Benjamin Franklin Libretto
(In His Own Words)



(An organization founded by Franklin to further knowledge and community in the Colonies, the Junto Society as it was known, boasted 12 members, each from a different discipline. The Junto sit at tables far downstage. A Prayer of Thanks is sung by the chorus during the Prologue while various members ask questions. Franklin stands throughout. Behind the Junto, upstage, is Franklin's Study, completely darkened during the Prologue.)


Male Chorus (the Junto):


Prayer of Thanks


For peace and liberty, for food and

raiment, for corn and wine and milk

and every other nourishment

I thank Thee.


For the common benefits of air and

light, for useful fire and delicious water

I thank Thee.


For knowledge and literature and

every useful art, for my friends,and their

prosperity and for the fewness of my enemies

I thank Thee.


For all the [many] benefits,

for life, for reason, for health,

for joy and every pleasant hour

I thank Thee.


(Individual Junto members speak only)

Junto Member 1:

 Can a Man arrive at Perfection in this Life as some

believe; or is it impossible as others believe?

Junto Member 2:

 Wherein consists the Happiness of a rational Creature?


Junto Member 3:

 What do you mean by a sound mind?


Franklin (speaks):

 What is Wisdom?


Junto Member 4:

 What do you mean by the Necessities of Life?

What do you mean by the Conveniencies of Life?


Junto Member 5:

 Is there any Difference between Knowledge and Prudence?


Junto Member 6:

 Is it justifiable to put private Men to Death for the

sake of publick Safety or Tranquility?


Junto Member 7:

 Which is best to make a Friend of, a wise and good Man

that is poor; or a Rich Man that is neither wise nor good]?


Franklin (speaks); slower:

 If the Sovereign Power attempts to deprive a Subject

of his Right, is it justifiable in him to resist if he is able?


(Chorus ends)


Franklin (sings; to members of Junto):

 Do you sincerely declare that youlove mankind in general;

of what profession or religionsoever?





 Do you think any person ought to be harmed in his body,

name or goods, for mere speculative reasons…?






 Do you love truth for truth's sake, and will you

endeavor impartially to find and receive it yourself

and communicate it to others?





 Let all your observations be committed to writing

every night before you go to sleep.


(Chorus repeats Thanksgiving Prayer while lights fade to black on Junto, up on:)



Act I, Scene 1  (ColonialAmerica)


Franklin's Study


(Franklin moves upstage, right of center. A large desk, center stage, with various papers and scientific objects lying about. Books line the walls. Early inventions, a music stand, glass jars,etc. are scattered about the room. A life-size replica of a human body made of glass stands near the desk. Left of center, against the wall is a small organ.The organist's back is to the stage. There is a large portrait of Cotton Mather on the wall above the organ. Cotton Mather appears behind the portrait,off-stage, as a 'live' video image. He is dressed in a black cassock.)


Cotton Mather (Aria)


*[B  e to thy parents an Obedient Son

E    ach Day let Duty constantly be Done

N   ever give Way to sloth or Lust or Pride

I     f free you'd be from Thousand Ills beside

A   bove all Ills be sure Avoide the shelfe

M  ans Danger lyes in Satan sin and selfe

I     n vertue Learning Wisdome progress Make

N   ere shrink at Suffereing for thy saviours sake

F    raud and all Falsehood in the Dealings Flee

R   eligious Always in the station be

A   dore the Maker of thy Inward part

N   ow's the Accepted time, Give him thy Heart

K   eep a Good Conscience 'tis a constant Frind

L    ike Judge and Witness This Thy Acts Attend

I     n Heart with bended knee Alone Adore

N   one but the Three in One Forevermore.]

* written for Franklin by his UncleBenjamin


(as Franklin backs away from the Portrait, he nearly hits his head on a beam)


 "[Benjamin,] Stoop, stoop!You are young and have the world

before you; STOOP as you gothrough it, and you will miss

manyhard thumps."


Duet (Franklin and Cotton Mather):


Franklin (chants):


Help me, O Father

 That I may be just in all myDealings and temperate

in my Pleasures.

 That I may be sincere in Friendship.

 That I may avoid Deceit and Envy.

 That I may be grateful to my Benefactors and generous

to my Friends.

 That I may be honest and Open hearted, gentle, merciful and

Good, chearful in Spirit, rejoicing in the Good of Others.

 That I may possess a perfect Innocence and a good

Conscience, and at length become Truly Virtuous.


Cotton Mather (sings):


Trouble springs from Idleness; Toil from ease.

 Idleness is the Dead Sea thatswallows all Virtues.

 Sampson with his strong Body,had a weak Head,

or he would not have laid it in a Harlot's Lap.

 To be proud of Knowledge, is to be blind with Light.

 Let thy vices die before thee.

 He that never eats too much, willnever be lazy.

 One To-day is worth two To-morrows.

 Work as if you were to live 100 Years, Pray as if you were to

die To-morrow.


(Franklin alone in his Study)


Franklin  (sings):


I walk a league every day in my chamber. I walk quick and

for an hour or so... I make a point of religion about it.


 Plan of Conduct


I have never fixed a regular design in life; by which

means it has been a confused variety of different

scenes. I am now entering upon a new one: let me,

therefore, make some resolutions...that...I may live

in all respects like a rational creature.




