Home | Search | About | Fidelio | Economy | Strategy | Justice | Conferences | Join
| Calendar | Music | Books | Concerts | Links | Education | Health
What's New | LaRouche | Spanish Pages | PoetryMaps
Dialogue of Cultures

From Leibniz to Franklin on ‘Happiness’

by David Shavin

Part I

Fidelio, Vol. XII,
No, 1. 
Summer 2003

This article is reprinted from the Spring, 2003 issue of FIDELIO Magazine.

For related articles, scroll down or click here.

In 1766, ten years before the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin met and discussed, with the German scientific republican Rudolph Erich Raspe, the Leibnizian idea of forming a nation based upon "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." In 1765, Raspe had just edited and published the first edition ever of Leibniz's suppressed manuscript, New Essays on Human Understanding, in which Leibniz had systematically torn apart the colonialist apology of John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

Locke had based man's "freedom" upon the sanctity of property relations, a materialist and barbarian philosophy that Locke personally embedded in his authorship of the feudal, and pro-slavery, 1669 "Fundamental Constitutions for the Government of Carolina." Leibniz, on the other hand, had developed the characteristically human capacity for formulating ideas, as the key, causal element in fashioning human institutions.

In 1776, Franklin was the leader of the committee of five, which had Thomas Jefferson commit to paper: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men ... ."

The Founding Fathers did not confuse "happiness" with pleasant entertainment, a "good time," or material possessions. Happiness, or felicity, was and is the composition of the universe by the Creator, such that the physical, objective conditions of existence—life1—are uniquely addressed and solved by the free exercise of man's subjective, playful, agapic capacities—i.e., liberty. It would not be Leibniz's "best of all possible worlds," had the Creator flubbed it, and created a universe where the freedom of man was not uniquely necessary for life. "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," is not a laundary list of rights. They are, and were for Benjamin Franklin, a succinct encapsulization of Leibniz's political philosophy.

How a bunch of unhappy ideologues ever managed to sucker Americans into hearing Leibniz's "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" as Locke's actual laundry-list—"life, liberty, and property"—is a type of tale upon which civilizations have been won or lost. That Franklin actually met with the men who broke the tyranny of the suppression of Leibniz's manuscripts, a tyranny run personally, for fifty years, by the Hanoverian Kings George I, II, and III of Great Britain, is a story that needs to be told. For, were a people to discover that they actually had a legitimate father, and an actual mission for human civilization, then, instead of acting like bastards, they might come to know happiness in the fulfillment of their world-historic mission.

Leibniz's New Essays vs. John Locke

Leibniz had legitimate concerns over the mental health of England, both philosophical and theological. He would famously express these in the Leibniz-Clarke letters of 1715/6—"Natural religion itself seems to be declining very much" in England—in which Clarke acted as stand-in for the man selected back in the 1680's to counter Leibniz, Isaac Newton. Leibniz had successfully negotiated the Act of Settlement of 1701, which arranged for the court of his patroness, Sophie, Duchess of Hanover, to succeed to the throne of England.2 A few years earlier, in 1690, John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding had epitomized the deliberately short-sighted and materialistic views of the faction that had taken power in England in the so-called "Glorious Revolution" of 1688/9. This "Venetian Party" in England established the Bank of England in 1694, and took aim at the republican institutions of America, such as the charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

In Locke's essay, the senses rule; what man can be sure of, is what he sees, hears, smells, tastes, or touches; and the mind can only err, if it does any more than passively process these impressions. Of course, any victim who cannot locate any better uses for his mind, might as well surrender his country and culture right then and there. Such a mind cannot carry out sustained deliberations over the proper development of culture, over the proper creation of credit, or over anything else that involves the species' love for future generations—generations which, of course, cannot be seen, heard, smelled, tasted or touched.

Initially, Leibniz communicated to Locke several pages of comments regarding his Essay.3 Locke, however, desperately wished to avoid any open discussion of his ideological work, and, in private letters to William Molyneux beginning April 1697, offered only disparaging comments about Leibniz's actions.4 After Leibniz had secured a beachhead in England, with the 1701 Act of Settlement, he turned his attention to a sustained treatment of the quality of thought threatening the English-speaking world.

Beginning in the summer of 1703, Leibniz used Locke's conceits regarding the human mind, to compose a dialogue between himself (Theophilus) and Locke (Philalethes), over the issues of the human mind and human freedom. Working in-between many other projects, Leibniz substantially finished his New Essays on Human Understanding by the summer of 1704. Another of Leibniz's projects at that time was the education of Princess Caroline of Ansbach, who was shortly to wed the Duchess Sophie's grandson, the future King George II of England. This is the same Caroline, for whom Leibniz would engage in battle in the 1715/6 Leibniz/Clarke letters. Her early, 1704/5 education on Leibniz's critique of Locke, would alter world history, as we happily shall discover. Leibniz indicated (in a letter to Locke's patroness, Lady Masham) his intention to have these issues openly worked out. However, in November 1704, shortly after Leibniz had finished his revisions of the manuscript, Locke died. This particular avenue for dealing openly with the problems in England was put aside, and the New Essays remained unpublished in Leibniz's lifetime. However, Sophie, the designated successor to England's Queen Anne, and Caroline, the future Queen of England in 1727, were both students of the manuscript (as was, most likely, Sophie's daughter, Queen Sophie Charlotte of Prussia).

Leibniz's Strategic Triangle vs. the Venetians

In 1708, Locke's faction published, posthumously, his bitter comments about Leibniz, who recognized this for what it was. When queried by a friendly diplomat about Locke's remarks, Leibniz would only say, privately: "I am not surprised by it: we differed rather too much in principles." The attacks upon Leibniz by the Venetian Party in England would grow ever more intense, the closer it came to Leibniz's Hanover house taking over England. Most egregious were the 1711-14 degradations of the Royal Society of London, where the "evidentiary hearings" and "findings" of their supposedly objective investigation into the work of both Leibniz and Newton on the development of the calculus, were largely run by Newton himself, who then secretly authored the "impartial" report. (Perhaps, Newton thought this to be a better way to avoid an open confrontation with Leibniz over actual ideas, than the much more drastic course taken by his old friend, Locke.) Newton's behavior does, however, illustrate that ideologues who protesteth overly much about their objectivity, are the first ones to be suspected of bias. This scientific show trial was the public side of a very intense, private campaign to keep Leibniz out of political power in England. The pressure was brought to bear on the weakest link of the Hanover house, Sophie's son, Georg Ludwig, soon-to-be King George I.5

From the 1701 Act of Settlement to the 1714 Hanover accession to the British throne, Leibniz was more and more at the center of European strategic confrontations. He was the declared "Solon" of Peter the Great of Russia, and he made bold inroads into attempting to civilize the Austro-Hungarian Empire—along with other operations in Berlin, Rome, Spain, and France. He came very close to healing European civilization of two centuries of Venetian-contrived brawls between Protestants and Catholics. An important part of this diplomacy is captured in Leibniz's universal justification to man of the ways of God, his Theodicy. While Newton spent the years 1711-1714, anonymously composing the public declarations of his superiority over Leibniz,6 Czar Peter had made Leibniz the "Russian Privy Counsellor of Justice" (1711); the new Austro-Hungarian Emperor, Charles VI, had agreed (February 1712) that Leibniz would become the Imperial Privy Counsellor; and (January 1713) the Emperor had had his new Imperial Privy Counsellor come to Vienna to develop an Austrian Society of Sciences. By June 1713, Leibniz could write to Sophie, the designated next Queen of England, about an alliance between an England under Sophie, and Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, all managed by Leibniz!7

