

Silence Dogood #7

Franklin writes Silence Dogood essay number 7 on June 25th, 1722. The subject of the essay revolves around the notion that “good poetry is not to be expected in New-England.” He talks about how the reason for this lack of poetic genius is not due to educational reasons, but rather that people do not give the proper praise and encouragement to pieces or authors that deserve so, resulting in more discouraged authors and unrecognized pieces of work.

Franklin spends a large part of this essay examining exceptional works of poetry, focusing mainly on elegies and pieces of writing that he considers to be elegant and beautiful. Franklin also expresses his critical side to poetry in a satirical manner. The phrase “It may justly be said in praise, without Flattery to the Author” indicates that Franklin is being discreet about his distaste for a poem while still making it sound like a compliment but “our soil seldom produces and other sort of poetry” besides those that are “wretchedly dull and ridiculous.” Franklin wants the world to be enriched with “more excellent productions” of writing that he admires and wants to break from the mundane writing that typically is produced.  Franklin then goes to give guidelines on how to write a funeral elegy for the “well-meaning fellows, who do their best, and that if they had but some instructions how to govern fancy with judgement, they would make indifferent good elegies.” He believes that with some guidance, writing and poetry will improve and people will “thereby endeavor to discover to the world some of its beautys.”

It is evident that Franklin finds strong interest in elegies and has a passion for strong writing, if only there could be more of it. His satirical statements serve as a way for people to sympathize with his need for beautiful writing and understand the lack of it around them. He seems to believe that better writing results in the entire world becoming more enriched as he stresses the importance of it through critical satire.

Silence Dogood Letter 8

Benjamin Franklin wrote the 8th letter of his series under the pseudonym Silence Dogood on July 9, 1722, at the age of 14. In this letter he discusses the idea of rights of citizens of a government, particularly the ideas of Freedom of Press and Freedom of Speech. Rather than discuss his own opinion on the matter Franklin, under his pen name Silence uses a long passage from the London Journal. He says, “I prefer the following Abstract from the London Journal to any Thing of my own, and therefore shall present it to your Readers this week without any further Preface.”

The passage of the journal gives a very extensive opinion on the ideas of free speech and press. It outlines the necessity of having these freedoms to have a well functioning society. It says that they are certainly rights that should not be deprived by any sort of tyranny, so long as the citizens who have these rights use them properly. The passage then goes on to illustrate the past tyrannical rulers of England who denied these rights. They were afraid that if these rights were allocated, that their regimes would be undermined by there servants. while this is a legitimate fear, the author of the passage counters by saying “Freedom of Speech is ever the Symptom, as well as the Effect of a good Government.” Essentially, by allowing your servants to have these rights, you will have a much better, and functioning government and society than you would by pressing these rights. In addition to this, all though the people of this government would have the right to criticize their leader publicly, there would be no turmoil and revolution over the oppression of their rights.

Silence Dogood Essay #5

Nishan Bindra

Professor Allison


2 February 2016

Silence Dogood Essay #5


In the fifth essay under Benjamin Franklin’s pen name Silence Dogood, Benjamin Franklin is directing his letter to the author of the New England Courant, A.K.A his Brother, by reading a response to one of Franklin’s previous essay from a man who did not respect Silence Dogoods views, which was written by Benjamin under another fake name. According the man, Silence Dogood should “begin with your own Sex first: Let the first Volley of your Resentments be directed against Female Vice; essentially calling Silence Dogood a petty women writer who should focus on the faults of her own sex rather than men’s. Franklin’s rebuttal  was that men are just as guilty of sin as women, and that they both have equal share in sins. This beginning allowed Franklin to set up his essay, and begin discussing the topic of the faults of men and the shameful acts done to women.