It is necessary for me to be extremely frugal for

    some time, till I have paid what I owe.


To endeavour to speak truth in every instance;

    to give nobody expectations that are not likely to

    be answered, but aim at sincerety in every word and



To apply myself industriously to whatever buisiness

    I take in hand, and not divert my mind from my

    buisiness by any foolish project of growing suddenly



I resolve to speak ill of no man whatever, not even

    in a manner of truth; but rather by some means excuse

    the faults I hear chargedupon others, and upon proper

    occasions speak all the goodI know of everybody.



Article of Belief


...when I stretch my imagination thro' and beyond our

System of Planets, beyond the visible fix'd Stars themselves,

into that Space that is every Way infinite, and conceive it

fill'd with Suns like ours, each with a Chorus of Worlds for

ever moving round him, then this little Ball on which we move,

seems,even in my narrow Imagination, to be almost Nothing,

and my self less than nothing, and of no sort of Consequence.




Act I, Scene 2


Printer's Shop


(Franklin is dressed in a leather apron. Two apprentices help in the shop. The apprentices are female singers dressed as males. There is a period printing press center stage. A large video screen occupies the back wall. Throughout the scene, a history of MEDIA {newsprint,film, radio, TV, internet, including excerpts from the film Citizen Kane} is flashed across the video screen. Franklin and the two apprentices read from material takendirectly from the printing press)





No Taxation Without Representation


...Excluding the People of the Colonies from all Share

inthe Choice of the Grand Council would probably give

extremeDissatisfaction, as well as the Taxing them by

Actof Parliament where they have no Representative.

InMatters of General Concern to the People, and

especiallywhere Burthens are to be laid upon them, it is

ofUse to consider as well what they will beapt to think

andsay, as what they ought to think: ...










Idleness, Pride, Folly


Friendsand Neighbors, the Taxes are indeed very heavy,

andif those laid on by the Government were the only

Oneswe had to pay, we might more easily discharge

them;but we have many others, ...




Weare taxed twice as much by our Idleness,three times

asmuch by our Pride, and four times asmuch by our Folly,

andfrom these Taxes the Commissioners cannot ease or

deliverus by allowing an Abatement. However let us hearken

togood Advice, and something may be done for us; "God

helpsthem that help themselves" ...












Procrastinationis the Thief of Time,

Yearafter Year it steals till all are fled,

Andto the Mercies of a Moment leaves

Thevast Concerns of an eternal Scene.

Ifnot so frequent, would not this be strange?

That'tis so frequent, This is strangerstill.





A Certain Constable


Wehear, that on Tuesday last, a certain Constable

havingmade an Agreement with a neighbouring Female,

toWatch with her that Night; she promised to leave a

Windowopen for him to come in at; but he going his

Roundsin the dark, unluckily mistook the Window, and

gotinto a Room where another Woman was in bed, and

herHusband it seems lying on a Couch not far distant.

Thegood Woman perceiving presently by the extraordinary

Fondnessof her Bedfellow that it could not possibly be

herHusband, made so much Disturbance as to wake the

goodMan; who finding somebody had got into his Place

withouthis Leave, began to lay about him unmercifully;

and'twas thought, that had not our poor mistaken Galant,

call'dout manfully for Help (as if he were commanding

Assistancein the King's Name) and thereby raised the

Family,he would have stood no more Chance for his Life

betweenthe Wife and Husband, than a captive ... between

twoThumb Nails.





Women's Court


Wehear from Chester County, that last Week at a Vendue

heldthere, a Man being unreasonably abusive to his Wife

uponsome trifling Occasion, the Women form'd themselves

intoa Court, and order'd him to be apprehended by their

Officersand brought to Tryal: Being found guilty he was

condemn'dto be duckd 3 times in a neighbouring Pond,

andto have one half cut off, of his Hair and Beard

(whichit seems he wore at full length) and the Sentence

wasaccordingly executed, to the great Diversion of the



Franklin,Appprentices (to audience):




Mankindnaturally and generally

love to beflatter'd:


Whatever soothsour Pride,

and tends toexalt our Species

above the restof the Creation,

we are pleas'dwith and easily believe,

when ungratefulTruths shall be

with the utmostIndignation rejected.


"What!bring ourselves down

to an Equalitywith the Beasts of the Field!

with the meanest part of the Creation!



But, (to use aPiece of common Sense)

our Geese are but Geese

tho' we maythink 'em Swans;

and Truth willbe Truth

tho'it sometimes prove mortifying and distasteful.



(The skyturns dark, stormy)



Act I, Scene 3


The Countryside (KiteExperiment)


(An old barn, downstage, right. Franklin stands downstage.His son William flys a kite in an adjacent field, upstage, the other end of thetwine of which contains a key attached to the barn door. Later in the scene B.Franklin moves to the doorway of the barn where he concludes his famous kiteexperiment. A group of townspeople look on. The entire scene is filled withLightning and Thunder. A video containing a modern history of electricityincluding experiments by Tessla, Edison, etc. runs throughout the scene. Thevideo finale displays modern-day fireworks.)



B.Franklin (speaks), W. Franklin (sings):



Of Lightning


Whatever properties we find in electricity, are also the

properties of lightning.


Thismatter of lightning, or of electricity, is an extream

subtilefluid, penetrating other bodies, and subsisting in

them, equallydiffused.