This was a potential strategic disaster for the Venetian Party in England. They have their Minister to Prussia, Mr. Bonet, undercut Leibniz in Berlin, spreading rumors that Leibniz is an anti-Prussian "Hanover spy." Simultaneously, the same Venetian Party attacks him in Hanover as too "Prussian." They rely upon Sophie's son, Georg Ludwig, to try to block the appointment of Leibniz as Imperial Privy Counsellor. Georg Ludwig sends his ambassador, one D.E. Huldeburg, to warn the Austro-Hungarian dowager Empress, Amalia, that she must make the Emperor heed his warning, that Leibniz was "not in the least a suitable person for the office." However, the Emperor went ahead and made Leibniz's appointment official. Since the warning was issued on the same day, Feb. 25, 1713, as the pronouncement of the Royal Society of London, that they had weighed the evidence, and found that Leibniz had cheated Newton, it tends to throw light upon both actions. The Venetian Party feared the same thing in both cases—Leibniz's method of thinking, whether it be physical analysis, or strategic statecraft. Leibniz's associate, Johann Bernoulli, reported the news to Leibniz, saying that "he was accused before a tribunal consisting of the participants and witnesses themselves," and that Bernoulli disliked "this hardly civilized way of doing things."

When, in August 1714, the Hanover house finally took the throne of England, Sophie had been dead for two months. Georg Ludwig, the new King George I, disposed of Leibniz, in a hardly civilized manner (in many ways, not too dissimilar from how his former wife was handled). Leibniz, the long-time chief Minister and strategist for Hanover, the man who organized the Hanoverian succession to the throne of England, would normally have been expected to take the lead in the new government in London. As John Ker wrote (Aug. 25, 1714) to Leibniz in Vienna: "It will be much for the King's Service, and the Happiness of Great Britain, that you instantly leave Vienna, and make Haste to Hanover ... . [Y]ou are fully entitled more than any Man in the World to be his chief Counsellor before he goes to England ... ."8 However, Georg Ludwig pulled out of Hanover three days before Leibniz arrived there from Vienna. Caroline, the new Princess of Wales, the future Queen in George II's reign, whose first studies with Leibniz had been during his composition of his New Essays, had Leibniz stay with her, planning to take him with her across the Channel. Over the next three months, Leibniz was given various excuses from the court in London, and then, in a letter from King George I's Prime Minister, von Bernstorff, he was explicitly instructed to stay away.

Meanwhile, Caroline could delay no longer, and had to go to London without Leibniz, setting the stage for the 1715/6 battle for her soul and her happiness, represented in the Leibniz/Clarke letters. In a May 15, 1715 letter, Leibniz tried to explain to Caroline why she found the level of deliberation in London so mediocre. He wrote that Locke was less of a philosopher than he had once thought. The "good faith" that Leibniz had characteristically offered one and all, had been all used up by the Locke/Newton crowd. Caroline intervened on the situation, by choosing to have Leibniz's Theodicy translated into English and distributed. This work, which went quite deeply into unpacking the workings of the Creator in nature, in mankind, and in the soul, had done much to organize several European courts over the previous five years. However, in London, Caroline was told that the translation should be handled by the King's chaplain, one Samuel Clarke. And Clarke was (like his close associate, Newton) deeply anti-Trinitarian, and certainly not one who thought that men should inquire into how God does what He does. On behalf of Caroline, Leibniz examined Clarke's writings, whence come Leibniz's thoughts on the decline of religion in England:

Natural religion itself seems to be declining [in England] very much. Many will have human souls to be material: others make God himself a corporeal Being. Mr. Locke, and his followers, are uncertain, at least, whether the soul is not material, and naturally perishable. Sir Isaac Newton says, that space is an organ, which God makes use of to perceive things by. But if God stands in need of any organ to perceive things by, it will follow, that they do not depend altogether upon him, nor were produced by him. Sir Isaac Newton, and his followers, have also a very odd opinion concerning the work of God. According to their doctrine, God Almighty needs to wind up his watch from time to time: otherwise it would cease to move. He had not, it seems, sufficient foresight to make it a perpetual motion. ... I hold, that when God works miracles, he does not do it in order to supply the wants of nature, but those of grace. Whoever thinks otherwise, must needs have a very mean notion of the wisdom and power of God.9
God did not create a universe that was so deficient as to require miracles in order to persist. God's miracles are acts of grace, not unlike his creation of the universe itself!

In May of 1716, Caroline reported to Leibniz that Clarke and (the Venetian superspy) Antonio Conti, the two sometimes accompanied by Isaac Newton, spent many hours together on her case, arguing to her on behalf of the void. Then, in Hanover on July 27, Leibniz actually met with King George I, and Caroline writes that she hopes her father-in-law will bring Leibniz back to London with him. Leibniz, meanwhile, writes the fifth of his six letters to Clarke, which included his doubt as to whether Clarke had ever bothered to read Leibniz's Theodicy, or had ever understood any of his philosophy. At least, Caroline would now know that the assignment of Clarke to handle her project of publishing Leibniz in English, had not been made in "good-faith"—and she could make her decisions accordingly.

Beginning September 1714, and for the last two years of his life, Leibniz was attacked from every quarter. His salary was stopped by Prussia, the first place that he had established a scientific Academy. The Austro-Hungarian Empire followed suit, by suspending his salary there. When Leibniz died in November 1716, the funeral was arranged for four weeks hence, time for proper ceremonies. Although King George was nearby, vacationing at his hunting lodge, he refused to attend; all the temporal powers, taking the hint, also stayed away.

Caroline's 'Göttingen University' Project

However, King George I was, in fact, intensely interested in Leibniz—for he took possession of the New Essays Concerning Human Understanding, along with all of the vast amount of Leibniz's private writings! Leibniz's nephew, F.S. Loeffler, arrived two weeks before the funeral, but was not allowed to get his uncle's writings. Three generations of Loefflers would be in a continuous lawsuit over Leibniz's works. (It was never argued that the Leibniz heirs should get the works he composed for the House of Hanover, but only his private works.) For fifty years, Leibniz's grave was unmarked, his works were suppressed, and his proponents were largely on the defensive. In fact, when Benjamin Franklin came to Germany in 1766, the lawsuit was still unsettled, and Leibniz's works were officially under the control of King George III. The fight to free his works, and to free the American colonies, was one broad effort. And the story behind the 1765 publication of Leibniz's New Essays, and Franklin's 1766 meetings with Caroline's associate, the Baron Gerlach Adolf von Münchausen, and his collaborators Rudolph Erich Raspe and Abraham Kästner, is one that speaks to a deliberate and intentional offensive, that reached fruition with the 1776 Declaration of Independence and the 1781 victory at Yorktown.

After Caroline became Queen of England in 1727, one of her major initiatives was to create a new university. In 1734, the rector of Leipzig's St. Thomas School, J.M. Gesner, was chosen to pull together a curriculum for the future Göttingen University. Of some note, Leipzig was a center for Leibniz's supporters, and Gesner worked closely there with J.S. Bach. (Gesner's wife was godmother to one of Bach's children).10 Most importantly, Caroline's advisor for overseeing the creation of Göttingen, the Baron von Münchausen, was the Royal Commissioner who attended the 1737 inauguration of the University. After Caroline's death, Münchausen would play the key role in bringing back to life the New Essays.

