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American Pride Franklin, Not Paris, Style

Contact: Jane Cook, 703-255-2886

MEDIA ADVISORY, July 2 /Standard Newswire/ -- The following is submitted by Jane Cook:

What is the pride of Americans these days? Is it Paris Hilton's jail clothes? By some headlines, you might think an orange jumpsuit is the equivalent of red, white, and blue.

Benjamin Franklin was asked this question. In the years leading up to the passage of the Declaration of Independence we celebrate this week, Franklin answered a similar question. His reply was as telling as it was prophetic.

The year was 1766. The British Parliament was tangled in more yarn than a thousand flocks of sheep could produce. They had to rip out the stitches of the Stamp Act, a knotted mess of their own making. The Stamp Act required American colonists to pay taxes on licenses, playing cards, legal documents, and newspapers—pretty much any piece of paper they touched. Protests ranged from respect to revenge. Virginia’s House of Burgess passed resolutions while an out-of-control mob in Boston burned the houses of British officials.

Desperate, the members of Parliament turned to Franklin, America's trade representative in London, for help. They called him to a secret meeting that turned into an inquisition. They were shocked at the yarn he told. Americans no longer took pride in the latest British fashions.

"Do you not think cloth from England absolutely necessary to them?" a member asked.

"No, by no means absolutely necessary; with industry and good management, they may very well supply themselves with all they want," Franklin replied.

Many colonists had decided to increase wool production by refusing to eat lamb. By doing so, they hoped to lessen their dependence on Britain. Although Franklin knew wearing fine clothing was as a source of pride among England's upper crust, he delighted in taunting them with American ingenuity.

"The people will all spin and work for themselves in their own houses," Franklin said.

The protests and resolutions against the Stamp Act bothered Parliament so much that some wanted to bribe the Americans with a trade off. If Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, then would Americans "acknowledge the rights of Parliament to tax them, and would they erase their resolutions?" a member asked.

"No, never!" Franklin emphasized.

"Are there no means of obliging them to erase those resolutions?" the member pressed.

"None that I know of; they will never do it, unless compelled by force of arms."

"Is there a power on earth that can force them to erase them?"

"No power, how great soever, can force men to change their opinions."

"What used to be the pride of the Americans?"

"To indulge in the fashions and manufactures of Great Britain," Franklin answered.

This Member of Parliament then asked the most revealing question of this secret but frank inquiry.

"What is now their pride?"

"To wear their old clothes over again till they can make new ones," Franklin said of the colonists' hard work, self reliance, and respect for God, family, friends, and neighbors.

What is the source of American pride today? As we celebrate Independence Day this year -- 231 years after Benjamin Franklin and fifty-five others signed the Declaration of Independence -- the most tangible example of national pride is still found in a fabric.

American pride can be found in many places, from the T-shirts we wear to July 4 picnics to the nylon flags hanging on our porches. Cotton blends often boast of what matters most to us: schools, sports teams, churches, businesses, and charities. But we still find the most pride in Old Glory. The U.S. flag remains America’s most popular symbol, according to a 2002 Harris Poll. A more recent Harris Poll, from 2006, confirmed an important fact. The United States is still the most patriotic nation in the world.

American pride, however, is most poignantly found in one minute and 54 seconds -- the time it takes for honor guards at Arlington Cemetery to fold the flag thirteen times into a trim triangle during a funeral for a fallen patriot. Wherever you see the flag this week, whether printed on a T-shirt, hoisted on a pole, or folded over a casket, take a moment to salute Benjamin Franklin, our nation’s founders, veterans, and the members of our military who have sacrificed so much for the pride and freedom of Americans.

About the author: Jane Cook ( is the author of Battlefields and Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from the Revolutionary War (AMG Publishers, August 2007), The Faith of America's First Ladies (Living Ink Books, 2006) and the former White House Deputy Director for President George W. Bush (2001-03).