Quote for the Week Of January 17th 2020

Good morning, it’s Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, the day of the week when I unearth an uplifting or stimulating quote. I’m still on the road on assignment, so I’ll keep this one brief. It’s from Benjamin Franklin, and longtime Morning Note readers (as well as my small but ever-growing fraternity of fact-checkers and friends who like their quotations to be accurate) may remember it.

It’s odd how much bogus history one is exposed to these days, and not only in Washington. Whether seeing fake Lincoln quotes passed along by those who should know better (i.e. Republicans) or being bludgeoned with absurd “Mark Twain” lines about any manner of things, one can’t assume anybody is showing due diligence. Speaking of which, Benjamin Franklin didn’t quite say that beer is proof God loves us and “wants us to be happy.”

I’ve no quarrel with the underlying sentiment here: God surely loves us and, hopefully, created a world in which we could be happy — a word with beer, yes, but also baseball, and Scotch whiskey, and a good book.

But whether Ben Franklin liked a brewski now and then, I am not sure. I am certain that he was a proud oenophile. And as a man of science, Franklin held an appreciation for the natural processes that allowed grapes to be made into such a wonderful accompaniment to any meal. And like many true wine lovers, the thought occurred that there is some divine purpose in the perfect table wine. In 1779, he penned a waggish and witty letter to Andre Morellet, a Jesuit philosopher and friend whom he addresses as Abbé Morellet (and which he signs Abbé Franklin). Writing in French, Franklin opens his missive by noting that Morellet has often entertained him with “excellent drinking songs,” a pleasure Franklin puckishly promises to repay at some future repast with “some Christian, moral, and philosophical reflections upon the same subject.”

This edification consists, in Ben Franklin’s telling, of asserting the superiority of wine as a beverage over water. This is not his opinion alone, he insisted — the source of this advice is the Bible itself:

In vino veritas, says the wise man — Truth is in wine. Before the days of Noah, then, men, having nothing but water to drink, could not discover the truth,” Franklin wrote. “Thus they went astray, became abominably wicked, and were justly exterminated by water, which they loved to drink. …

“We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana as of a miracle,” Franklin continued. “But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy. The miracle in question was only performed to hasten the operation, under circumstances of present necessity, which required it.”

Amen, Abbé Franklin — and there’s your quote of the week.

Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)
ccannon@realclearpolitics.com

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