Fake Benjamin Franklin Anti-Semitic Prophecy Resurrected in Email

Sheila Musaji

Posted Jun 1, 2012      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Fake Benjamin Franklin Anti-Semitic Prophecy Resurrected in Email

by Sheila Musaji

I received the following hateful email that was addressed to a long list of people.  I had been made aware of this quote some years ago, and knew that it was a fake, and hit reply all telling everyone on that particular email list that this was a false quote and had no purpose but bigotry.  First here is the text of the false quote:

US President Benjamin Franklin’s comments about Jews.  During the drafting of the Constitution in 1789, Benjamin Franklin said at the convention concerning Jewish immigration. (Original in the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia.)

“There is a great danger for the United States of America. That great danger is the Jew. Gentlemen , in whichever land the Jews have settled, they have depressed the moral level and lowered the degree of commercial honesty. They have created a State within a State, and when they are opposed, they attempted to strangle the nation financially as in the case of Portugal and Spain.”

“For more than 1700 years they have lamented their sorrowful fate, namely that they were driven out of the motherland; but gentlemen, if the civilized world today should give them back Palestine as their property , they would immediately find pressing reasons for not returning there. Why? Because they are vampires and cannot live on other vampires. They cannot live among themselves. They must live among Christians and others who do not belong to their race.”

“If they are not excluded from the United States by the Constitution, within less than a hundred years they will stream into our country in such numbers that they will rule and destroy us, and change our form of government for which Americans have shed their blood and sacrificed life, property and personal freedom. If the Jews are not excluded, within 200 years our children will be working in the fields to feed the Jews, while they remain in the Counting House gleefully rubbing their hands.”

“I warn you, gentlemen, if you do not exclude the Jew forever, your children`s children will curse you in your grave.  “Their ideas are not those of Americans. The leopard cannot change his spots. The Jews are a danger to this land, and if they are allowed to enter, they will imperil its institutions.  They should be excluded by the Constitution.”  - Ben Franklin….1789

Here is the response that I sent out to the email list:

This anti-Semitic propaganda has been around for a long time.  Benjamin Franklin never said any such thing.  It is called the “Franklin prophecy” and you can find lots of debunking online.  It is sad that Muslims are involved in circulating this sort of hateful crap.  It is no different than the Islamophobic propaganda aimed at Muslims, and we should be the first to stand up against this sort of thing.  Also, whoever forwarded this to you should be ashamed for not doing a simple check before sending this out.

For example Wikipedia says:

“The Franklin Prophecy”, sometimes called “The Franklin Forgery”, is an antisemitic speech falsely attributed to Benjamin Franklin, warning of the supposed dangers of admitting Jews to the nascent United States. The speech was purportedly transcribed by Charles Cotesworth Pinckney during the Constitutional Convention of 1787, but was unknown before its appearance in 1934 in the pages of William Dudley Pelley’s Silver Legion pro-Nazi weekly magazine Liberation. (Pinckney wrote that he had kept a journal of the Convention, but it has never been found, and Pelley’s claims that it was printed privately, and that the Franklin Institute has a manuscript copy, are unsubstantiated.)

Despite having been repeatedly discredited since its first appearance, the “prophecy” has proved a remarkably durable canard, returning most recently as a popular internet hoax promulgated on Usenet groups and antisemitic websites, where it is presented as authentic. On February 18, 1998, a member of the Fatah Central Committee revived this myth and mistakenly referred to Franklin as a former President of the United States.[1] Osama Bin Laden has even used this canard briefly in his October 2002 “Letter to the American People.”[2] While its author is not known, many who have investigated the “prophecy” suspect Pelley of having penned it himself.

The U.S. Congress’ report “Anti-Semitism in Europe: Hearing Before the Subcommittee on European Affairs of the Committee on Foreign Relations” (2004) states:

The Franklin “Prophecy” is a classic anti-Semitic canard that falsely claims that American statesman Benjamin Franklin made anti-Jewish statements during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. It has found widening acceptance in Muslim and Arab media, where it has been used to criticize Israel and Jews…[3]  Franklin was, in fact, a friend to the Jews of 18th-century America,[4] and contributed toward the building of Philadelphia’s first permanent synagogue.[5]

There have been similar false antisemitic quotations attributed to George Washington which have been debunked. In fact, in 1790, in a marked sign of religious tolerance, Washington sent a letter to the Jewish community in Rhode Island, writing “May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”[6]

The ADL said about this false quote

Another anti-Semitic hoax on history, of a piece with that incredible forgery, The Protocols of The Learned Elders of Zion, but not as widely distributed nor as successful in creating the pogrom atmospheres that were the achievements of the Protocols, is a speech attributed to Benjamin Franklin during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The anti-Semitic movement, which founded the hoax, calls it the Franklin Prophecy — ascribing to Franklin a dire warning that unless Jews were expelled from the new nation by Constitutional decree they would ultimately immigrate in great numbers to the detriment of the Christian population.

Of course, no such speech was ever made. But the hoaxers sought to impart an aura of historical credibility to the fake by claiming that the speech is quoted in a “private diary” of Charles Pinckney, Revolutionary leader who was delegate from South Carolina to the Constitutional Convention. They also maintain that the diary is now in the possession of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, a bald lie which Henry Butler Allen, director of the Institute, has often refuted. Allen says that “historians and librarians have not been able to find [the diary] or any record of it having existed.”

A copy of the forgery was anonymously circulated through the mails this month [May 1954] on stationery captioned WAR DEPARTMENT, OFFICE OF THE CHIEF OF STAFF. The envelope bore a May 3 postmark from Atlanta, Ga. This is the latest in a series of recent incidents that suggest another revival of the Prophecy. A copy was picked up earlier this year at a Tampa, Fla., bus stop, and there have been recent distributions of it in Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Alabama.

Notice that what is now an email being re-circulated in 2012, was circulated by mail in1954, and Straight Dope notes that it originated in the 1930’s in the anti-Semitic press. 

The quote has been debunked many times over the past 80 years, and still it keeps coming back.  Such bigotry is really difficult to stamp out.  There is always a new generation of people all too willing to accept as true a lie that happens to allign with their own prejudices. 

This is exactly like the anti-Muslim emails, or the false claims made about Islam or Muslims that are constantly going around.  No matter how often they are debunked, they rear their ugly heads again and again. 

In this age with the incredible tool of the internet to look up and check out information, this is inexcusable.  Anyone with access to a computer, and the ability to send out an email, also has the ability to simply look things up.