Scientists: Leibniz, Kästner, and Benjamin Franklin

Abraham Kästner, Münchausen's collaborator, was a mathematician and scientist, the founder of "anti-Euclidean" geometry, who was the teacher of both Carl Friedrich Gauss and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. Kästner grew up in Leipzig and attended the University there. In the 1740's, he continued research and writing on Kepler and Leibniz at Leipzig. Two of his students there, the cousins, Christlob Mylius and Gotthold Lessing, joined Kästner in their defense of, and advocacy for, Leibniz. After Kästner and Mylius studied Franklin's electrical experiments in 1752, Kästner would arrange for Mylius to visit him!

Kästner, Mylius, and Lessing were involved in a major fight to defend Leibniz's method, in the 1746-1748 period, when the Newtonian ideologues, Maupertuis and Voltaire, attempted to suppress the use of Leibniz's notion of substance coherent with a living universe, the Leibnizian "monad." It was at this time, that Kästner turned to the work of Franklin's anti-Newtonian American collaborator, Cadwallader Colden, who had published a treatise in 1745, Explication of the First Causes of Action in Matter, and the Cause of Gravitation, which argued against Newton's void, his empty space with mysterious actions occurring at a distance. Colden developed the notion of an elastic Aether in his physics. Kästner studied the work, translated it into German, and provided a critical essay for its 1748 publication in Leipzig.11

This work had occupied Colden's thoughts since at least 1715, when he had visited London from Philadelphia, met with the astronomer Halley, and heard the controversies around Newton and Leibniz. Colden was never happy about the empty vacuum of Newtonian space, and attempted to describe the properties of non-visible, but very real, space. In 1718, he became a protégé of New York Governor Robert Hunter, who, in 1722, wrote Colden: "I am pleased with your former thoughts on ye Elasticity of ye air. I wish you would confirm them by Experiments."12 Colden and Franklin had access to James Logan's thoughts and writings in the 1720's and 1730's, both on the Leibniz-Newton controversy, and on the superiority of an analysis of an "elastic Aether" over the supposition of an empty void. Finally, Franklin obtained the Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence for his Library Company of Philadelphia, no later than 1741, and was working with Colden by 1743.13

Colden's 1745 treatise jarred the axioms in Philadelphia before reaching Kästner in Leipzig. In 1746, Franklin distributed Colden's Action in Matter, to his Philadelphia network, a group that was closely following Franklin's electrical experiments. However, Franklin had to report to Colden that everyone was having trouble comprehending the work fully. "Mr. Logan, from whom I expected most, when I desired his Opinion, said just the same [as the others]; only added, that the Doctrine of Gravity's being the Effect of Elasticity was originally Bernouilli's, but he believ'd you had not seen Bernouilli." (The Bernoulli family of Swiss scientists were, by and large, collaborators and followers of Leibniz.) Not long afterward, in Leipzig, Kästner said that he was commanded to study Colden's work, and "that the many new, good and just thoughts contain'd in it, made him willingly undertake the Task enjoin'd him."14

By 1752, Franklin's electrical experiments had caught the attention of Kästner and Mylius. In early 1752, Kästner's German version of Colden's book was sent to him in New York. On May 20, 1752, Colden writes to Franklin:

I have received a Copy of the Translation of my first piece into High Dutch with Animadversions on it at the end of it printed at Hambourg and Leipsic 1748 but I do not understand one word of them. I find my name often in company with those of very great ones Newtone, Leibnitz, and Wolfius[,] and Leibnitz's Monades often mentioned [—] a New Doctrine which perhaps you have seen and is of great repute in Germany. The animadversions end—"Magnis tamen excidit ausis" which being in Latin I understand."15
Evidently, Colden could pick out of the German, which he didn't read, frequent references to Leibniz's monads.

Franklin, saying that he knows a little German, offered to read Kästner's essay on Colden's work, but Colden had already arranged for a translator: "I have at last got the remarks on the First causes of Action in Matter well translated by Mr. Hartwick a Lutheran Minister who is well acquainted with the German systems of Philosophy."16 It is quite possible that this J.C. Hartwick's acquaintance with "the German systems of Philosophy" came directly from his study of Leibniz amongst Kästner's circles in Leipzig and Göttingen. What is known is that Hartwick's sponsor, another Lutheran minister, the more famous Henry M. Muhlenberg, had himself studied at the University of Göttingen when it was first established, graduating in 1738 [see: "Leibniz, Halle, and the American Revolution," this issue]. Hartwick graduated from Göttingen in 1739, and then studied with Muhlenberg for a period at the University of Halle. He owned works by two of Leibniz's collaborators, Christiaan Huyghens and Pierre Bayle.

Meanwhile, Kästner and Mylius had been working through Franklin's electrical experiments, including the idea that tiny sparks of static electricity were the same phenomenon as lightning bolts. Although Franklin's Experiments and Observations had been published in English in April 1751, it was not until the French publication of February 1752, that his lightning rod experiment was conducted for the first time.17 When the French King Louis XV read Franklin's work, and expressed interest in having the experiment described therein actually conducted, the Duc d'Ayen arranged for the Franklin experiments to be conducted on his estate, where they created a sensation. (This Duc d'Ayen, upon the death of his father in 1766, succeeded to the title of Duc de Noailles. He was to be the key "pro-America" figure in the French court at the time of the American Revolution, the sponsor of Beaumarchais and collaborator of Franklin. The Marquis de Lafayette would later marry the Duc de Noailles' grand-daughter Adrienne. Small world!)

Following this premiere, the lightning-rod experiment was repeated in Europe throughout the year. Mylius's letter on Franklin's work appears, along with other reports, in London's "Philosophical Transactions" (December 1752), which Franklin read soon thereafter. In 1753, Kästner arranged for the Leipzig scientific community to sponsor a trip to America for Mylius to meet with Franklin. However, he never arrived in America, having died along the way, during a stopover in London.

Franklin and Colden vs. Newton

What Kästner had in mind for Mylius in his discussions in America may not be known precisely. However, the poem that he composed for Mylius, along with the copy of Kepler's Harmonici Mundi that he gave Mylius for the trip, certainly suggest their side of the discussion. Kästner wrote that Kepler had written of the deeper coherency of the musical and astronomical forms, and that Mylius's "tender ear perceives" and his "deeper thoughts explore" these harmonies. Kästner thought of this underlying, Keplerian harmony—that of the subjective hearing of man, and of the creation and ordering of the solar system—the way Leibniz thought of it, as the type of felicity, or happiness, that characterizes a loving God.

Some measure of the American side might also be taken from the discussions of Franklin and Colden at the time. In the same October 1752 letter, where Colden secured Muehlenberg's friend to translate Kästner's remarks, Colden tells Franklin,