When by anyoperation of art or nature, there happens to be

a greaterproportion of this fluid in one body than in another,

the body whichhas most, will communicate to that which has

least, till theproportion becomes equal; provided the distance

between them benot too great; or, if it is too great, till there be

properconductors to convey it from one to the other.


If the communication be through the air withoutany conductor,

Abright light is seen between the bodies, and a sound is heard.


...inthe great operations of nature, the light is what we call

lightningand the sound (produced at the same time, tho'

generallyarriving later at our ears than the light does to our

eyes)is, with its echoes, called thunder.



B. Franklin, W. Franklin, Mixed Chorus:


(W. F. and the Chorus of townspeople sing together asthe storm gathers more intensity. B. F. speaks slowly as he moves toward the doorway of the barn. He stands inthe doorway holding a Leyden jar. He places the key into the jar and waits forthe lightning to run from the top of the kite along the string to the jar. Thetownspeople watch, fascinated by the experiment.)











...That it is anextreamly subtile Fluid.


That it doth not take upany perceptible Time in passing thro' large Portions of Space.


That it is intimatelymixed with the Substance of all the other Fluids and Solids of our Globe.


That our Bodies at allTimes contain enough of it to set a

House on Fire.


That tho' it will fireinflammable Matters, itself has no sensible Heat.


That it differs fromcommon Matter in this; Its Parts do not

mutually attract, butmutually repel each other.


Thatit is strongly attracted by all other Matter...





Benjamin Franklin:


The Experiment


... As soon as any of the Thunder Clouds come over the Kite,

the pointed Wire will draw the Electric Fire from them, and

the Kite, with all the Twine, will be electrified, and the loose

Fillaments of the Twine will stand out in every Way, and

be attracted by an approaching Finger. And when the Rain has

wet the Kite and Twine, so that it  can conduct the electric Fire

freely, you will find it streams out plentifully from the

Key on the Approach of your Knuckle. At this Key the

Phial may be charged; … and thereby the Sameness of the

ElectricMatter with that of Lightning compleatly demonstrated.



(Lightningstrikes the kite and travels down the twine to the key, proving the experimenta success. The crowd shows their approval.)





Thisis the age of experiment.







Act II, Scene 1  (England)


The Tavern


(The interior of an english tavern; patrons are sitiingabout tables enjoying good company and resfreshment; cheerful atmosphere andchatter. Franklin and Catherine Ray sit together.)



Mixed Chorus:


Drinking Song


TheAntediluvians were all very sober

For they had noWine, and they brew'd no October;

All wicked, badLivers, on Mischief still thinking,

For there can'tbe good Living where there is not

    good Drinking.


'Twas honest old Noah firstplanted the Vine,

And mended his Morals by drinkingits Wine;

He justly the drinking of Waterdecry 'd;




For he knew that all Mankind, bydrinking it, dy'd.


From this Pieceof History [we] plainly [will] find

That Water'sgood neither for Body or Mind;

That Virtue andSafety in Wine‑bibbing's found

While all thatdrink Water deserve to be drown'd.


SoFor Safety and Honesty put the Glass round.



Franklin, CatherineRay:




Catherine Ray:


Pain and Pleasure


A Creature when endu'd with Life or Consciousness, is

made capable of Uneasiness or Pain.


This Pain produces Desire to be freed from it, in exact proportion toitself.


The Accomplishment of this Desire produces an equal Pleasure.


Pleasure isconsequently equal to Pain.


["Do youagree, Mr. Franklin?"]




["Well, Iought to agree. If I am am not mistaken, I am the

  author of those words."]


NoState of Life can be happier than the present because

Pleasureand Pain are inseperable.


Catherine Ray,Franklin, Chorus:


["So letus celebrate, with Pleasure!"]


["Let us,indeed! "]





(offers a toast to C.R.and tavern guests)


Let the fair sex be assured that Ishall always treat them in

theiraffairs with the utmost decency and respect.




(to C. R.)




The Confession


[Ionce confessed to my son, William, that] through this

dangeroustime of youth, and the hazardous situations I was

sometimesin among strangers, remote from the eye and

adviceof my father ... that hard‑to‑be‑governed passion of

youthhurried me frequently into intrigues with low women

thatfell in my way, which were attended with some expense

andgreat inconvenience. … [In the morning I would pray to

be kept fromlasciviousness, but when night came lust might

comewith it. I would go to women hungrily, secretly, and





Old Mistresses Apologue


[AndI told William, if you] persist in think­ing a

Commercewith the Sex inevitable, then... my Advice [is]

thatin all your Amours you should prefer[older] Women to

young ones.




(The 'live' image of William Franklin appears on the video screen. B.Franklin addresses William on the screen)



B. Franklin, W. Franklin:




Because as they have more Knowledge of the World and

their Minds are better stor'd with Observations, their

Conversation is more improving and more lastinglyagreeable.


Because when Women cease to be handsome, they study to

be good. To maintain their Influence over Men, they

supply theDiminution of Beauty by an Augmentation of Utility.


Because there is no hazard of Children.


Becausethro' more Experience, they are more prudent

anddiscreet in conducting an Intrigue to prevent Suspicion.


[Because]the Pleasure of corpral Enjoyment with an [older]

Womanis at least equal, and frequently­ superior, every Knack

beingby Practice Capable of Improvement.


