Benjamin Franklin Morally Adrift

Benjamin Franklin is becalmed at sea between Boston and New York and food is running low. Now read on....

....our people set about catching cod, and haul'd up a great many. Hitherto I had stuck to my resolution of not eating animal food, and on this occasion I consider'd, with my master Tryon, the taking of every fish as a kind of unprovok'd murder, since none of them had or ever could do us any injury that might justify the slaughter. All this seemed very reasonable. But I had formerly been a great lover of fish & when this came hot out of the frying pan, it smelt admirably well. I balanced some time between principle and inclination till I recollected that when the fish were opened, I saw smaller fish in their stomachs. Then, tho'rt I, if you eat one another, I don't see why I mayn't eat you. So I din'd upon cod very heartily, and continued to eat it with other people, returning only now and then occasionally to a vegetable diet.

So convenient a thing it is to be a Reasonable Creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for every thing one has a mind to do.


Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography. (And yes, it's his spelling, his italicisation and his punctuation - not mine!)

...and they say Americans have no irony. Perhaps not (the Simpsons?) but Franklin had; so my question is: when did they lose it??

Anyway, his master Tryon was a seventeenth century English writer, whose writing converted the 16-year-old Benjamin Franklin to vegetarianism, as the latter records in earlier pages in his autobiography.


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