The remarks [16 pages by Kästner-DS] and Answer [3 pages by Colden-DS] are chiefly on the Metaphysical parts of my System. ... I hope from your Friendship that you will give me your sentiments without reserve and I beg that you will take some pains because I have some distant prospect of being able to explain the phaenomena of Electricity from my Principles with your assistance. If this can be don I am perswaded that the greatest improvement will thereby be made in the most usefull parts of Physics. I conceive that Fermentations of all sorts arise from Electricity and that the life and vegetation of Animals and Vegetables arise from Fermentation. If so the knowlege of Electricity must give great light in Medecine and Agriculture. ... I wish you would attempt some experiments to know whether the Electrical fluid can be drawn from fermenting liquors or Mixtures. I propose to try but what may fail with me may succeed with you, you have such sagacity in contriving proper experiments for any purpose you have in view.
Earlier in this letter, Colden had explained some of the problems with Newton. Along with the Aether,
... some more perfect knowledge of the Air than we have is likewise necessary and the cause of the cohesion of the parts of bodies which last has been lately the subject of my Meditations. ... Sir Isaac Newtone accounts for the cohesion of the parts of bodies from the stronger attraction in litle bodies than in great bodies but if this were the cause, the parts of bodies must run together into mutual contact if some other power do not keep them separated. What I call Aether is essentially different from ... that Elastic fluid which I think produces Electrical phaenomena. Sir Isaac Newtone was far from having clear conceptions of what I call Aether, though he perceived from the Phaenomena that some such medium must necessarily exist between the several bodies in the Universe and within them between their component parts.18
That winter, Franklin concluded a paper on whirlwinds and vortices in nature, with these remarks: "Here you have my Method of Accounting for the principal Phaenomena, which I submit to your candid Examination. If my Hypothesis is not the Truth itself, it is at least as naked: For I have not with some of our learned Moderns disguis'd my Nonsense in Greek, cloth'd it in Algebra, or adorn'd it with Fluxions." Evidently, this indictment of Newtonian fluxions was too strong for editors for the next 200 years, as the last sentence was simply omitted from all printed versions!19 Colden and Franklin were at the peak of their investigations of the elastic Aether, and prepared to free America of Newton's mind-constraining axioms, when Mylius was to arrive. Mylius had not only studied Franklin's experiments, but he had also worked under Kästner on a paper on the properties of the atmosphere, back in the period that Colden's work had been studied and published.

One of the same Newtonians that Kästner's group had to contend with, Leonhard Euler, was evidently quite concerned with Kästner's American dialogue. Euler had been a talented youth, trained by the Bernoullis, who later degraded himself by his attacks on Leibniz. He wrote that Colden's arguments were "destitute of all foundation. ... [They were] attempts to attack the best Establish'd propositions of the late Sr. Isaac Newton ... ." Euler's verdict, sent to London in November 1752, was meant to poison the environment there against Franklin's allies; and it speaks to the highly-charged environment that Mylius walked into. Enemies of Kästner and of Franklin—that is, of Leibniz—may not have taken it as a casual matter, that Kästner was linking up with Franklin at this juncture. Colden, it seems, was capable of "analysis at a distance"—after reporting these matters to Franklin, he characterized Euler: "He writes much like a Pedant highly conceited of himself."20

On Feb. 28, 1753, Franklin responded to Colden's request to edit his remarks back to Kästner: "I return you herewith Professor Kanster's Remarks. As far as I am able to judge, the Translation is just, and your Answer a good one. I am pleas'd with the Omission of that part of a Paragraph relating to the German and Pensilvanian Electricians, and have corrected the Copy as you direct." Otherwise, Franklin says to Colden not to be too obsequious, as Kästner "himself freely says, 'that the many new, good and just Thoughts contain'd in it, made him willingly undertake the Task enjoin'd him.' " Franklin thinks it enough for Colden to say: "After all, Mr. Colden must think himself obliged to the Professor, for exposing the Difficulties his Treatise lies under in the Opinion of others, as thereby an Opportunity is given of explaining his Doctrine more fully to their Satisfaction."21

Franklin concludes: "We are preparing here to make accurate Observations on the approaching Transit of Mercury over the Sun. ... I congratulate you on your Discovery of a new Motion in the Earth's Axis: You will, I see, render your Name immortal.22 I believe I have not before told you, that I have procur'd a Subscription here of £1500 to fit out a Vessel in Search of a N[orth]west Passage: she sails in a few Days, and is called the Argo, commanded by Mr. Swaine, who was in the last Expedition in the California, Author of a Journal of that Voyage in two Volumes. We think the Attempt laudable, whatever may be the Success: if he fails, Magnis tamen excidit ausis." Here, Franklin concludes with the same Latin quote Kästner used in his comments on Colden.

Thus, in brief, the collaboration of the Franklin and Kästner circles from 1745 to 1754 involved the following:

  • (1) the 1746-1748 deliberations in Philadelphia and Leipzig over the physics of an "elastic Aether";

  • (2) the 1749-1751 proposals from Franklin on experiments into the interaction of light moving through the Aether, with both the static electrical sparks and the lightning bolts being seemingly instantaneous actions, but actually analyzable for enhancing human powers;

  • (3) the 1752 proof of principle at the estate of the (future) Duc de Noailles, and the repetitions of the lightning rod experiments by Mylius, then in Berlin; and

  • (4) the early 1754 trip by Mylius, attempting to establish a personal collaboration between Kästner in Leipzig and Franklin in Philadelphia.

A dozen years later, when Franklin finally met up with Kästner in Göttingen, he would get to discuss the subjects that Mylius was never able to. However, in 1753/4, Franklin was organizing an expedition to search for a Northwest passage, and was about to launch the Albany Plan of Union, an early effort to unify the colonies. Mylius's cousin, Lessing, showed great courage in defending Leibniz (and, indirectly, his cousin), against Euler's group at the Berlin Academy of Science.23 Kästner left Leipzig in 1756 to become a professor at Göttingen. His worked-out pedagogy from that period (the Angangsgründe der Arithmetik und Geometrie, ebenen und sphärischen Trigonometrie und Perspektiv) was obviously motivated by his new assignment in Göttingen. One of his earliest students there to benefit from his teaching would have been the young Rudolph Erich Raspe.

The Liberation of Leibniz's New Essays

Rudolph Erich Raspe, born in 1737, the same year as the founding of Caroline's Göttingen University, studied Leibniz's works from 1755 to 1760 at Göttingen and Leipzig.24 In 1757, he was likely inspired when Lessing visited Leipzig; for, although Raspe's senior by only eight years, Lessing, along with his close collaborator Mendelssohn, had just outwitted and embarassed the organized anti-Leibniz cabal of Maupertuis and Euler that had taken over the Berlin Academy. The idea that the intellectual witchhunt against Leibniz could be beaten, was evidently a live and exciting prospect for Raspe. The lives of Raspe and Lessing would intersect over the next three decades.

Raspe began working with Kästner during this period, and from 1759 to 1762, they worked over many of the unpublished manuscripts of Leibniz, located in the Royal Library in Hanover. Münchausen was likely the one responsible for placing Raspe in his first employment in 1760, working in the manuscript department of that same Royal Library. Raspe would travel the eighty miles between Hanover and Göttingen quite regularly, conveying his precious copies of the manuscripts to his associates.25

The Hanover Court Councillor Jung, who, as the chief librarian at the Royal Library, had to account to (the new) King George III, was evidently rather nervous about these developments. When Raspe announced in the Leipzig Nova Acta Eruditorum in 1762, that there would be an edition of Leibniz's philosophical and mathematical works never seen before, Jung would not allow it. It took pressure from Baron von Münchausen to exact an arrangement, whereby Raspe could carry out the project, though with some sort of plausible deniability for Jung. Raspe would take the manuscripts home with him, to work on them there after hours, and Jung would keep official distance from the project. Münchausen's ability to maneuver inside the British Empire, and to crack open a little bit of the iron grip of the Venetian Party over Leibniz's works, is perhaps to be compared to some of Franklin's successes. The historic volume was published in 1765, and included six works, featuring (in Leibniz's original French) the Nouveaux Essais sur l'Entendement Humain. Kästner's introductory essay highlighted the scientific importance of Leibniz's works [see: Translation, this issue].26

The 'Optimism' Offensive of 1765-1767

The Raspe/Kästner 1765 publication of Leibniz can be said to have launched a cultural offensive "heard 'round the world"—a decade before the famous "shot heard 'round the world" reverberated from Concord and Lexington. Between 1765 and 1767, Leibniz's followers engineered an amazing culture of optimism, centered around the first complete publication of Shakespeare in German, and Moses Mendelssohn's Phaedon, a Leibnizian treatment of Plato's "Phaedo" dialogue.27 Wieland's translation of the complete edition of Shakespeare's plays, completed in 1766, brought a level of excitement, intellectual challenge, and statecraft to the public stages of Germany—a new level of responsibility was being publicly articulated for a somewhat downtrodden population. Wieland's publisher, Friedrich Nicolai, brought out Mendelssohn's Phaedon the following year. Mendelssohn succeeded in engaging a tremendously expanded audience—until then largely devoid of Platonic philosophizing—with a Leibnizian treatment of mortality. Death became a subject that could deepen and strengthen how mortals composed their lives, should they take up the challenge of bending their mind and soul to the subject.

