The Speech of Miss Polly Baker is a fictional piece written by Ben Franklin, which represents a court case of a woman name Polly Baker. The exact date of when this speech was written is still not known, but it was likely to be written in 1746. This piece was first published in London’s The General Advertiser on April 15, 1747. People believed that the case of Polly Baker was true because the author remained unknown until 1788, when Franklin revealed that it was he who wrote the speech.
Summary: In this speech, we are introduced to the main character Miss Polly Baker. Miss Baker has been charged five times for giving birth to children outside of wedlock; she has been punished by fines and public humiliation. She is arguing her case in front of a court of law without a lawyer because she cannot afford one. She questions the fairness of this law, states that it is unreasonable, feels that she has done nothing wrong and has not committed any crime.
She begins her argument by stating that she is not opposed to marriage and is still willing to enter a marriage, despite already having been married once to a man who betrayed her. He left her with a child; he was never punished and ended up becoming a Magistrate of the courts. She questions why she is being punished for something that is not her fault, and he is allowed to advance into a role of power within the government. She believes that God is pleased with her, in the sense that she has taken part of the natural process of increasing the population.
She finishes her argument by pointing out the increasing number of single men who do not reproduce because they are simply scared of of expensive raising a family is. She connects this to being no different than a murderer, and that they are a greater offense to the public good than she is. Baker states that the statue should be in her honor because she has increased the public good with her actions.
Analysis: Franklin writes this speech with formal diction, but h makes it very easy to understand. Miss Polly Baker is upset and frustrated with the situation she is in, with having been taken to trial five times. If you read this from perspective of a satire, Franklin is attacking the patriarchy and how they are being hypocritical in this matter. Franklin wants his readers to easily understand the issue on the lack of women’s rights. The point of the trial in this speech is to bring up the question: should women have more right? He leaves this open for the reader to decide. The importance of this piece is to point out the gender inequality in society.
There is a famous quote credited to Ben Franklin that states, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” You may walk around the city of Boston and shirts and souvenirs with this quote stated on it attributed to Ben Franklin, but these souvenirs are misleading because Franklin did not actually state these exact words. Although Franklin may have enjoyed beer, he was more so a lover of wine. The quote that is statement originates from a letter written by Franklin to his friend Andre Morellet, a writer, theologian, philosopher, and economist, in 1779. Franklin writes:
“We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana, as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, and which incorporates itself with the grapes to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy!”
As you can see, Franklin is talking about wine, not beer, and it is clear that he has been misquoted. It is not clear as to why Franklin’s words were twisted. Even though Franklin was not referring to beer when stated this quote, you can find it plastered on all sorts of beer memorabilia across the country.
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.
On January 17, 1706, Ben Franklin was born on here on Milk Street. The building that was originally there when Franklin was born was burnt down in 1811, so the building pictured pays tribute to Franklin. He was the youngest son out of seventeen children, and he was also the brightest. Although Franklin moved to Philadelphia and eventually became one of the Founding Fathers, his birthplace in Boston remains significant and one of the most important places of Franklin’s life.