Benjamin Franklin On Titles of Honor


In the writing and later ratification of the Constitution of the United States, the American Founding generation demonstrated their aversion towards ‘titles of nobility’ when in Article I, Section 9 and 10 they forbade both the federal and state governments from granting such titles.

Sixty-four years earlier  Benjamin Franklin, sharp as a tack at such an early age (he was 17), poked fun at these European-styled titles and their deplorable, if not highly ridiculous use by some of the New England clergy, who “wrest” the Scriptures to justify their setting of themselves above others. Franklin quips:

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 and Baronet, nor the Right Honourable Abraham, Viscount Mesopotamia, Baron of Carran; no, no, they were plain Men, honest Country Grasiers, that took Care of their Families and their Flocks. Moses was a great Prophet, and Aaron a Priest of the Lord; but we never read of the Reverend Moses, nor the Right Reverend Father in God, Aaron, by Divine Providence, Lord Arch-Bishop of Israel: Thou never sawest Madam Rebecca in the Bible, my Lady Rachel, nor Mary, tho’ a Princess of the Blood after the Death of Joseph, call’d the Princess Dowager of Nazareth; no, plain Rebecca, Rachel, Mary, or the Widow Mary, or the like: It was no Incivility then to mention their naked Names as they were expressed. (1)

The reminder being, ‘oh, by the way, we are all God’s children (literally his spiritual offspring), and thus equal before His eyes, not a one of us born into some superior species that would elevate any one of us above any one of our brothers and sisters’ — or in other words reminding us of the very root doctrine of the eternal principle Mr. Franklin and the other Founders dubbed: “equality before the law.”


There ought to be no “elites”, no “Czars” either (that ‘s me looking back on the follies of the past Administration), in American law … if liberty is to endure. And that the clergy, of all groups, should manipulate or pervert what the Founding generation universally declared as ‘the only reliable volume of history and law, and of man’s religious and social duties’ (e.g., of the latter “to love thy neighbor as thyself”) – was to Franklin false biblically, wicked morally, and un-American politically.

Well, besides all that, call it knee-slapping irreverence toward a few overly reverent Reverends from a budding, seventeen year-old wordsmith… Benjamin Franklin.


  1. Benjamin Franklin, New England Courant, February 11, 1723.

They Were Believers is researched, compiled, edited and formatted for the Internet (with occasional commentary and explanatory notes) by Steve Farrell, Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Self-Educated American. Copyright © 2017 Steve Farrell

Copyright © 2017 Steve Farrell.