Front Page Titles (by Subject) CCLX: TO THE EDITOR OF A NEWSPAPER - The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. IV Letters and Misc. Writings 1763-1768
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CCLX: TO THE EDITOR OF A NEWSPAPER - Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. IV Letters and Misc. Writings 1763-1768 
The Works of Benjamin Franklin, including the Private as well as the Official and Scientific Correspondence, together with the Unmutilated and Correct Version of the Autobiography, compiled and edited by John Bigelow (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). The Federal Edition in 12 volumes. Vol. IV (Letters and Misc. Writings 1763-1768).
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TO THE EDITOR OF A NEWSPAPER
Monday, 20 May, 1765.
In your paper of Wednesday last, an ingenious correspondent who calls himself The Spectator, and dates from Pimlico, under the guise of good-will to news-writers, whom he calls a “useful body of men in this great city,” has, in my opinion, artfully attempted to turn them and their works into ridicule, wherein, if he could succeed, great injury might be done to the public as well as to these good people.
Supposing, Sir, that the “we hears” they give us of this or the other intended tour or voyage of this and the other great personage were mere inventions, yet they at least offer us an innocent amusement while we read, and useful matter for conversation when we are disposed to converse.
Englishmen, Sir, are apt to be silent when they have nothing to say, and too apt to be sullen when they are silent; and, when they are sullen, to hang themselves. But, by these we hears, we are supplied with abundant funds for discourse. We discuss the motives for such voyages, the probability of their being undertaken, and the practicability of their execution. Here we display our judgment in politics, our knowledge of the interests of princes, and our skill in geography, and (if we have it) show our dexterity in argumentation. In the meantime, the tedious hour is killed, we go home pleased with the applause we have received from others, or at least with those we give to ourselves; we sleep soundly, and live on, to the comfort of our families. But, Sir, I beg leave to say, that all the articles of news that seem improbable are not mere inventions. Some of them, I can assure you on the faith of a traveller, are serious truths. And here, quitting Mr. Spectator of Pimlico, give me leave to instance the various accounts the news-writers have given us, with so much honest zeal for the welfare of Poor Old England, of the establishing manufactures in the colonies to the prejudice of those of the kingdom. It is objected by superficial readers, who yet pretend to some knowledge of those countries, that such establishments are not only improbable, but impossible, for that their sheep have but little wool, not in the whole sufficient for a pair of stockings a year to each inhabitant; that, from the universal dearness of labor among them, the working of iron and other materials, except in a few coarse instances, is impracticable to any advantage.
Dear Sir, do not let us suffer ourselves to be amused with such groundless objections. The very tails of the American sheep are so laden with wool, that each has a little car or wagon on four little wheels to support and keep it from trailing on the ground. Would they caulk their ships; would they even litter their horses with wool, if it were not both plenty and cheap? And what signifies the dearness of labor, when an English shilling passes for five and twenty? Their engaging three hundred silk throwsters here in one week for New York was treated as a fable, because, forsooth, they have “no silk there to throw.” Those who make this objection perhaps do not know that at the same time the agents from the King of Spain were at Quebec to contract for one thousand pieces of cannon, to be made there for the fortification of Mexico, and at New York engaging the usual supply of woollen floor-carpets for their West India houses; other agents from the emperor of China were at Boston treating about an exchange of raw silk for wool, to be carried in Chinese junks through the Straits of Magellan.
And yet all this is as certainly true as the account, said to be from Quebec, in all the papers of last week, that the inhabitants of Canada are making preparations for a cod and whale fishery this “summer in the upper Lakes.” Ignorant people may object that the upper Lakes are fresh, and that cod and whales are salt water fish, but let them know, Sir, that cod, like other fish, when attacked by their enemies, fly into any water where they can be safest; that whales, when they have a mind to eat cod, pursue them wherever they fly, and that the grand leap of the whale in the chase up the Falls of Niagara is esteemed by all who have seen it as one of the finest spectacles in nature. Really, Sir, the world is grown too incredulous. It is like the pendulum ever swinging from one extreme to another. Formerly every thing printed was believed because it was in print. Now things seem to be disbelieved for just the very same reason. Wise men wonder at the present growth of infidelity. They should have considered when they taught people to doubt the authority of newspapers and the truth of predictions in the almanacs, that the next step might be a disbelief of the well-vouched accounts of ghosts and witches, and doubts even of the truths of the Creed.
Thus much I thought it necessary to say in favor of an honest set of writers whose comfortable living depends on collecting and supplying the printers with news at the small price of sixpence an article, and who always show their regard to truth by contradicting in a subsequent article such as are wrong for another sixpence, to the great satisfaction and improvement of us coffee-house students in history and politics, and all future Livys, Rapins, Robertsons, Humes, and Macaulays, who may be sincerely inclined to furnish the world with that rara avis, a true history. I am, Sir, your humble servant,