Jane Hampton Cook: When cancel culture came for Ben Franklin – here's how this founder fought back

Benjamin Franklin died 231 years ago on April 17, 1790. More than 70% of Philadelphia came out to mourn the passing of the man who restrained “thunderbolts and tyrants” alike.  

Yet in the past year, Franklin has been the target of cancel culture. Washburn University removed Franklin’s statue to appease vandals while a Washington, D.C., committee included him on their statue hit list. Likewise, Big Tech companies have censored former President Trump and Major League Baseball has canceled the state of Georgia over a voting law.  

If Franklin were alive, would he agree with the 64% of Americans who believe that cancel culture threatens freedom? Yes, because he lived through it.  

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“Being frequently censur’d and condemn’d by different persons for printing things which they say ought not to be printed, I have sometimes thought it might be necessary to make a standing apology for myself, and publish it once a year,” Franklin published on June 10, 1731, in his Pennsylvania Gazette. 

This 25-year-old newspaper publisher had recently printed an advertisement from a ship captain who’d obliquely compared clergymen to loud birds and refused them passage.  

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“Men are very angry with me on this occasion,” he wrote.

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