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JANICE DEMBOSKY: Quote erroneously attributed to Franklin

on May 16, 2013 11:00 AM

In his May 1 letter, McClellan Blair doesn’t cite the source for the words he attributes to Ben Franklin because they are bogus (Popik, “Lunches with Wolves,” the fake quote by Franklin on democracy).

Seeking credibility for his own opinion that the opinions of the majority of Americans are unimportant, Blair wrote, “The example used by Benjamin Franklin was that of two wolves and a sheep voting on which was to be lunch.” I am surprised that Blair did not add the bogus second line: “Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.” But, of course, that did not suit Blair’s purpose.

Franklin did occasionally use a metaphor involving wolves and sheep, but it had nothing to do with fear of an abusive majority. In a letter calling for “sturdiness when superiors are much in the wrong,” Franklin concludes, “... if you make yourself a sheep, the wolves will eat you” (Letter to Jane Mecom, 1773).

More importantly, in a 1775 letter to Pennsylvania Gov. John Penn, Franklin objects to Penn’s proposal to raise 50,000 pounds by taxing the masses in order to protect the properties of the nobility from “French encroachment,” while exempting the noblemen from the same tax. Outraged on behalf of the majority, Franklin asks, “Is this equitable and just?” (

Though it is a common tactic of the extreme right to put their opinions into the mouths of the forefathers in an effort to sound credible, there are other misrepresentations by Mr. Blair that are even more glaring. Blair assumes that we do not know that we are a democratic republic, in that the majority elects our representatives, and he would have you believe that it’s OK for our representatives to be bought and paid for by special interests representing minority opinions.

He worries about the “tyranny of the majority” while accepting the present tyranny of the minority.

He would also have us believe that 380 Republican filibusters in the last three years are “lawful” rather than “obstructive,” forgiving his party this strategy of avoidance while holding Democrats responsible for not bringing forth a specific budget only to have it punked by Republican amendments on everything from abortion to sodomy to make it appear that Democrats voted against it..

Meanwhile, required budgets have been passed by both houses and signed by the president under the Budget Control Act (Record of U.S. Senate Democrats, Jan. 24, 2012).

Janice Dembosky


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