Saturday, April 26, 2014

348. Great Wall of China: Benjamin Franklin's Way to Defend the Fledgling United States

Twenty years later, Franklin raised the notion of the Great Wall again, this time in the Revolutionary War. In his correspondence to Chavelier de Kermorvan (1740-1817) Franklin recommended that a wall like the Great Wall of China should be erected in defending the newly independent nation. Having arrived in America early June 1776, Chevelier served in the Continental Army as an engineer, involved with fortifications at Billingsport, below Philadelphia on the Delaware River, and at Perth Amboy, opposite Staten Island. He apparently "made himself 'disagreeable ' to General Washington (1732-1799) and his army staff with his criticism of all military operations" during the 1777 Philadelphia Campaign, and was 'invited to leave' the headquarters of Washington's army. He went on to serve with Morgan's riflemen at Saratoga. However, he failed to attract the recognition that he believed was his due and returned to France in late 1778 or 1779.

Franklin’s recommendation reveals the fact that Franklin regarded the Great Wall of China to be valuable to safeguard the American Revolution. The history of Franklin’s efforts to build forts in frontier tells that Franklin’s recommendation was based on his personal experiences in the fighting fields. He had built a line of forts before he made the recommendation. Franklin’s recommendation demonstrates that Franklin used his knowledge of Chinese civilization to solve problems existing in North America’s colonies. Most importantly, Franklin’s recommendation has served as another example of how Franklin constantly and tirelessly used the positive elements from Chinese civilization to help his efforts to make North American colonies a flourishing society.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

347. Benjamin Franklin Wished to Visit China

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was deeply impressed by China. Due to the lack of direct communication between China and North America in Benjamin Franklin era, Franklin was forced to make his extra efforts to collect information on China. When in Europe, Franklin tried every means to find books on China and read them. Although it is difficult to find out how many books on China Franklin read, we can tell from his determinnation to follow Confucius' moral teachings to cultivate his virture and from his great efforts to borrow Chinese technologies Franklin's reading list was very inclusive, including subjects such as literature, economic and natural sciences.

Unsatisfied with the books he read, he tried to approach people who had been to China in person. In order to obtain information on Chinese life and customs, he contacted the “sailors on the Packet who had previously made the trip to the China seas.” Later in his life, Franklin obtained “his knowledge of Chinese navigation from Captain Truxtun who in the following year himself made the voyage to China.” Franklin even tried to visit China personally, and told one of his friends, “If he were a young man he should like to go to China.”

Saturday, April 12, 2014

346. Thomas Jefferson and Confucius

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) admired Voltaire (1694-1778), the French leader of the Age of Enlightenment. Voltaire regarded Confucianism as a high system of morals, and Confucius as the greatest of all sages. From Jefferson’s speech, it is evident that Jefferson accepted the Confucian concept of the true gentleman, and the belief that a good moral foundation was the foundation of a good government.

Jefferson’s vision for a better United States was largely based in a benign religion and a wise government. The morals Jefferson listed in his inauguration speech were the same moral principles that Confucius maintained. Jefferson also enshrined the Confucian moral principle that a ruler loses his mandate if the people don't approve in the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident . . . That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

345. Benjamin Rush and Confucius

Dr. Benjamin Rush (1746-1813), an ardent patriot, asserted in a 1798 essay on education in the new republic that “the only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in Religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.”

Having expressed his veneration for Confucianism which “reveals the attributes of the Deity,” Rush declared that he had rather see the opinions of Confucius “inculcated upon our youth, than see them grow up wholly devoid of a system of religious principles.”