How peculiar this is. Benjamin Franklin wasn’t chosen to write the Declaration of Independence because the delegates feared that he would hide a joke in it. But why would the delegates to the Continental Congress fear that such an intelligent man like Benjamin Franklin would hide a joke in such an important document? To put it bluntly, he had prior form for witty jokes, as was evident in his fart essay, fart proudly.
The American War of Independence was little more than a year into a grueling seven year long campaign for self governess when the Continental Congress made plans to draft a Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. Appointed to the committee to make the first draft were five intelligent and distinguished men. They were Thomas Jefferson, the principle author of the declaration, and later third president, John Adams, a Boston lawyer who would become the second president of the republic, and Benjamin Franklin, a printer and world famous scientist from Philadelphia, Roger Livingston, a lawyer form New York and Roger Sherman a lawyer from Connecticut. According to many contemporaries, Franklin was the better of the five as a writer, yet they decided to get the younger, less experienced, less respected and less qualified Jefferson to write the document. Even though the principle author of the Declaration of Independence was Jefferson, both Adams and Franklin had a significant amount of input into it. So if Franklin was far more experienced, respected and the greater writer of the five men, why didn’t the delegates trust Franklin not to include a joke in the Declaration of Independence?
The founding fathers of the United States were far from fools. They recognized that what they were doing was history making and an extremely important event. They knew that the declaration would become an important document that the nations of the world would closely scrutinize. The last thing they wanted was for a subtle joke of Benjamin Franklin’s to be hidden among the text of the Declaration of Independence. He also had form for such witty comedy. As we mentioned already, he wrote an essay on farts, and made the suggestion for something like daylight savings as a joke. Many of his other publications also had hidden jokes throughout them. Clearly the delegates had a serious decision to make.
They chose for a less gifted writer in Jefferson to write the draft that would later be adopted as the cornerstone of the American democracy. But Franklin wasn’t completely excluded from the process. He and the other three men had a part in the construction of the declaration. As it turned out, it was a pretty darn good document in the end, and perhaps the right person was chosen to write in the end.