Whenever you and I think about our Founding Fathers an image pops into our heads of solemn-faced, serious-minded, dignified men who spend all their time thinking about great issues. That’s fine, but I can’t help suspecting it isn’t altogether accurate. You know what I mean? Even 250 years ago, people were people.
I ran across something a while back which sheds some light on the matter. A friend of one of our Founding Fathers wrote to him, telling him he had a very strong urge to be with women, but he definitely did not want to get married.
Our Founding Father wrote back, wisely telling his friend the best solution for his problem was to get married. We’ll read that part later. It’s just as true today as when it was written. But, said our Founding Father, if you have to go fooling around, stay away from the young ones. Find yourself an old woman.
Yes, that’s what the man said. And not only that, he listed eight reasons why he believed it was the best policy. I’m going to start this venture into the mind of one of the best known figures of American history by letting you read reason number 5 first. And I warn you in advance, be ready to disbelieve what you’re reading.
“5. Because in every Animal that walks upright, the Deficiency of the Fluids that fill the muscles appears first in the highest Part. The Face first grows lank and wrinkled; then the neck; then the Breast and Arms; the lower parts continuing to the last as plump as ever; so that covering all above with a Basket, and regarding only what is below the Girdle, it is impossible of two Women to know an old one from a young one. And, as in the Dark all Cats are grey, the Pleasure of Corporal Enjoyment with an old Woman is at least equal and frequently superior; every Knack being by Practice capable of improvement.”
When you get over the shock, read on. And please, ladies, I didn’t write those lines, and I don’t endorse them. I offer them as an insight into the mind of a man who lived 200 years ago. Believe me, I was as amazed as I read it as anyone else. Truth is, I wouldn’t touch two of those lines with a barge pole.
1) The comment about tossing a basket over a woman’s head.
2) The one about all cats being gray in the dark.
Who was the brave fool who put his signature to that letter?
You’re not going to believe this! Ben Franklin.
That’s right, good old sedate looking, sober-faced, dignified Ben Franklin.
I grabbed a 50 dollar bill the other day and tried finding a mischievous look in old Ben’s eye, but no soap.
Because I agree with it, and also to save my life in case Lolly reads this column, I’ll put old Ben’s first paragraph next.
“June 25, 1745
“My dear Friend,
“I know of no Medicine fit to diminish the violent natural Inclinations you mention; and if I did, I think I should not communicate it to you. Marriage is the proper Remedy. It is the most natural State of Man, and therefore the State in which you are most likely to find solid Happiness. Your Reasons against entering into it at present, appear to me not well-founded. The circumstantial Advantages you have in View by postponing it, are not only uncertain, but they are small in comparison with that of the Thing itself, the being married and settled. It is the Man and Woman united that make the compleat human Being. Separate, she wants his Force of Body and Strength of Reason; he, her Softness, Sensibility and acute Discernment. Together they are more likely to succeed in the World. A single Man has not nearly the Value he would have in that State of Union. He is an incomplete Animal. He resembles the odd Half of a Pair of Scissars. If you get a prudent healthy Wife, your Industry in your Profession, with her good Economy, will be a Fortune sufficient.”
And now let’s read Ben’s seven other reasons to opt elderly:
“But if you will not take this Counsel, and persist in thinking a Commerce with the Sex inevitable, then I repeat my former Advice, that in all your Amours you should prefer old Women to young ones. You call this a Paradox, and demand my Reasons. They are these:
“1. Because as they have more Knowledge of the World & their Minds are better stor’d with Observations, their Conversation is more improving and more lastingly agreeable.
“2. Because when Women cease to be handsome, they study to be good. To maintain their Influence over Men, they supply the Diminution of Beauty by an Augmentation of Utility. They learn to do a 1000 Services small and great, and are the most tender and useful of all Friends when you are sick. Thus they continue amiable. And hence there is hardly such a thing to be found as an old Woman who is not a good Woman.
“3. Because there is no hazard of Children, which irregularly produc’d may be attended with much Inconvenience.
“4. Because thro’ more Experience, they are more prudent and discreet in conducting an Intrigue to prevent Suspicion. The Commerce with them is therefore safer with regard to your Reputation. And with regard to theirs, if the Affair should happen to be known, considerate People might be rather inclin’d to excuse an old Woman who would kindly take care of a young Man, form his Manners by her good Counsels, and prevent his ruining his Health and Fortune among mercenary Prostitutes.
“6. Because the Sin is less. The debauching a Virgin may be her Ruin, and make her for Life unhappy.
“7. Because the Compunction is less. The having made a young Girl miserable may give you frequent bitter Reflections; none of which can attend the making an old Woman happy.
“8thly and Lastly They are so grateful!!
“Thus much for my Paradox. But still I advise you to marry directly; being sincerely Your affectionate Friend.”
If that doesn’t make our Founding Fathers seem a little more human to you, I guess nothing ever will. Sure convinced me.