Because the Sin is less...


AndLastly [because] They are so grateful!!




(to William)


...But still I advise you to marry directly; ...




(returnshis attention to the tavern guests)



Ihave been very happy in marriage, and I recommend

it toyou ... if you have the courage for it!


[Ihave been fortunate to have an honest and virtuous wife,

and Iwish everyman the same good fortune.]




(Deborah Franklin appears 'live' on video.)




(to D. Franklin onscreen, tavern guests; )


B.Franklin:  (D. Franklin singswordless accomp.)


My Plain Country Joan


Oftheir Chloes and Phyllises poets may prate,

      I sing my plaincountry Joan,

These twelve yearsmy wife, still the joy of my life;

      Blest day that Imade her my own.


Not a word of herface, of her shape, of her air,

      Or of flames orof darts you shall hear;

Ibeauty admire but virtue I prize,

      That fades not inseventy years.


Am I loaded withcare, she takes off a large share,

      That the burdenne'er makes me to reel;

Does good fortunearrive, the joy of my wife

      Quite doubles thepleasure I feel.


Some faults havewe all, and so has my joan,

      But then they'reexceedingly small;

Andnow I'm grown used to them, so like my own,

      I scarcely cansee them at all.



Act II, Scene 2


The Royal Academy of Science                                             



(Fine old academic interior; bookshelves, globe,experiments, portraits on walls; List of Franklin's inventions and achievementsis read aloud. Members of the Academy march in formally, while Franklin isescorted to an honorary throne-like chair. Throughout the scene, a videomonitor displays a history of inventions, industry and technology that aredirect descendants of Franklin's discoveries and inventions.)



President RoyalAcademy of Science,  Male Chorus:


President of theRoyal Academy (speaks):



[We, TheRoyal Academy of Science wish to acknowledge 

the many andgreat contributions to Natural Philosophy made

by BenjaminFranklin, aimed toward the continual benefit

of allpeople throughout the American Colonies, England,

and theWorld. There are numerous examples of Mr. Franklin's

grandachievements. Here are but a few:]



President of theRoyal Academy:


[Mr.Franklin has proposed a new alphabet of only twenty

letters,includ­ing six new ones he invented for the purpose

of easingthe relationship between spoken and written






President of theRoyal Academy:


[He hasinvented 'double-spectacles' in order to see both far

and near, by simply tilting the head.]


[Mr.Franklin was the first in America to introduce a clock with three

wheelsshowing hours, minutes, and seconds.]






President of theRoyal Academy:


[Hewas responsible for the first catheter in American



[He has discovered oyster shellsat the foot of a mountain in

England. From that he deduced thegeological shifts of ocean

and landmass.]


[Hehas proposed setting up an office to administer aid to

farmerswhose crops have been destroyed by hurricanes, tornadoes,

blights, orpestilence.]


[He proved that electricity exists in lightning.]






President of theRoyal Academy:


[He was amongthe first to propose a European federation.]


[Mr. Franklin's most useful invention is a stove that

can be installed in the fireplace. The stove allows smoke

to rise without allowing the heatto escape.]


[Hewas the first to call the eastward Atlantic Ocean current

the "GulfStream," and has had a map printed plotting its



[Using a rolling press, he hasfashioned a device that will

make copies of the letters he haspenned.]






President of the Royal Academy:


[AfterMr. Franklin's legendary Kite experiment, he invented

theLightning Rod to protect buildings and ships from being

struckby lightning.]


[He haspopularized the idea of wearing light clothes in

summer, whichreflect the sun's heat. Dark attire, on the

other hand, hecounsels, absorbs the sun's heat rays.]






President of theRoyal Academy:


[Mr. Franklin believes that lifeon other planets is not

improbable.He has held that ‘space is, in every way infinite’,

and that ‘achorus of worlds with suns like ours’ have their

own movementand forms of life.]




[Finally,Mr. Franklin champions the eating of citrus fruits

suchas oranges, limes, and grapefruits. His favorite food

is theapple. The phrase "An apple a day keeps the doctor

away."is his advice.]


[BenjaminFranklin is truly a prominent, gifted, and generous

member ofthe world community of Natural Philosophers,

and wewelcome him as an honorary member of our esteemed



(Franklin stands andaccepts his award; There is applause and good cheer all around.)




President of theRoyal Academy:


Now, in hishonor, we will listen to a movement from Mr.

Franklin'sString Quartet, in which he cleverly employs

the open stringsof the various instruments.


(An on-stage string quartet plays the first minuetfrom B. F.'s String Quartet, while F.and members of the Royal Academy nod approvingly. The scene ends withorchestral music based on the music in the Quartet.)




Act II, Scene 3


The House of Lords



(English courtroom, the Cockpit Trial; Franklin isinterrogated by the English Court)





Questions for the English Court


Is not protection as Justly duefrom a king to his people, as

obediencefrom the people to their king?


If then a king declares his peopleto be out of his protection:


If he violates and deprives themof their constitutional rights:


If he wages war against them:


If heplunders their merchants, ravages their coasts, burns

their towns,and destroys their lives:


If hehires foreign mercenaries to help him in their destruction:                                                         



If he cruelly forces such of his subjects as fall into hishands

tobear arms against their country, and become executioners

oftheir friends and brethren:­                                                                                                              


Does not soatrocious a conduct towards his subjects, dis­olve



All this horrible wickedness and barbarity has been and daily

is practisedby the king your master ... upon the Americans,

whom he isstill pleased to claim as his subjects.




