Make Yourself Sheep and The Wolves Will Eat You

Make Yourself Sheep and The Wolves Will Eat You

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This famous quote is by one the founding fathers of the republic, and a key figure in American history, Benjamin Franklin.

If you're over the age of 10, you've most likely heard of good ol' Ben Franklin; scientist, philosopher, printer, publisher, statesman, diplomat, writer, inventor and drafter and signer of the United States Declaration of Independence.

It's hard to get more 'murican than Benjamin Franklin. In fact, he is so Americana, they even have his picture on a 100 dollar bill.

Benjamin Franklin was an impressive historical figure. When a polymath and intellectual of his caliber speaks, it's important to pay close attention to their words.

So what did Benjamin Franklin mean when he said that "if you make yourself sheep, then the wolves will eat you?" 

November 1st, 1773, in a letter to his youngest sister and closest confidant, Jane Franklin Mecom, Benjamin Franklin expresses weariness for politeness in political matters, stating, "I had used all the smooth words I could muster, and I grew tired of meekness when I saw it without effect."

He goes on to say, regarding the reception of two papers he published just a couple of months prior (Rules for Reducing a Great Empire to a Small Oneand the satirical, An Edict of the King of Prussia) that he had felt his attitude shifting, writing "of late, therefore I have been saucy."

Remember, Franklin is in his late 60s in 1773 when he writes these satirical articles and the letter to his sister, so he's likely losing patience and tolerance for corruption. We can surmise there's a little bit of crankiness there, but who can blame him? This is evident when he declares in his 1773 letter to his sister that, "I have held up a looking glass in which some Ministers may see their ugly faces, and the nation its injustice."

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Great stuff, but my favorite part of Franklin's letter to his sister, Jane, is at the end of his opening paragraph, where he drops the bombshell quote that would become famous:

"In my own private concerns with mankind, I have observed that to kick a little when under imposition, has a good effect. A little sturdiness when superiors are much in the wrong, sometimes occasions consideration. And there is truth in the old saying, that if you make yourself a sheep, the wolves will eat you."

It's such a great quote, and a great letter overall; very enjoyable to read. But what is Benjamin Franklin actually saying here? What does he mean to express in this letter to his sister and, by extension, the American people and its future generations?

It is clear through Franklin's words--and the general spirit of rebellion and independence that he encompasses--that he wishes to give hope and courage to the American people, as well as a stark warning about what will happen if they abide by the ways of tyranny.

There is powerful truth in this quote. There indeed comes a point where compliance is to the severe detriment of the subservient. In many cases, as we've observed throughout history, complying with tyranny can very well cost you your life.

If you comply with tyranny, injustice and oppression, you become sheep, as one of the founders of this nation has warned. The wolves will get hungry. Oh yes, they will get hungry indeed. And when it's time to feast, it is you whom they will feast upon.

Benjamin Franklin forever wants the American people to stand up for themselves. Don't be sheep. Don't allow yourselves to be eaten by wolves; by the tyrants who serve only themselves and wish to keep you as perpetual slaves. Don't give in. Resist tyranny. Fight Back.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also like, "The American Spirit of Freedom Must be Revitalized." 


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