Benjamin Franklin stepped into the middle of this republican ferment on his trip to Germany in the summer of 1766. A fragment of a 1767 letter between two of who would be Franklin's best collaborators in France, highlights the republican spirit bursting out. Caron de Beaumarchais, who would be the catalyst for the French court in supporting the Americans with munitions and vital supplies, wrote to the Duc de Noailles, who would lead the pro-American faction amongst the old nobility of France:

I have loved [politics] with a passion. Readings, writings, travels, observations, I did everything I could for it. The powers' respective rights, the pretensions of the princes which always upset the mass of mankind, the interaction of governments on one another, those were interests meant for the soul. More than anyone else, perhaps, I have felt crossed by my need to take a large view of things, while I am the least of men. I have sometimes felt like protesting, in my unjust humor, against fate which did not place me in a position more appropriate to what I felt I was suited for. Especially when I considered that the mission given by kings and ministers to their agents certainly do not impress on them, like the ancient apostleship, a sort of grace which would make enlightened and sublime men out of the puniest brains.28

Franklin, the Stamp Act, and London's Attack on Raspe

Franklin arrived in Germany, fresh from an historic victory before the Parliament in London, where his testimony (Feb. 13, 1766) was crucial in bringing down the imperial Stamp Act, authored by the former Prime Minister, George Grenville. Simultaneous with his testimony in Parliament, Franklin had published, in The London Chronicle, a letter from "Pacificus," advising the British: "If the Duke d'Alva had treated the people of the Netherlands with gentleness and humanity, they would never have revolted. Thank God, we have no Duke d'Alva in England."29 However, the actual "Duke of Alva," Grenville's imperial faction in London, had thought that, with the 1763 defeat of France in the Seven Years War (French and Indian War), they could put the stamp on a military power system, financed by tax-farming their colonies. Franklin inspired the less ideologically-driven in Parliament, that it was not in their best interests to use their power in an imperial fashion. The Parliament voted to repeal the Stamp Act, and the colonies praised Franklin.

A matter of days before Franklin's intervention into the Parliament, and in the midst of an intense showdown between Britain's stated imperial policy, and Franklin's more mature pathway for handling the colonies, London's Monthly Review launched an attack upon Raspe for his publication of Leibniz's New Essays, censuring the work as being a harsh assault upon John Locke.30 While the article probably did reflect the degree of anger coming from George III's Privy Council, that someone had the audacity to publish that long-buried manuscript, it also was an ill-timed freakout. It very well might have put Franklin onto the track of Raspe, leading to his decision to visit Hanover that summer.31

Meanwhile, in Hanover that spring of 1766, Raspe composed poems called "Frühlingsgedanken" ("Thoughts of Spring"), occasioned by the marriage of his sister to Lessing's friend, Herr Völger of Brunswick. The period of his discussions with Franklin also found him writing a play (Hermin und Gunilde) that was reviewed in the same issue of Nicolai's literary journal, as Lessing's book-length essay, Laocoön. Raspe was also translating another play (Suleiman II) into German, which was favorably reviewed in Lessing's journal, Dramaturgie. Finally, Raspe had plunged into Shakespeare's works, excited that he had found something comparable to Homer's dramatic method. So, the Raspe that Franklin met with, had been sponsored by Münchausen, educated by Kästner and Lessing, and was a collaborator of Mendelssohn's publisher, Nicolai. And, to put the point on it, the arch-enemy of both Lessing and Mendelssohn, J.G. Jacobi—a sort of Romantic fundamentalist—provided his measure of Raspe at this time: "What I disliked about him was the cocksure manner he had in company." Clearly, Raspe had "American" written all over him!

Franklin Meets Raspe and Kästner

Franklin visited Raspe first in Hanover, accompanied by Sir John Pringle. Two days before his June 15, 1766 departure for Germany, Franklin informed his wife Deborah, "I purpose to leave him [Pringle] at Pyrmont, and visit some of the principal Cities nearest to it, and call for him again when the Time of our Return draws nigh."32 One infers from this, minimally, that (the newly-titled) Sir Pringle had given Franklin the idea that he meant to accompany Franklin only to the spa at Pyrmont. (The much more aggressive inference would be that Franklin knew that Pringle intended to accompany him throughout Germany, and Franklin meant to abandon him at the spa!) It is to be suspected that Pringle accompanied Franklin not in full good faith. A decade later, Pringle would be at the center of King George III's rage against Raspe.

After a fortnight at the spa in Pyrmont, Franklin arrived in Hanover on July 7, with Pringle alongside. He met with Raspe and Münchausen over the next ten days or so. It is known that they took Franklin on at least one tour of the Royal Library (July 9), where the bulk of the Leibniz documents had been stored since King George I's seizure of the documents exactly fifty years earlier. Among those vast documents lay a Socratic dialogue composed by Leibniz, titled "Pacidius to Philalethes." (Leibniz would later use two of its four characters when he composed his New Essays—"Theophilus" as Leibniz, and "Philalethes" as Locke). The dialogue opens with a description that could have been that of the meeting of Franklin and Raspe—except that Leibniz had written the scene ninety years before. In the dialogue, Theophilus (the Franklin figure) is described as having been very successful and honored in business in the first part of his life, but had now

decided to dedicate the rest of his life to peace of mind and worship of the Divine. A man with a kind of inner sense of solid piety, he was consumed with the study of the common good [communis boni], on whose increase he had often pinned his hope, and on which he had stinted neither wealth nor labor.33
Pacidius (here, the Raspe figure) continues: "I had a close friendship with him, and enjoyed his company. At that time, by chance, we were having a long conversation about the State [Republica] ... ."

How close Leibniz's scene came to the actual event, we can only surmise. However, there can be no doubt that Leibniz's contention with Locke over human nature, and human governance, was of intimate concern to both Raspe and Franklin. The subsequent developments leave no doubt about this. They must have also discussed the freakout in London over the publication of Leibniz's New Essays, as they planned for Raspe to compose, and Franklin to have published, a rejoinder to the strenuous defense of Locke in the London Monthly Review. Franklin, who read French, undoubtedly studied the text with Raspe, taking a copy of the Leibniz with him.

Before leaving Hanover, Franklin was shown the electrical apparatus there of a Professor Hartmann. Münchausen's letter, describing Franklin to their friends in Göttingen as being expert in "physical Economy and Agriculture," also gives some idea as to his impression of his discussions with Franklin.34

Then Franklin reached Göttingen, and got to meet with Kästner in person. Kästner had complained in the Preface to Leibniz's New Essays, about the need for English thinkers to read Leibniz's treatment of Locke, as the passive worship of Locke was cheapening thought [see Translation, this issue]. Franklin's arrival must have seemed a godsend. On July 19, Göttingen celebrated Franklin's visit there with an evening "Science Festival," including more electrical experimentation. Kästner had attempted a dialogue with Franklin thirteen years earlier, when he arranged for his collaborator on Franklin's electrical experiments, Mylius, to make his ill-fated trip to America. Now, Kästner had prepared a special paper on the nature of electricity, and it was presented as the highlight of the evening.35 Franklin would remember this evening three years later, when he presented a copy of the new 1769 edition of his book, Experiments and Observations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia in America, with the inscription: "To the Royal Academy of Sciences at Göttingen as a small Token of his Respect and Duty, This Book is humbly presented by the Author."

