The Franklin "Prophecy"
Modern Anti-Semitic Myth Making

Introduction

This article, which thoroughly documents the history of the transparent fraud known as the Franklin "Prophecy", appeared almost forty-five years ago in the April-May 1954 issue of Facts, a publication of the Anti-Defamation League. At the time, the authors wrote "This 20-year-old anti-Semitic hoax is circulating again." Today, more than sixty-five years after it was manufactured, the "Prophecy" it is still circulating, a staple of anti-Semitic propaganda. It can be found on a number of web sites maintained by haters and hate-groups. The article is, therefore, still timely and instructive

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.



The "Prophecy"

The Franklin Prophecy was first published in February, 1934, in William Dudley Pelley’s publication, Liberation. (In 1942 Pelley was convicted of sedition and given a 15-year sentence.) The following is the most common version of the faked speech:

There is a great danger for the United State of America. This great danger is the Jew. Gentlemen, in every land the Jews have settled, they have depressed the moral level and lowered the degree of commercial honesty. They have remained apart and unassimilated; oppressed, they attempt to strangle the nation financially, as in the case of Portugal and Spain.

For more than seventeen hundred years they have lamented their sorrowful fate — namely, that they have been driven out of their mother land; but, gentlemen, if the civilized world today should give them back Palestine and their property, they would immediately find pressing reason for not returning there. Why? Because they are vampires and vampires 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 expelled from the United States by the Constitution within less than one hundred years, they will stream into this country in such numbers that they will rule and destroy us and change our form of Government for which we Americans shed our blood and sacrificed our life, property and personal freedom. If the Jews are not excluded within two hundred years, our children will be working in the field to feed Jews while they remain in the counting houses, gleefully rubbing their hands.

I warn you, gentlemen, if you do not exclude the Jews forever, your children and your children’s children will curse you in their graves. Their ideas are not those of Americans, even when they lived among us for ten generations. The leopard cannot change his spots. The Jews are a danger to this land, and if they are allowed to enter, they will imperil our institutions. They should be excluded by the Constitution.



The Uses of the "Prophecy"

For more than two decades the Prophecy has been circulated throughout the United States. In the 1930's it was disseminated by chain letters. Printed copies of the spurious speech were placed in trains, buses, railway stations and similar public places. It appeared in the propaganda press and broadcasts of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, and a version was included in the 1935 edition of Handbucb der Judenfrage (Handbook On The Jewish Question), a political tome by Theodor Fritsch, first written several decades earlier, that became a Nazi bible.

Such anti-Semitic groups as Chicago’s We The Mothers Mobilize For America exploit the Prophecy as part of their stock-in-trade. Gerald L. K. Smith and other anti-Semitic propagandists continue to argue its authenticity [The Cross and The Flag, Dec., 1952]. In recent years reprints of it have appeared in Mrs. Lyrl Van Hyning’s Women’s Voice [July 31, 1952] and Harry William Pyle’s Political Reporter [July, 1953]. This month [May,1954] it was a feature of an anti-Semitic publication, The Point, put out by Father Leonard Feeney, the excommunicated priest, and his group at St Benedict’s Center in Cambridge, Mass.



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.


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

2000 Anti-Defamation League