Friday, October 19, 2012
285. Franklin and European Hereditary System
After the victory of the American Revolution, one question in the minds of the colonists was, “Should the United States be developed into another European country on the new continent?” The basic fact is that the majority of colonists who waged the war against the British rule were from Europe, some veterans considered that it would be natural for the colonists to establish a country just like the countries in Europe. In 1784, the Society of Cincinnatus was established. Some tried to use this organization to serve as means of bestowing a type of hereditary nobility on all the soldiers who had fought on the American side.
Franklin stood up to show his position concerning the direction American should take. He opposed firmly the concept of establishing any kind of hereditary aristocracy in United States political system. He used the Chinese social promotion system developed according to Confucius thoughts as an example to support his argument against the system similar to the European hereditary institution. He told his fellow Americans:
" Among the Chinese, the most ancient, and from long Experience the wisest of Nations, honour does not descend, but ascends. If a man from his Learning, his Wisdom, or his Valour, is promoted by the Emperor to the Rank of Mandarin, his Parents are immediately entitled to all the same Ceremonies of Respect from the People, that are establish'd as due to the Mandarin himself; on the supposition that it must have been owing to the Education, Instruction, and good Example afforded him by his Parents, that he was rendered capable of serving the Publick. This ascending Honour is therefore useful to the State, as it encourages Parents to give their Children a good and virtuous Education. But the descending Honour, to Posterity who could have no Share in obtaining it, is not only groundless and absurd, but often hurtful to that Posterity, since it is apt to make them proud, disdaining to be employ'd in useful Arts, and thence falling into Poverty, and all the Meannesses, Servility, and Wretchedness attending it; which is the present case with much of what is called the Noblesse in Europe."