A Guest Blog From Mrs. Silence Dogood.
The letter posted below is from a series of letters written by Ben Franklin. He was 16 years old at the time, and serving as a printing apprentice to his brother. He wrote this letter under the pseudonym Mrs Silence Dogood, in order to avoid legal reprisals from the authorities. In the early 18th century it was illegal to speak out against church or government. In fact, his brother had already spent time in prison for a previously published piece from another writer.
This particular letter speaks against the hypocrisy of public ministers and politicians. Mrs Dogood’s message rings crystal clear even today, maybe more than ever! (Yes I’m pointing at you Rethuglicans and Teahadists).
Without further adieu, I share with you Mrs. Silence Dogood.
To the Author of the New-England Courant.
It has been for some Time a Question with me, Whether a Commonwealth
suffers more by hypocritical Pretenders to Religion, or by the openly
Profane? But some late Thoughts of this Nature, have inclined me to
think, that the Hypocrite is the most dangerous Person of the Two,
especially if he sustains a Post in the Government, and we consider his
Conduct as it regards the Publick. The first Artifice of a State
Hypocrite is, by a few savoury Expressions which cost him Nothing, to
betray the best Men in his Country into an Opinion of his Goodness; and
if the Country wherein he lives is noted for the Purity of Religion, he
the more easily gains his End, and consequently may more justly be
expos’d and detested. A notoriously profane Person in a private
Capacity, ruins himself, and perhaps forwards the Destruction of a few
of his Equals; but a publick Hypocrite every day deceives his betters,
and makes them the Ignorant Trumpeters of his supposed Godliness: They
take him for a Saint, and pass him for one, without considering that
they are (as it were) the Instruments of publick Mischief out of
Conscience, and ruin their Country for God’s sake.
This Political Description of a Hypocrite, may (for ought I know) be
taken for a new Doctrine by some of your Readers; but let them consider,
that a little Religion, and a little Honesty, goes a great way in
Courts. ‘Tis not inconsistent with Charity to distrust a Religious Man
in Power, tho’ he may be a good Man; he has many Temptations “to
propagate publick Destruction for Personal Advantages and Security”: And
if his Natural Temper be covetous, and his Actions often contradict his
pious Discourse, we may with great Reason conclude, that he has some
other Design in his Religion besides barely getting to Heaven. But the
most dangerous Hypocrite in a Common-Wealth, is one who leaves the
Gospel for the sake of the Law: A Man compounded of Law and Gospel, is
able to cheat a whole Country with his Religion, and then destroy them
under Colour of Law: And here the Clergy are in great Danger of being
deceiv’d, and the People of being deceiv’d by the Clergy, until the
Monster arrives to such Power and Wealth, that he is out of the reach of
both, and can oppress the People without their own blind Assistance. And
it is a sad Observation, that when the People too late see their Error,
yet the Clergy still persist in their Encomiums on the Hypocrite; and
when he happens to die for the Good of his Country, without leaving
behind him the Memory of one good Action, he shall be sure to have his
Funeral Sermon stuff’d with Pious Expressions which he dropt at such a
Time, and at such a Place, and on such an Occasion; than which nothing
can be more prejudicial to the Interest of Religion, nor indeed to the
Memory of the Person deceas’d. The Reason of this Blindness in the
Clergy is, because they are honourably supported (as they ought to be)
by their People, and see nor feel nothing of the Oppression which is
obvious and burdensome to every one else.
But this Subject raises in me an Indignation not to be born; and if we
have had, or are like to have any Instances of this Nature in New
England, we cannot better manifest our Love to Religion and the Country,
than by setting the Deceivers in a true Light, and undeceiving the
Deceived, however such Discoveries may be represented by the ignorant or
designing Enemies of our Peace and Safety. . . .
- Unremarkable Part I, Chapters 10 and 11 (microfict.wordpress.com)
- Unremarkable, Part I, Chapters 1-5 (microfict.wordpress.com)
- Christian Formation and Clericalism – an unique perspective (drnickmazza.wordpress.com)
- The Man in the Rockefeller Suit (ncbookbunch.wordpress.com)
- Clericalism among the laity – a big problem??? (drnickmazza.wordpress.com)