Some of the discussions in Göttingen were reflected in Professor Gottfried Achenwall's publication, "Some Observations on North America from Oral Information by Dr. Franklin."36 Achenwall and friends were interested in Franklin's 1751 "Observations concerning the Increase of Mankind," and the possibilities for the development of America. Franklin briefed them on the consequences of the recent British imperial attempt upon the colonies. Achenwall related:

[A]ll the colonies were of one mind, and so [in 1765] they decided on a general congress, to avert the storm. Such a congress of delegates from all the North American colonies had never been voluntarily called before, and the common decision not to accept the stamp taxes and to work for their repeal by united strength, was a significant agreement. ... The general agreement of the colonies as shown in relation to the Stamp Act, is the more noteworthy, as the colonies have generally been jealous of one another ... ."37
Achenwall was clearly struck by Franklin's emphasis upon the new political geometry, as a result of the imperial overstepping by Britain.

Otherwise, while in Göttingen, Franklin stayed at the home of Professor J.D. Michaelis, the publisher of the Leibniz-Ludolf correspondence on philology eleven years earlier. Franklin's glass harmonica was performed upon by the math professor A.L.F. Meister, which occasioned notice in the local papers. Other direct beneficiaries of Franklin's presence at Göttingen included the Danish minister, A.P.G. von Bernstorff, a collaborator of Moses Mendelssohn, who would be involved in the League of Armed Neutrality; the natural law advocate and published proponent of America, J.J. Möser, who would be jailed for five years by Duke Karl Eugen of Württemberg; and the student Christoph Daniel Ebeling, who would promote the cause of America his whole life, working with the likes of Lessing and Mathew Carey.38

Franklin expended considerable effort to get as many as possible of the books that his Leibnizian friends in Hanover and Göttingen had recommended to him. He left funds for Raspe to purchase whatever books Franklin could not obtain first-hand on his trip through Germany. Although the list of books is not known, it seems certain that Franklin carried Raspe's historic edition of Leibniz with him.

Franklin and Pringle passed through Cassel, on their way to Frankfurt and Mainz; Trier and Cologne were visited on the return trip to London. Upon arriving in London, Franklin was intent upon consolidating the victory over the Stamp Act, by securing a policy of real economic development for America. A week after his mid-August return, he writes to his son: "I can now only add, that I will endeavour to accomplish all that you and our friends [in the "Illinois Company"] desire relating to the settlement westward."

The Hardening of Enemies

Exploring the possibility of an intelligent alternative for England, Franklin met with Lord Shelburne about the internal development of America—and specifically, about a project to develop the rich area of Illinois. To his son, William, he wrote on September 27, that Shelburne had read William's "Illinois Company" plan. But Shelburne reported to Franklin:

[I]t did not quadrate with the sentiments of people here; ... that their objections to it were, the distance, which would make it of little use to this country [Britain], as the expense on the carriage of goods would oblige the people to manufacture for themselves; that it would for the same reason be difficult both to defend it and to govern it; that it might lay the foundation of a power in the heart of America, which in time might be troublesome to the other colonies, and prejudicial to our government over them ... ."39
Who were the "people here" with such entrenched imperial sentiments toward America? While Franklin had been in Germany, William Pitt had taken over the British Ministry for George III, as the previous (Rockingham) Ministry had manifestly failed to crack the colonists. The British leadership reacted to Franklin's Stamp Act victory, as they had reacted to Leibniz, and to Raspe's publication—by circling the wagons and getting nastier. Pitt's policy toward the colonies, as summed up by Shelburne, had been articulated in a work called a "Plan for the West."40 Its author, the 2nd Viscount Barrington, drafted it shortly after the repeal of the Stamp Act, and had since became War Secretary in the new Pitt government. It adequately conveyed the next stage of British policy toward the colonies. They may have temporarily lost the Stamp Act battle; however, the colonies would be bottled up, and the financial looting would proceed, only temporarily delayed. Shelburne continued to play the "soft cop," however, telling Franklin how much he approved of his plans—but, unfortunately, "they" (Pitt, Barrington, et al.) wouldn't allow for the colonization of Illinois, or for the "foundation of a power in the heart of America."41

Through the winter of 1766/7, the Pitt government gave out that the colonies were the source of Britain's problems, and had to be dealt with. Franklin's "Reply to Coffee-House Orators," published April 9, 1767 in The London Chronicle, sounded forth with an impressive voice:

Athens had her orators. They did her sometimes a great deal of good, at other times a great deal of harm; the latter particularly when they prevailed in advising the Sicilian war, under the burthen and losses of which war that flourishing state sunk, and never again recovered itself.42 To the haranguers of the populace among the ancients, succeed among the moderns your writers of political pamphlets and news-papers, and your coffee-house talkers.

It is remarkable that soldiers by profession, men truly and unquestionably brave, seldom advise war but in cases of extream necessity. While mere rhetoricians, tongue-pads and scribes, timid by nature, or from their little bodily exercise deficient in those spirits that give real courage, are ever bawling for war on the most trifling occasions, and seem the most blood-thirsty of mankind ...

Every step is now taking to enrage us against America. Pamphlets and news-papers flie about, and coffee-houses ring with lying reports of its being in rebellion. Force is call'd for. Fleets and troops should be sent. ... The principal people should be brought here and hang'd, &c ...

[W]hen the wolf is determined on a quarrel with the lamb, up stream or down stream 'tis all one; pretences are easily found or made, reason and justice are out of the question.43

Franklin's very public intervention, besides being a timely message for any modern country that would ape British imperial methods, makes clear his judgment at the time, of the unravelling situation since his return from Germany.

The newly hardened policy in London can also be seen in the treatment given to a new essay by Raspe on the Leibniz/Locke dispute. On Sept. 9, 1766, Franklin first wrote to Raspe after returning from his Hanover visit: "I received your obliging Favour of Augt. 28. with the Paper enclos'd for the Monthly Review, which I shall communicate to the Managers of that Work, and imagine I shall prevail with them to do you better Justice."44 This is the work that Franklin and Raspe had discussed that summer to counter the January 1766 attack on Raspe, when they had agreed for Raspe to write a follow-up for Franklin to use. However, Franklin was not able to achieve a "better Justice," running into the same problems as with the Illinois project. A decision that fall by those who controlled the Monthly Review, consigned Raspe's paper to the waste bin, and the work has never been located since.

The January 1767 Monthly Review did note the fact that Raspe had made a reply to their attack. As the editor of The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, Leonard W. Labaree, relates it, they published a cryptic comment, "acknowledging Raspe's communication, expressing regret at his displeasure, and stating that the passages that had displeased him had not referred to his publication 'but to another work, the natural produce of our own country.' "45 This transparent nonsense could not have been meant to be taken seriously. It had been their review of Raspe's publication of Leibniz, that had occasioned their uproar over a public challenge of Locke. Undoubtedly, there was also some "natural produce" in London working with Raspe and Franklin; but, regardless, the gatekeepers of public discussion in London were making clear that there would be no more systematic treatment of Locke or his philosophy. The mention of the name, "Leibniz"—(the "L" ["LaRouche"] -word of the Eighteenth century)—in England, was clearly in bad form. Publishing the New Essays in the original French had already been over the line. Meeting and strategizing with the American hero of the Stamp Act battle, was past the point of no return. The score with Raspe would be settled later, and by other methods. Of course, Raspe's follow-up letters to the Monthly Review would also not be worthy of publication or comment.

