Sunday, April 23, 2023


 James Franklin did not behave as most colonial printers did.  When he decided to start his own paper, he was definitely not publishing it by authority.  In fact, the New England Courant began by attacking the Boston establishment, in particular the program of inoculating people for smallpox that was being promoted by the Puritan ministers Cotton Mather and his father.  When the inoculation debate died down, the paper turned to satirizing other subjects of Boston interest, including pretended learning and religious hypocrisy, some of which provoked the Mathers into replies.  Eager to try his own hand at satire, young Benjamin in 1722 submitted some essays to his brother's newspaper under the name of Silence Dogood,  a play on Cotton Mather's Essays to Do Good, the name usually given to the minister's Bonifacius, published in 1710.  For a sixteen-year-old boy to assume the persona of a middle-aged woman was a daunting challenge, and young Franklin took "exquisite Pleasure" in fooling his brother and others into thinking that only "Men of some Character among us for Learning and Ingenuity" could have written the newspaper pieces.

-Gordon S. Wood, The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin

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