Franklin :




There is nothingI wish for more than to see the present

dispute betweenGreat Britain and the colonies, amicably

and equitablysettled.



Providencewill bring about its own ends by its own means;

andif it intends the downfall of the British nation, that nation

willbe so blinded by its pride, and other passions, as not to

see itsdanger, or how its fall may be prevented.




Beingborn and bred in Colonial America, and having made

manyagreeable connexions of friendship in England, I wish

allprosperity to both; but I have talked and written so much

and solong on the subject, that my acquaintance are weary

ofhearing, and the public of reading any more of it, which

beginsto make me weary of talking and writing; especially

as I donot find that I have gained any point, in either country,

exceptthat of rendering myself suspected, by my impartiality;

inEngland, of being too much of an American, and in America

of being toomuch an Englishman.



What Would Satisfy the Americans?


Court (speaks):


[Franklin, whatwould satisfy the Americans?]




Recall yourForces,


Repairthe Damage done to Boston,


Repealyour unconstitutional Acts,


Renounceyour pretentions to Tax us,


Refundthe duties you have extorted; And then


Rejoicein a happy conciliation.




[You are ameddler, if not a tyrant. You take advantage of

our Englishhospitality and generosity, and wherever

it suits you,turn it to your own means.


You areimpertinent. You denounce our nation at every

opportunity. Youlie to the press and to our Parliament,

secretly hidingbehind your anonymity.


You attempt toblind us with your cleverness. But it will not



You are a rebel.You are acting against the best interest

of the Englishnation. You are traitorous and contemptible!]



(The Attorney Generalgoads Franklin, hoping to provoke a response which would allow the Court toconvict and imprison him.)


[If you areinnocent, then speak up!]


Court (louder):


[Franklin, Youinstigate rebellion. You take bribes from

Philadelphiamerchants. You're an adulterer and bastardizer.]



[You are lessthan a traitor, you're just a common fornicator

and thief.]


(lights dim on court, up on ... )


Franklin (who hasremained silent throughout,

finally responds):


Anyone whostrikes at a man

who can't strikeback

is less than aman.

And when Americadoes strike back,

you will findthat you'll be serving a  lesser king

who hasdominion over a lesser empire.




Act III, Scene 1  (Colonial America)


Franklin's Study


(same as Act One,Scene 1; Franklin is alone in his Study)



Franklin(speaks to audience):


Native Bird


...[Somein America] object to the Bald Eagle aslooking too

muchlike a Dindon, or Turkey. For my ownpart, I wish the

BaldEagle had not been chosen as the Representative of our

Country;he is a Bird of bad moral Character; he does not get

hisliving honestly; you may have seen him perch'd on some

deadTree, near the River where, too lazy to fish for himself,

hewatches the Labour of the Fishing‑Hawk; and, when that

diligentBird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to

hisNest for the support of his Mate and young ones, the

BaldEagle pursues him, and takes it from him. With all this

injusticehe is never in good Case; but, like those among

Menwho live by Sharping and Robbing, he is generally poor,

andoften very lousy. Besides, he is a rank Coward; the little

Kingbird, not bigger than a Sparrow,attacks him boldly and

driveshim out of the Dis­trict. He is therefore by no means a

properemblem for the brave and honest...of America who

havedriven all the Kingbirds from ourCountry...


Iam, on this account, not displeas'd that the Figure is not

knownas a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For

inTruth, the Turkey is in comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal atrue original Native of America. Eagles have been found in all Countries, butthe Turkey was peculiar to ours...


(Franklinsits down at his desk, picks up a pen, and begins to write a letter.)




The Americans Will Fight


...You will have heard before this reaches you...the defeat of a

greatbody of [British] troops by the country people at Lexington;

someother small advantages gained in skirmishes with their

troops;and the action at [Bunker hill], in which they were twice

repulsed, andthe third time gained a dear victory. Enough has

happened, onewould think, to convince your ministers that the

Americans willfight, and that this is a harder nut to crack than

they imagined. ...



Our Country Will Not Be Destroyed


...We have as yet resolved only ondefensive measures. If you

would recal your forces and stayat home, we should meditate

nothing to injure you. A littletime so given for cooling on

both sides would have excellenteffects. But you will goad

and provokeus. You despise us too much; and you are

insensibleof the Italian adage, that there is nolittle enemy. ...


...[Our country] will not bedestroyed: God will protect and

prosper it: You will onlyexclude the british empire from any

share in it. ...


... We hear that more shipsand troops are coming out. We know

you may do us a great deal ofmischief, but we are determined

to bear it patiently as longas we can; but if you flatter yourselves

with beating us intosubmission, you know neither the people

nor the country. ...




Act III, Scene 2


The Countryside (A Skirmish)



(Fields, fences, a few houses, alocal tavern in the background; the video screen shows a historicalretrospective of past wars involving America, including U.S.-Mexican War, CivilWar, Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Viet Nam. At the beginning ofthe scene, Franklin is alone on stage. As he speaks, a slow march begins verysoftly, with a slow crescendo, rising to forte with the entrance of the Britishredcoats.)



