30 October 2009
Canaan and the New England Courant
There's a very interesting chapter, indeed the germ of the book, in William Doyle's recent Aristocracy and its Enemies in the Age of Revolution (Oxford, 2009) titled 'Aristocracy Avoided: America and the Cincinnati'. It's about the controversy that ensued following the establishment of an Order, the membership of which would be extended to the generals and colonels of the French army in gratitude for 'the generous assistance this country has received from France' during the American War of Independence. A quasi-chivalric order caused quite a stink on both sides of the channel.
It's a fascinating tale, but what particularly caught my eye was the opening paragraph, which quoted our old friend Ben Franklin, writing as a very young man in his brother's Boston paper, the New England Courant (1722):
In old Time it was no disrespect for Men and Women to be call'd by their own Names: Adam was never called Master Adam; we never read of Noah Esquire, Lot Knight, nor the Right Honorable Abraham, Viscount Mesopatamia, Barron of Carran.
Carran is footnoted sic. It is rendered as Canaan in several editions of Franklin's works, and Doyle suggests it is indeed a misprint in the note. We have a marked-up run of the Courant in the Burney Collection of newspapers - Franklin, it seems, initialled the anonymous columns by such figures as Silence Dogood. It has been digitized here at the BL (and available elsewhere via JISC), so I called it up on line. No helpful initials. But is is definitely Carran - a misprint. It is also Baron, too.
A conference, on much bigger matters, is planned for 14-15 December at the British Academy: The Crisis of the Absolute Monarchy: An international conference in honour of Professor William Doyle, FBA. Franklin would have enjoyed it.