Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

29 Jun 2011, 15:00 p.m.

On The Usefulness Of Writing

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2011 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

About this time there was a cry among the people for more paper money, only fifteen thousand pounds being extant in the province, and that soon to be sunk. The wealthy inhabitants oppos'd any addition, being against all paper currency, from an apprehension that it would depreciate, as it had done in New England, to the prejudice of all creditors. We had discuss'd this point in our Junto [debating and science society], where I was on the side of an addition, being persuaded that the first small sum struck in 1723 had done much good by increasing the trade, employment, and number of inhabitants in the province, since I now saw all the old houses inhabited, and many new ones building; whereas I remembered well, that when I first walk'd about the streets of Philadelphia, eating my roll, I saw most of the houses in Walnut-street, between Second and Front streets, with bills on their doors, "To be let"; and many likewise in Chestnut-street and other streets, which made me then think the inhabitants of the city were deserting it one after another.

Our debates possess'd me so fully of the subject, that I wrote and printed an anonymous pamphlet on it, entitled "The Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency." It was well receiv'd by the common people in general; but the rich men dislik'd it, for it increas'd and strengthen'd the clamor for more money, and they happening to have no writers among them that were able to answer it, their opposition slacken'd, and the point was carried by a majority in the House. My friends there, who conceiv'd I had been of some service, thought fit to reward me by employing me in printing the money; a very profitable jobb and a great help to me. This was another advantage gain'd by my being able to write.

This is from Ben Franklin's autobiography. It rocks pretty hard that, when you own a printing press and your government is fairly loose, you can write a persuasive pamphlet, and distribute it, and thus get a contract to print money.

I first read Ben Franklin's autobiography in eleventh grade, in that spot in the American Literature curriculum where lots of people read Catcher in the Rye or Death of a Salesman or something. So glad Mr. Hatch assigned us Franklin. Success, persuasion, enlightened self-interest and altruism and civic action, data-driven decisions, the perks of being a weirdo -- so much is there.


Avram Grumer
30 Jun 2011, 20:16 p.m.

I finally read the Autobiography a few weeks (months?) back. Sadly, it was an edition with modernized spelling -- no dislik'd or jobb.

I was amused by the bits about the propertarians who were willing to risk having the colonies conquered by the French rather than see their taxes go up.