Franklin (speaks):



The Rattle‑Snake as a Symbol ofAmerica


I observedon one of the drums belonging to the marines now

raising,there was painted a Rattle‑Snake, with this modest

motto under it,"Don't tread on me."...


Recollectingthat countries are sometimes represented by

animalspeculiar to them, it occured to me that the Rattle-Snake

is found in noother quarter of the world besides America, and

may thereforehave been chosen, on that account, torepresent



I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness, that of

any other animal, and that she has no eye‑lids. She

may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance. She

never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever

surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and

true courage... to those who are unacquainted with her, she appears

to be a most defenceless animal; and even when those

weapons are shown and extended for her defence, they

appear weak and contemptible; but their wounds however

small, are decisive and fatal. Conscious of this, she never

wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her

enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on



I confess I was wholly at a loss what to make of

the rattles, 'till I went back and counted them and found

them just thirteen, exactly the number of the Colonies united

in America; and I recollected too that this was the only

part of the Snake which increased in numbers...


It is curious and amazing to observe how distinct and

independent of each other the rattles of this animal are, and

yet how firmly they are united together... One of those

rattles singly, is incapable of producing sound, but the

ringing of thirteen together, is sufficient to alarm the

boldest man living.


The power of fascination attributed to her...

may be understood to mean, that those who

consider the liberty and blessings which America affords,

and once come over to her, never afterwards leave her, but

spend their lives with her.


She strongly resembles America

in this, that she is, beautiful in youth and her beauty increaseth

with her age...



Male Chorus:


(British redcoatsmarch in formation, while the Colonial Patriots are scattered about thecountryside. British Regulars sing and Patriots speak at the same time. Thereis no fighting.)



BritishRegulars (sing):


Red Coat Chorus


Our General with hiscouncil of war did advise

      Howat Lexington we might the Yankees surprise;

We march'd-and remarch'd‑ all surpris'd ‑ at being beat

And so our wise General’s… surprise - was compleat.


For fifteen miles they follow'd andpelted us, we scarce

      hadtime to pull a trigger.

But did you ever know a retreatperforni'd with more


For we did it in two hours, whichsav'd us from perdition

‘Twas not in going out, but in returning, consistedour






By these I swear(be witness Earth and Skies)

Fair order shallfrom confusion rise.


1stPatriot (speak):


Does not soatrocious a conduct [by the King] toward

his subjectsdissolve their Allegiance?


We are fightingfor the dignity and happiness of human

nature. Gloriousis it for the Americans to be called by

Providence tothis post of honor.


AllPatriots (sing)


Our cause is thecause of all mankind, and...we are fighting

for their libertyin defending our own.


2ndPatriot (speak):


Where liberty is,there is my country!


AllPatriots (speak):


Rebellion totyranny is obedience to God. (repeated)





(alone on stage)


[My old friend:]


[The British] have doomed myCountry to Destruction.

You have begun to burn ourTowns, and murder our people.

Look upon your Hands!

They are stained with theblood of your Relations!

You and I were long Friends:

You are now my Enemy, and Iam, Yours, …








Act IV, Scene 1  (France)


Palace of the French Court



(Palace of theFrench Royalty at Versailles; ballroom with gambling tables; laughter, crowdnoise, a glass armonica; outside the Palace, through the french doors, can beseen a hot air balloon; on-stage string quartet plays ballroom music as sceneopens)



Franklin,King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Guests:





lightwith laughter,

gaylysound the



Wheelof fortune,

richin measure,

bringus treasure

withone spin.


Wineand wonder

sparkthe thunder

formingin the



Lightsand music,

noiseand laughter,

gaylysound the







Our enemies[are] well informed of our present distress for

want of moneyand [are] conceiving great hopes that we shall

nowhere find asupply. [So we must beg again of our great

ally andfriend, the people of France, to consider our urgent




King Louis XVI(speaks):


[Firmly assureyour Congress of my frienship. I hope that

this will befor the good of the two nations.]






[Your Majestymay count on the gratitude of Congress and

its faithfulobservance of the pledge it now takes.]



(Franklin stands near theQueen, talking with her whenever she is not occupied by the royal gambling)



Franklin, MarieAntoinette:






Establishing theliberties of America will not only make that

people happy, butwill have some effect in diminishing the

misery of those whoin other parts of the world groan under

despotism by renderingit more circumspect and inducing it to

govern with alighter hand.




America,an immense territory, favored by Nature with all

advantagesof climate, soils, great navigable rivers and lakes

mustbecome a great country populous and mighty, and will

inless time than is generally conceived, shake off any

shacklesimposed upon her.




In America, they donot inquire of a stranger, ‘What is he?’

but, ‘What can hedo?’


Every man inAmerica is employed. An idle man is a



Franklin, MarieAntoinette:


God will finish hiswork and establish freedom and loversof

liberty will flockfrom all parts of Europe … to participate

with you in thatfreedom.


Marie Antoinette:


[But now for somemusic! Maybe it will change my luck

at the tables!


There is a youngcomposer from Salzburg who has agreed

to play one of hisrecent compositions in your honor. It was

composed especiallyfor your Glass Armonica!]





[I am mosthumbled.]