Benjamin continues to further his argument as the essay goes on, adding more facts and examples to bolster his view on the mistreatment of women in society. Benjamin makes an argument about the education of women, where they were taught some basic writing lessons and being trained how to sew and cook. From this, Benjamin says “What is a Man (a Gentleman, I mean) good for that is taught no more? If Knowledge and Understanding had been useless Additions to the Sex, God Almighty would never have given them Capacities, for he made nothing Needless”, which leads to Benjamin asking what women did to deserve this mistreatment. This errata of men mistreatment of women is the main theme in Benjamin’s essay, and is a strong point in Benjamin’s essay, and makes the male saying of “Female Ignorance and Folly” seem more parallel to men than women. I agreed with all of Benjamin’s points, and support him in his statements that men have committed many more errors than women ever have. It was because of this essay that I now view Franklin as a pro-feminist figure, or at least, associate with his alternative personality Silence Dogood. It also makes Benjamin’s decision to go under a pen name all the more clever, since this pro view on women was ahead of it’s time, and would have resulted in Benjamin being persecuted by many individuals had his identity had been revealed.

Silence Dogood Essay 4

On May 14, 1722, Ben Franklin published his fourth essay in the New England Courant under the pen name, Silence Dogood. In this essay, Franklin questions the value of college education. During this time, many families struggled with choosing one of their many children to send to college, just like Franklin’s parents. Most families were only able to send one child due to financial issues, and the child that was chosen was the “brightest.”


In this essay, Franklin is speaking to his Reverend about his decision to send his son, William, to college. Clericus, the Reverend, is very adamant on persuading Franklin to send his son to college. Franklin states, “He perswaded me to do it by all Means, using many weighty Arguments with me, and answering all the Objections that I could form against it; telling me withal, that he did not doubt but that the Lad would take his Learning very well, and not idle away his Time as too many there now-a-days do.” Franklin then takes a walk, falls asleep, and has a dream of how the college accepts its students and later returns them into the world only slightly educated and pompous. It was very common for families to send one child to college if they could afford it, but they did not take into consideration whether the child would be able to thrive and be successful. If the child is not able to perform well, then Franklin is correct when he says that the child will leave only slightly more educated than they were when they began. It would not be worth it to send those children to college. He says, “Some I perceiv’d took to Merchandizing, others to Travelling, some to one Thing, some o another, and some to Nothing; and many of them from henceforth, for want of Patrimony, liv’d as poor as Church Mice, being unable to dig, and asham’d to beg, ando live by their Wits it was impossible.” According to Franklin, these children were admitted into the “Temple of Learning,” while those who thrived were on a path that leads to the “Temple of Theology.” After Franklin revealed this dream to Clericus, the both agreed that it accurately represented Harvard College.

Silence Dogood #10

In 1722 on August 13th, Benjamin Franklin wrote his tenth essay under the name Silence Dogood. The purpose of this piece is to explain Dogood’s proposal that helps out poor widows by opening an office called “An Office of Ensurance for Widows.” At this time in history men were dying at a younger age leaving wives alone. Most of these families consisted of husbands in business of Clergy, shopkeepers, and artificers, and wives bearing three to four children. When a woman’s husband dies their funds are decreased a substantial amount and taking care of their children becomes tough.


Through this program, Franklin suggests widows receive help, mainly in the form of money, when they are subscribed to the system. Franklin regulates this system with multiple rules and restrictions. For example, Franklin states, “One Exception must be made; and that is, Either very unequal Matches, as when a Woman of Nine-teen Marries an old Man of Seventy.” This is just one of the multiple restrictions that prevents women to take advantage of the system. As Franklin wants to keep this system fair and honest, “the Intent being to Aid the Poor, not add to the Rich” Franklin expresses.


Franklin does well in the explanation of his proposal and explains his rules and regulation to this system with simple examples. I applaud Franklin for proposing a program that helps out widows and their families when they are the most in need. Franklin proposes this program, which has little affect to his personal life, in full benefit to others, I find this quite inspiring to know Franklin wrote this proposal at the age of 16.