What was so important about Franklin's extended stay with Raspe in Hanover? And why would the British imperialist faction display such an obsessive, feral instinct against the meeting, and the unleashing of Leibniz's ideas? The defeat of the deeply-rooted commitment to greed and backwardness on the part of the British imperialists, would require a certain quality of mind and morality—one capable of rooting out the enslavement to the Lockean "sense-certainty" axioms, that is, to the "animal" quality in humans. The ten days, or so, that Franklin spent in and around Leibniz's works, in discussions with Raspe and Münchausen, were unique. The profound enrichment that can only come about from the systematic examination of the axiomatics of one's thinking, both the strengths and the fracture points, is the type of work necessary for forging the leadership of so singular an accomplishment as the creation of that "Beacon of Hope and Temple of Liberty," the sovereign United States of America.46

Locke represented the mental infection of enlightened greed. Many arguments in the colonies, in the period from the 1764 Stamp Act to the Congressional debates of 1774, did indeed largely function within the constraints of Locke's axiomatics—as Locke had designed them to do. For example, Jefferson was still employing the formulation "life, liberty, and property" as of the 1774 debates. The fear of breaking from the power of the British Empire, and of assuming "among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them," did much to constrain argumentation in that period. Many of the appeals were intended to adjust British policy towards a more enlightened self-interest on the part of the colonial administrator.

The "pursuit of happiness" coup was inextricably linked to Franklin's personal intervention upon his return to Philadelphia in the spring of 1775. The different attacks upon Franklin and Raspe from 1766-1775, not only indicate the focus of the rage of the Venetian Party in England, but also the unique forging of Franklin's mettle. The rage was centered around the breakout of the dreaded "Leibniz" factor. By way of contrast, Cadwallader Colden did not make it through these years, parting ways with Franklin, and ending up a Royalist. Who knows how he might have developed, were he to have had the extensive deliberations with Kaestner's representative, Mylius, offered Franklin back in 1753?

top of page

Part two of From Leibniz to Franklin on ‘Happiness’


1. Of some note, "life" in the original draft was actually written as "the preservation of life ... ."

2. This fascinating strategic coup of Leibniz is developed in H. Graham Lowry's How the Nation Was Won: America's Untold Story. Vol. I: 1630-1754 (Washington, D.C.: Executive Intelligence Review, 1987).

3. The best presentation of the joint Locke-Newton anti-republican policies and actions can be found in Philip Valenti's "The Anti-Newtonian Roots of the American Revolution," Executive Intelligence Review, Dec. 1, 1995 (Vol. 22, No. 48), pp. 12-31.

4. Locke may well have also been agitated over Leibniz's habit of rooting out intellectual frauds, as Leibniz was then in the midst of a scientific challenge to Locke's underling Newton. The public challenge, issued by Leibniz's collaborator, Johann Bernoulli, on the brachistochrone—or "least time"—problem, had made it clear that real scientific and mental development was an eminently public matter.

5. Georg Ludwig's wife, Sophie Dorothea, had been under "house arrest" since 1694, under most bizarre circumstances, never to see her husband or her children again. She had tried to escape from Georg Ludwig; and the man who tried to aid her, Königsmarck, was murdered by four courtiers, his body placed in a sack loaded with stones, to "swim with the fishes." Whatever her fears were of her husband, they seemed to go far beyond the mere matter of his having a mistress. Her pleas to her own father, prior to her attempt to flee, had gone unaddressed, for fear of disturbing political arrangements. Georg Ludwig's son, George II, and also his daughter-in-law, Caroline, would consequently never be close to him. Undoubtedly, the file that was compiled on Georg Ludwig would be an easy avenue for pressure upon, and control over, him.

6. What is one to conclude, when charges of cheating are decided by cheating?

7.  I have relied upon E.J. Aiton, Leibniz: A Biography (Bristol and Boston: Adam Hilger, Ltd., 1985) for significant portions of the facts of Leibniz's life.

8. Memoirs of John Ker of Kersland (London: John Ker, 1727), quoted in Philip Valenti, unpublished, 1978.

9. G.W. Leibniz and Samuel Clarke: Correspondence, ed. by Roger Ariew (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2000). The first of the six letters by Leibniz in this correspondence of about a one year course.

10. For example, the Acta Eruditorum, published in Leipzig, was established by Leibniz in 1682 to publish his, and his circle's, scientific work. Leibniz's half-brother, Johann Friedrich, and his brother-in-law, F.S. Loeffler, had taught in Leipzig. Based out of Leipzig, three generations of the Loeffler family fought for Leibniz's works. See my article on the Leibniz core around Bach's Leipzig: "Thinking Through Singing: The Strategic Significance of J.S. Bach's A Musical Offering," Fidelio, Winter 2000 (Vol. IX, No. 4).

11. See Valenti, "Anti-Newtonian Roots," op. cit., for an excellent presentation of Colden's work, along with the work of Franklin's Philadelphia mentor James Logan. However, Valenti was not aware of Kästner's interest in the work.

12. Cadwallader Colden Papers, Vol. I, in New York Historical Society Papers, 1917, Preface and p. 140.

13. See Valenti, "Anti-Newtonian Roots," op. cit.

14. This is Franklin's account of Kästner's words. Feb. 28, 1753 letter to Colden, in The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, ed. by Leonard W. Labaree (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969), Vol. 13, p. 425.

15. Papers, op. cit., Vol. 4, p. 314. The Latin is from Ovid's Metamorphoses, loosely translated as: "At least he dared greatly, although he failed." Minimal punctuation added, shown in brackets.

16. Ibid., p. 354.

17. Franklin wrote several reports to Collinson on his research on electricity in 1749 and 1750; however, the London Royal Society treated them with disdain. Included among the results of his experiments was the proposal to test the hypothesis that lightning was the same phenomenon as the electric sparks generated in the laboratory, by experimenting with both kites, and lightning-rods. Franklin did not carry out his famous kite experiment until the summer of 1752, a year after the Experiments and Observations was published; he subsequently received reports of the lightning-rod experiments carried out in France in the spring of 1752.

18. Papers, op. cit., Vol. 4, pp. 374-375.

19. Ibid, p. 442.

20. Nov. 19, 1753, Colden letter to Franklin. Quoted in Valenti, op. cit. Valenti points out that Franklin's London associate, Peter Collinson, reported to Colden, March 13, 1755, that, "The state of the case seems to be this—that every one [in London] is so satisfied with Sir Isaac's [theory] that they have no curiosity to examine yours .. . [I]n Germany or France it would not want for perusal." This certainly sounds like a politically-repressed and frightened environment. If the premature demise of Mylius in 1754 was not an assassination, the mere unaddressed suspicions of a foul end to Mylius, would have had the same repressive effect.

21. Papers, op. cit., Vol. 4, pp. 446-447.

22. Colden had made observations showing the axis of the ecliptic differed by a few seconds of an angle between winter and summer solstices.

23. Lessing, and his new ally Moses Mendelssohn, both in their mid-twenties, composed and distributed a work satirizing the prize essay competition run by the Berlin Academy's Maupertuis and Euler, thus succeeding in exposing them as fools in their attacks upon Leibniz. See G.E. Lessing and Moses Mendelssohn, "Pope a Metaphysician! An Anonymous Pamphlet in Defense of Leibniz," Fidelio,Winter 1999 (Vol. VIII, No. 4).