(A piece of Mozart's written for the Glass Armonica isplayed on the instrument to everyone's satisfaction and amusement. The playeris dressed as Mozart, complete with powdered wig. The string quartet picks-upthe theme, and the chorus joins in. All exit through the french doors to watchthe hot-air balloon ascend.)




Act 1V, Scene 2


Madame Brillon's SittingRoom



(Moulin Joli; a suburb ofParis. Elaborate drawing room, exquisitely decorated; at the rear of the stageare two french windows looking out onto a terraced garden; F. and M. Brillonare playing at Chess as the scene opens.)



Franklin, MadameBrillon, Madame Helvetius



(M. Brillon, M. Helvetius hum sarcastically in thefollowing monologue)


Franklin (speaks):


The Twelve Commandments


Peoplecommonly speak of Ten Commandments. ‑ I have

beentaught that there are twelve. The first was increase &

multiply& replenish the earth. The twelfth is a new

CommandmentI give unto you, that you love oneanother.

Itseems to me that they are a little misplaced, And that the

lastshould have been the first. However I never made any

difficultyabout that, but was always willing to obey them

bothwhenever I had an opportunity. Pray tell me my [dears]

whethermy keeping religiously these two commandments …

maynot be accepted in Compensation for my breaking

sooften one of the ten. I mean that which forbids Coveting

myneighbour's wife, and which I confess I break constantly,

Godforgive me, as often as I see or think of my lovely

Confessors,and I am afraid I should never be able to repent

ofthe Sin even if I had [their] full Possession.




Andnow I am Consulting you upon a Case of Conscience.

Iwill mention the Opinion of a certain Father of the church

whichI find myself willing to adopt though I am not sure it

isorthodox. It is this, that the most effectual way to get rid

ofa certain Temptation is, as often as it returns, to comply

withand satisfy it.

Prayinstruct me how far I may venture to practice upon this



M. Brillon:


[As a wise sage once said,]

He that spills the Rum, losesthat only;


M. Helvetius:


[but] He that drinks it, oftenloses both that and himself.




PoorPlain dealing! dead without Issue!


M. Brillon:






[Please, we must recite one of Dr. Franklin's Bagatelles.

It is a most curious whimsey. He calls it:]


Petition of the Letter Z


[And, of course, we will change the pronoun he to she!]





[Of course!]


M. Brillon, M. Helvetius:




That your Petitioner

is of … high extraction,

and has as good an Estate

as any other Letter of the Alphabet.



That there is therefore no reason

why she should be treated as she is

with Disrespect and Indignity.

That she is not only plac'd at the Tail of the Alphabet,

when she had as much Right …

to be at the Head;

but is,

by the Injustice of her enemies

totally excluded

from the word WISE,

and her Place,

injuriously filled

by a little,




venemous Letter,

called s,

when it must be evident to all the World,

that Double U,




do not spell or sound Wize,

but Wice.


Your Petitioner therefore

prays that the Alphabet

may be reformed


that in Consideration of her Long-Suffering & Patience

she may be plac’d at the Head of it;

that S may be turned out of the word Wise,

and the Petitioner employ'd instead of him;


And your Petitioner

(as in Duty bound)

shall ever pray, cetera.The Letter Z



M. Helvetius:


(speaking to M. Brillon)


[Did you know that Dr. Franklinhas proposed

an amended version of thealphabet, in which

the letters Q, X, Y, and K areeliminated?]


M. Brillon:


[I am not surprised. He considerswriting to be

a most admirable invention.]


M. Helvetius:


[Although, naturally, he wouldattempt to improve upon it!


M. Brillon:




M. Brillon, M. Helvetius:




*What an admirable Invention isWriting,

by which a [Person] maycommunicate his Mind

without opening his Mouth,

and at 1000 Leagues Distance,

and even to future Ages,

only by the Help Of [22] Letters,

which may be joined5852616738497664000 Ways,

and will express all Things in avery narrow Compass.

'Tis a Pity this excellent Arthas

notpreserved the Name and Memory

ofits Inventor.


* Franklinproposed an amended version of the English alphabet in which the letters Q, X,Y, and K were eliminated. I have changed 'men' to 'person' for the purpose ofinclusion.




Franklin, M. Brillon, M. Helvetius:




[We share inspired conversation, the finest of wines,

and the best of company.


We walk together in the garden. Our spirited games and

amusements are most agreeable.


Let us always remember these pleasant days filled with

joy and happiness.]


















Act IV, Scene 3


Signing of the Peace Treatywith Great Britain



(An elegant, historic room, with large ceilings,similar to that of Act II Scene 2. Five large documents hang from the ceilingor on the wall, all of which Franklin signed: the Declaration of Independence,the Articles of Confederation, the treaty with France that recognized theUnited States as a sovereign nation, the peace treaty with England, and the U.S. Constitution. Franklin, Washington, and the American entourage congregatedownstage. Upstage there is a large table where the signing takes place. ABritish Commissioner sits behind the table, flanked by British redcoatsstanding at order.)



 George Washington:


[Liberty andjustice; the final reconciliation between

Great Britainand America.]


(speaks toFranklin:)


[Dr. Franklin,why do you wear that old and tattered brown

coat at such animportant milestone in America's history?]


Franklin (speaks):


I wore thatJacket on the last day of the Cockpit Trial

prosecution by the English attorneygeneral ‑ and today I

want to give that old brown coat alittle revenge.


