I saw at ERV a reference to this story at Lost Ogle about The Baptist Messenger forging the signatures of Governor Henry and Secretary of State M. Susan Savage to Sally Kern's idiotic "Proclamation for Morality" in their display of the document. The story, about a shameful promotion held 2 July 2009 in which a group of "state leaders" prominently signed this crazy concoction which nobody reputable would touch with a ten light-year pole. Apparently attempting to give it a veneer of respectability the Messenger added the signatures of the Governor and Secretary of State (via Photoshop or the like) to a reproduction of the document. The Baptist Messenger has since printed the following retraction:
In the July 16 Messenger, the graphic representation of the Oklahoma Citizen’s Proclamation for Morality was misleading, indicating that Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry and Secretary of State Susan Savage had signed the document. This is not the case, and the Messenger staff apologizes for the oversight and error.
Now personally I wouldn't call deliberate forgery an "oversight and error," but it's better than nothing. I suppose. I noticed also that that the Baptist Messenger said nothing about the numerous forgeries and false statements that permeate the document, two of which were mentioned in an earlier entry here.
As I was staring at the bogus "graphic representation" another quotation caught my eye. It was a saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin, "Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God." It rang a bell, but something about it didn't seem right. Where had it come from?
William J. Federer, a notorious purveyor of fake quotations, has it in America's God and Country in the form "Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature." (Note the key words omitted in the proclamation.) And he attributes it to a 1927 book by William S. Pfaff, entitled Maxims and Morals of Benjamin Franklin.
So where did Pfaff get it? Well, I don't have the book, and as far as I can tell it isn't available online (it may well still be in copyright in the US, thanks to our archaic copyright laws), so I decided to start at the other end and see if I couldn't find it in Franklin's own writings. And it is, in fact, there, sort of:
The great deference, which Cicero paid to the judgment of the Roman people, appears by those inimitable orations, of which they were the sole judges and auditors. That great orator had a just opinion of their understanding. Nothing gave him a more sensible pleasure than their approbation. But the Roman populace were more learned than ours, more virtuous perhaps; but their sense of discernment was not better than ours. However, the judgment of a whole people, especially of a free people, is looked upon to be infallible; so that it has become a common proverb, that the voice of God is the voice of the people, Vox Dei est populi vox. And this is universally true, while they remain in their proper sphere, unbiased by faction, undeluded by the tricks of designing men.
Thank God! we are in the full enjoyment of all these privileges. But can we be taught to prize them too much? or how can we prize them equal to their value, if we do not know their intrinsic worth, and that they are not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature?
The point of the piece is that political power rightfully belongs to the people, not to a monarch, and the author draws on the example of the Roman republic:
We find that their dictator, a magistrate never created but in cases of great extremity, vested with power as absolute during his office (which never exceeded six months) as the greatest kings were never possessed of; this great ruler was liable to be called to an account by any of the tribunes of the people, whose persons were at the same time rendered sacred by the most solemn laws.
This is evident proof, that the Romans were of opinion, that the people could not in any sense divest themselves of the supreme authority, by conferring the most extensive power they possibly could imagine, on one or more persons acting as magistrates.
All this is taken from an essay entitled "On Government No. I" that was published in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 1 April 1736 as it appears on pp. 278-282 of the second volume of the Jared Sparks edition of The Works of Benjamin Franklin (1882). (Sometime I hope to do a piece about Jared Sparks as editor of the writings of the Founders; he was industrious, but he had his limitations, and was not above rewriting a text to improve on the words of the original.) But here's an interesting anomaly—this work does not appear in Alfred Henry Smyth's edition (1906-1908). Is there a reason for this?
Well, let's see. As Sparks notes in a footnote to this very item:
What proof there is, that the two essays on Government were written by Franklin, except that they appeared in his Gazette, I have no means of determining. The internal evidence does not appear very strong. They are included in Duane's edition. — Editor.
You see, the original essay was anonymous. The Pennsylvania Gazette, of course, was Benjamin Franklin's paper, but not everything that appeared in it was his. And as we learn from the first volume of Smyth's edition, "'The Essays on Government' which were published by Sparks and Bigelow, are acknowledged in a later issue of the Gazette to have been written by John Webbe." John Webbe was then an associate of Franklin's, later a bitter rival.
So this quotation, slightly mangled, comes not from Benjamin Franklin, the guy whose picture is on the quarter and whose name is known throughout the world, but rather to John Webbe, an obscure lawyer and newspaper publisher.
If Sally Kerns was really determined to use this quotation, it should have read:
Whereas, [the privileges of representative government] are not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature (John Webbe)...
And so on. Of course that wouldn't have had the same ring to it, the same sense of authority. It would have been better left out, along with the fake Patrick Henry and James Madison quotations previously alluded to.
So, what is the upshot of this tale of chicanery and forgery? Well, first, shame on the Baptist Messenger for adding the signatures of public officials to a very unofficial document. And also, shame on the Baptist Messenger for calling the protesters at this event "pro-homosexual". Again, shame on them for not mentioning the many distortions, lies, and forgeries in this tinkertoy document. Shame on Sally Kerns for spicing it with bogus quotations. And finally, a double helping of shame on each and every signer of this vile thing (over a thousand as of this date). Traitors to America, all of you.