Franklin And Marshall Benjamin Franklin Essay

Franklin And Marshall Benjamin Franklin Essay-86
This exercise lends itself well to whole-class discussion with projection on a screen or smart board.

This exercise lends itself well to whole-class discussion with projection on a screen or smart board.

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In “A Witch Trial at Mount Holly” Benjamin Franklin asserts the primacy of reason by satirizing the efforts of those who would seek truth through superstition and irrationality.

Benjamin Franklin, “A Witch Trial at Mount Holly,” 1730, from Founders Online, from the National Archives. For more information on text complexity see these resources from

Ferguson, George Edward Woodberry Professor of Law, Literature and Criticism, Columbia University Law School, National Humanities Center Fellow.

Copyright National Humanities Center, 2014 Many people in the eighteenth century, especially the educated elite in Europe and America, believed that truth was discovered through reason, through the application of principles discovered through science, observation, and experimentation.

“A Witch Trial” also asserts the primacy of reason as the narrator mocks the people of Mount Holly for their belief in witches.

Comic as it may be, the Oxford story recounts the triumph of science and empiricism, perspectives that drive the satire in “A Witch Trial.” It would not be surprising if these stories inspired Franklin to write his satire.At one point the mob tosses Fuller’s coffin into water, and the gownsmen leap on it “like Spaniels,” much as a sailor in Mount Holly leaps on one of the men on trial as he floats in the local mill pond.In addition to sharing language and motifs — repetition of the phrase “the thinking part,” mob behavior, and jumping on floating bodies — these stories share themes with “A Witch Trial.” The Paris story underscores the primacy of reason in its description of the ridicule the educated heap upon Monsieur Languet for his belief in apparitions.As far as scholars have been able to determine, he was neither reporting on nor responding to an actual event, certainly not a witch trial.No one has found records of one in New Jersey or Pennsylvania in or around 1730.The tale is told by the sort of narrator who often appears in satire, an urbane, witty figure who coolly observes the action with an amused, tolerant attitude.The article, presented as local news, is a literary hoax, similar to two others Franklin published in the .The first interactive activity asks students to do three things: identify words and phrases that make the piece a satire, explain why the language they chose is satirical, and compare their choices and rationales with ours.You may want to make these tasks, or at least the first two, a pencil-and-paper assignment.Suggested secondary sources from “Divining America: Religion in American History” from the National Humanities Center: by Christine Heyrman. Click here for standards and skills for this lesson.In addition to illustrating how satire works, this piece could be used to highlight cultural differences between the educated elite of the eighteenth century who were influenced by Enlightenment thought and the common folks who were not.


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