George Washington(sings):


[And, so you will!]



Male Chorus (sings wordless throughout theceremony):


(Solemn processional to the signing table, followed bythe signing of the Treaty. Then a slow recessional from the stage, information, finally leaving Franklin alone on stage. The lights dim, and Franklinaddresses the video screen, which displays the 'live' figure of his son,William)



William Franklin:


*The War is Over


[Thewar is over. I have lost.

Itis time to let bygones be bygones,

torevive that affectionate Intercourse and Connection­

which,till the Commencement of the late Troubles,

hadbeen the Pride and Happiness of my Life.


Iwill not apologize for my loyalist position,

ormy part in the war.

Iuniformly acted from a Strong Sense

ofwhat I conceived my Duty to my King

andRegard to my Country.


IfI have been mistaken, I cannot help it.

Itis an Error of judgment that the reflection

Iam capable of cannot rectify,


andI believe

werethe same Circumstances to occur Tomorrow,

myConduct would be exactly similar to what it



* written byWilliam Franklin in a letter to his father



Benjamin Franklin(sings):


Nothing Has Hurt Me So Much


Nothing has hurtme so much

and affected mewith such keen sensations

as to findmyself deserted in my old Age

by my only Son;


and not onlydeserted,

but to find[you] taking up Arms against me,

in aCause wherein my good Fame, Fortune and Life

were allat Stake.


[Icannot forgive, nor will I forget.]




(Both repeattheir words, singing together.)
















Epilogue  (The United States of America)



(Franklin'sstudy; everything is the same as Act I. A party gathers in Franklin's house tocelebrate his return to America. Fireworks are seen through the windows. Thevideo screen displays a history of American Democracy, including civil war,western expansion, industrial revolution, , immigration, world wars, greatcities, etc., ending before the close of F's 'This is my Country' aria)



Mixed Chorus:


Celebration Chorus


[Hail Thee, America.]



Man from the Chorus (speaks):


Itlooks as if the battle for independence is finally over.




Sir,you are mistaken. The Revolutionary War may be over,

but the battle for independencehas just begun.


Woman from the Chorus (shouts):


Dr. Franklin, what kind ofgovernment did you give us?


Franklin (speaks):


In America, we have no need ofkings.


[We have given you] a republic -if you can keep it!



Franklin, Chorus:




This is My Country


God grant thatnot only the love of liberty,

but a thoroughknowledge of the rights of man,

may pervade allthe nations of earth

so that aphilosopher may set his foot

anywhere on itssurface

and say,"this is my country."



(the crowd moves away; videoends)


Franklin (alone on stage; old, weary,resigned):




Wishing Song


MayI govern my passions with absolute sway,

Growwiser and better as my strength wears away,

Withoutgout or stone, by a gentle decay,

With courage,undaunted may I face my last day,

And when I amgone may the better sort say:

In the morningwhen sober, in the evening when mellow,

He'sgone and has left not behind him his fellow.




(George Washington enters the stage and faces Franklinfrom a distance as the 'Wishing Song' ends. F. does not respond to G. W. Hesits at his desk in shadow for the remainder of the opera.)



George Washington:





*[If to bevenerated for benevolence,

if to beadmired for talents,

if to beesteemed for patriotism,

if to bebeloved for philanthropy,

can gratifythe human mind,

you have thepleasing consolation

to know thatyou have not lived in vain.]


* excerpt of a letter from George Washington





















(Franklin, inshadow, is unaware of the presence of family and friends as they gather abouthim.)



William F.,Deborah F., Catherine R., M. Brillon, M. Helvetius, G. Washington:




(M. Brillon):


The Body of




(M. Brillon, M. Helvetius):


Like the cover of an old book,


(M. Brillon, M.Helvetius, William F.):


Its contentsturned out

and stripped of its lettering andgilding


(M. Brillon, M.Helvetius, William F., Catherine R.):


Lies here,food for worms

But the work shall not be whollylost;


(M. Brillon, M.Helvetius, William F., Catherine R., Deborah F.):


For it will,as he believed, appear once more,

In a new more perfect edition,


(M. Brillon, M. Helvetius, William F.,Catherine R., Deborah F., George Washington):


Correctedand amended

By the Author.


(repeat of Epitaphsung as a Sextet)




(Townspeople enter fromupstage, where they join Franklin’s family and friends. The Junto slowly enter downstage, joining inthe singing of the chorus with the others.)



Mixed Chorus, MaleChorus (the Junto):


Final Chorus


For peace and liberty, for foodand

raiment, for corn and wine andmilk

and every other nourishment

I thank Thee

For the common benefits of airand

light, for useful fire anddelicious water

I thank Thee


For knowledge and literature and

every useful art, for my friends, and their

prosperity and for the fewness of my enemies

I thank Thee


For all the [many] benefits,

for life, for reason, for health,

for joy and every pleasant hour

I thank Thee



(Townspeople, Franklin’s family and friends slowly exit aslights fade out to all but the Junto.)


Junto Member 1 (speaks):


What is the most pitiful sight you have ever seen?



Junto Member 2 (speaks):


What of the blind man?


Junto Member 3 (speaks):


What of the lame wretch?


Young Franklin (live on Video Screen,

directly behind B.F. who is silhouettedaginst the screen):




The sorriest sight is the lonely man on a rainy day who

cannot read.