The Franklin "Prophecy"
Modern Anti-Semitic Myth Making

Introduction
The "Prophecy"
The Uses of the "Prophecy"
Documenting a Fraud


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Documenting a Fraud

The fraudulent nature of the Prophecy -- and the fact that anti-Semitism was foreign to Franklin’s behavior — has been substantially documented by eminent historians. The late Charles A. Beard reported, "I cannot find a single original source that gives the slightest justification for believing that the Prophecy is anything more than a barefaced forgery. Not a word have I discovered in Franklin’s letters and papers expressing any such sentiments against the Jews as are ascribed to him by the Nazis — American and German. His well-known liberality in matters of religious opinion would, in fact, have precluded the kind of utterances put in his mouth by this palpable forgery . . . In his writings on immigration, Franklin made no mention of discrimination against Jews."

Beard also noted that "the phraseology of the alleged Prophecy is not that of the 18th century; nor is the language that of Franklin. It contains certain words that belong to contemporary (Nazi) Germany rather than America of Franklin’s period. For example, the word ‘homeland’ was not employed by Jews in Franklin’s time. It was created in connection with the Palestine mandate." Beard also showed "positive evidence" that Franklin held Jews in high regard, citing the instance when the Hebrew Society of Philadelphia sought to raise money for a synagogue in Philadelphia. Franklin signed the petition of appeal for contributions to "citizens of every religious denomination" and gave 5 pounds himself to the fund.

J. Henry Smythe, Jr., compiler of The Amazing Benjamin Franklin, has characterized the Prophecy as "a counterfeit," adding it was a "libel of the Jewish race, unjust both to Jews and to the name and fame of Benjamin Franklin. I have investigated this calumny and find no historical basis." Julian P. Boyd, librarian of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, made the same evaluation, and John Clyde Oswald of the International Benjamin Franklin Society noted that "the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 were secret. No official record was kept but a great deal of information has been accumulated and pieced together, giving a fairly good picture of what transpired. Franklin was then 81 years of age and in poor health. He took an active part in the proceedings but made his contributions to the deliberations not orally, but in written memoranda, which he handed to this friend, James Wilson, another member of the Philadelphia delegation, who sat by him and who read them to the Convention. They have been preserved and the collection is believed to be complete..."

The late Carl Van Doren, a biographer of Benjamin Franklin made this report:

The speech against the Jews which Benjamin Franklin is alleged to have made the Constitutional Convention of 1787 is a forgery, produced within the past five years [1933-38]. The forger, whoever he was, claims that the speech was taken down by Charles Pinckney of South Carolina and preserved in his Journal. The forger presumably knew that, in a letter to John Quincy Adams dated December 30, 1818, Pinckney said he had kept a Journal of the proceedings at the Convention. But this Journal, if it ever existed, has never been found. The forger claims that Pinckney ‘published’ the Journal ‘for private distribution among his friends’ with the title Chit-Chat Around the Table During Intermissions. No copy of any such printed Journal has come to light. Not content with these two claims, the forger has further asserted that the original manuscript of Franklin’s speech, apparently from Pinckney’s Journal, is in the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia. The Franklin Institute does not possess the manuscript.

The forger’s authority for his document is nearly as mythical as could be imagined. He cites a manuscript which does not exist, a printed book or pamphlet which nobody has seen, a Journal which has been lost for more than a hundred years. There is no evidence of the slightest value that Franklin ever made the alleged speech or ever said or thought anything of the kind about the Jews.




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This report originally appeared in the April-May 1954 issue of Facts, a publication of the Anti-Defamation League

2000 Anti-Defamation League