Silence Dogood No. 14

Throughout his time as a resident of Boston, Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin published various letters under the pseudonym Silence Dogood. While working at his brother James Franklin’s printing press, he was able to publish his letters through the newspaper The New England Courant. During the time that he was writing these letters, he was only at the mere age of sixteen. In order to avoid confrontation with his older sibling, Franklin would slip his letters under the door of the printing shop late at night. James would unknowingly publish his writings in the morning. Throughout the course of his time writing in Boston, Franklin published fourteen separate essays.

Franklin’s 11th essay addresses women who are widowed and virgins over the age of thirty proposing a relief program to assist with their hardships. Franklin writes, “…you would be pleased to form a Project for the Relief of all those penitent Mortals of the fair Sex, that are like to be punish’d with their virginity until old age, for the Pride and insolence of their youth”. ‘Silence Dogood’ believes that widowed women and virgins should be able to receive financial assistance for their struggles, but only if they follow a very strict set of standards. Franklin lists the necessities a woman must obtain if they are going to be considered eligible for this assistance—listed below are his rules for the society.


“1. That no Woman shall be admitted into the Society after she is Twenty Five Years old, who has made a Practice of entertaining and discarding Humble Servants, without sufficient Reason for so doing, until she has manifested her Repentance in Writing under her Hand. 2. No Member of the Society who has declar’d before two credible Witnesses, That it is well known she has refus’d several good Offers since the Time of her Subscribing, shall be entituled to the £500 when she comes of Age; that is to say, Thirty Years. 3. No Woman, who after claiming and receiving, has had the good Fortune to marry, shall entertain any Company with Encomiums on her Husband, above the Space of one Hour at a Time, upon Pain of returning one half the Money into the Office, for the first Offence; and upon the second Offence to return the Remainder” 


This essay’s main focus is around one specific woman who goes by the name of Margaret Aftercast. When she was younger, she had many men who admired her and wanted to gain her attention, however she turned them all down. She now faces struggle everyday because of the choices she made and she feels that it makes it more difficult to live. After evaluating her story, Franklin sets up guidelines for aiding widowed and virgin women. Part of his initial plan involved the proposition that each woman should be granted £500—the equivalence of over $70,000 now. Although he believes these hardships can be solved by implementation of wealth, they truly cannot. It was a rather abrupt move on Franklin’s end to implement an idea such as this, especially during the time period in which it was published.

Silence Dogood Essay #14

On October 8, 1722 Benjamin Franklin’s fourteenth and final essay under the pen name “Silence Dogood” was published in the New England Courant. In this essay, Benjamin Franklin takes a different approach than the previous thirteen letters and directly attacks the institution of religion and the church itself.


Franklin shows his disdain with a certain clergymen of Connecticut, “But, by this Turn of Thought I would not be suspected of Uncharitableness to those Clergymen at Connecticut, who have lately embrac’d the Establish’d Religion of our Nation” Franklin seems to direct this attack against church and religion after learning that New Haven clergymen and Yale faculty members had switched their religious beliefs, abandoning their Puritan Congregation for an Anglican ordination. He calls into question the meaning and significance of religion and church, as it does not seem appropriate to him that one would be able to switch their religious beliefs so easily and quickly, for seemingly no reason.


Franklin goes on to then call these blind followers of a certain religion “zealots” and “ideots.” Stating, “There are too many blind Zealots among every Denomination of Christians” Here Franklin is further questioning this idea of religion and what it all stands for. It appears that he believes the institution of religion can and has become contradictory when it gains followers who do not truly believe what they hear, and are able to bend and change their beliefs according to the time and given situation at hand.


He goes on to directly call into question the meaning and use of the word “church” as it is a somewhat contradictory and compelling matter of confusion for the people. Franklin claims that the insecurity or doubt in what the true meaning of the word church is has led to much confusion for the people, and he calls into question the true significance of the word “church.”