24. Most of the following on Raspe's career is drawn from John Carswell's The Romantic Rogue: Being the Singular Life and Adventures of Rudolph Eric Raspe (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1950).

25. The Göttingen philologist, Christian Gottlob Heyne, father-in-law of one of Raspe's good friends, shared the joys of working on Leibniz with Raspe and Kästner during this period. Heyne had already benefitted from an earlier "Leibniz publishing" event, when in 1755, a Göttingen colleague, Professor A.B. Michaelis, brought out the Leibniz-Ludolf Correspondence, which was centered upon philological studies (see "Leibniz, Halle, and the American Revolution," see footnote number 4).

26. The other five works in the volume were: "Examen du Sentiment du Pere Malebranche que nous voyons tout en Dieu," "Dialogues de Connexione inter Res et Verba," "Difficultates quaedam Logicae," "Discours Touchant la Methode de la Certitude et l'Art d'inventer," and "Historia et Commendatio Characteristicae Universalis quae simul sit Ars Inveniendi."

27. See David Shavin, "Philosophical Vignettes from the Political Life of Moses Mendelssohn," Fidelio, Summer 1999 (Vol. VIII, No. 2). An additional sign of this improved environment: After twenty years of attacks upon Leibniz at the very Berlin Academy of Science that he had founded, the Academy chose, in 1767, to give an award for the best eulogy of Leibniz! The winner, Jean Sylvain Bailly, launched a career in astronomy and republicanism, working with Franklin and the Marquis de LaFayette; see Pierre Beaudry, "Jean Sylvain Bailly: The French Revolution's Benjamin Franklin," Executive Intelligence Review, Jan. 26, 2001 (Vol. 28, No. 4).

28. For the Good of Mankind: Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais' Political Correspondence Relative to the American Revolution, ed. and trans. by Antoinette Shewmake (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1987), pp. 12-13. De Noailles would die under the guillotine during the Terror.

29. Papers, op. cit., Vol. 13, p. 163. Franklin's Pacificus, and his other literary voices, managed to combine a gentleness with a sharpness, most effectively, in a manner reminiscent to this author's ear of his German contemporary Moses Mendelssohn.

30. The Monthly Review, January 1766, Vol. XXXIII, Appendix, pp. 497-505.

31. Franklin had been in England for most of the previous decade, but only got to the Continent once before. Whether he had already intended to go to Leibniz's library in Hanover, or not, the public freakout against Raspe might well have triggered or consolidated his intentions. Further, that Franklin's old literary acquaintance, Kästner, had written the introduction to the Leibniz volume, might have provided that much more incentive.

32. Papers, op. cit., Vol. 13, p. 316.

33. "Pacidius to Philalethes: A First Philosophy of Motion," in The Labyrinth of the Continuum, ed. and trans. by Richard T.W. Arthur (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), pp. 131-133.

34. July 13, 1766: "Franklin, der Doctor juris und Insonderheit in der Oeconomie physique und der Agricultur grosse Kenntnis hat."

35. The event was described in the Sept. 13, 1766 Göttingeische Anzeigen von gelehrten Sachen.

36. Hannoverisches Magazin, Feb. 27-April 20, 1767. For an English translation, see Papers, op. cit., Vol. 13, pp. 346-377.

37. Papers, op. cit., Vol. 13, pp. 375-376.

38. Franklin was the sponsor of Mathew Carey. It is not clear if he ever met Lessing. What is known is, that Lessing was visiting Kästner at Göttingen no later than August 2, two weeks after the Göttingen "Science Festival," and that his host, Michaelis, was Franklin's host. Minimally, Lessing would have had ample opportunity to hear first-hand of the events and deliberations from Kästner and others. Curiously, Lessing had been in Pyrmont earlier, in June, at the same spa where Franklin had also been in late June. Kästner's Aug. 2, 1766 poem for the occasion reads (in translation):

To conquer blindness by his gentle songs,
Amphion passing foreign lands was seen.
O Lessing! If Amphion's art were yours,
For our confused minds wouldst thou sing.

39. Papers, op. cit., Vol. 13, pp. 424-425. Emphasis added.

40. Papers, ibid., p. 425, note 2.

41. Curiously, Barrington's brother, Daines Barrington, had been assigned an equally sensitive matter a year earlier. He was to investigate for the Royal Society whether the eight-year-old genius, Mozart, then visiting London, was possibly an adult dwarf! That is, the human mind could not have such potentiality—nor could, for that matter, Illinois or the American continent.

42. Gorgias was the orator who inflamed Alcibiades in 417-415 B.C.E.,: sending Athens into renewed bloodshed and ruin. See Plato's dialogues, "Gorgias" and "Alcibiades." Franklin, insightfully, compares the pause, and possible peace, in the midst of the Peloponnesian War, to the just concluded 1756-63 French and Indian War. Athens succumbed to the oratory, plunging to her destruction.

43. "Reply to Coffee House Orators," in Benjamin Franklin: Writings, ed. by J.A. Leo Lemay (New York: Library of America, 1987), pp. 590-594.

44. Papers, op. cit., Vol. 13, p. 406.

45. Ibid., p. 406-407, note 5.

46. Of course, Franklin did not need to discuss Leibniz's extended treatment of Locke, with Raspe and Münchausen, in order "to do good"—he had spent most of his previous sixty years doing just that. The story of the influence of Cotton Mather's Essays To Do Good upon the teenage Franklin, and of his subsequent good actions—including, the organization of his Junto, his establishment of fire stations, lending libraries, military defense, academies, schools for public education of Indians and African-Americans, etc.—has been reported elsewhere. Notable are Lowry's coverage of the Mathers; Trout's presentation of the literate Commonwealth cultural tradition; and Valenti's tracking of the coherence between the scientific and the political policies, of both the Leibniz/Logan/Franklin republican circles, and the contrary Locke/Newton colonial circles. Further, Trout has demonstrated that the Congressional delegations in Philadelphia, just prior to the Declaration of Independence, found that the Law of Nations by the Leibnizian, Vattel, was crucial to their deliberations. See Lowry, op.cit., Valenti, op. cit., and Robert Trout, "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: How the Natural Law Concepts of G.W. Leibniz Inspired America's Founding Fathers," Fidelio, Spring 1997 (Vol. VI, No. 1), and "The Aesthetical Education of America," Fidelio,Winter 1999 (Vol. VIII, No. 4).

top of page

Part two of From Leibniz to Franklin on ‘Happiness’

Related Articles

Revolution in Music

Education, Science and Poetry

Fidelio Table of Contents from 1992-1996

Fidelio Table of Contents from 1997-2001

Fidelio Table of Contents from 2002-present

Beautiful Front Covers of Fidelio Magazine

What is the Schiller Institute?

top of page

Join the Schiller Institute,
and help make a new, golden Renaissance!

MOST BACK ISSUES ARE STILL AVAILABLE! One hundred pages in each issue, of groundbreaking original research on philosophy, history, music, classical culture, news, translations, and reviews. Individual copies, while they last, are $5.00 each plus shipping

Subscribe to Fidelio:
Only $20 for 4 issues, $40 for 8 issues.
Overseas subscriptions: $40 for 4 issues.

The Schiller Institute
PO BOX 20244
Washington, DC 20041-0244


Home | Search | About | Fidelio | Economy | Strategy | Justice | Conferences | Join
| Calendar | Music | Books | Concerts | Links | Education | Health
What's New | LaRouche | Spanish Pages | PoetryMaps |
Dialogue of Cultures

© Copyright Schiller Institute, Inc. 2001- 2003 All Rights Reserved.