Ben Franklin’s thoughts on the rattlesnake as a symbol of America: ‘Don’t tread on me’

Gadsen Flag

Once upon a time, Americans listened to men like Benjamin Franklin. Today, they get unhealthy doses of Sen. Harry Reid. Given that, I thought I’d share a few excerpts from ‘The Completed Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin,’ which was compiled and edited by Mark Skousen, Ph.D.

I like Archer just as much as the next guy, but Archer is not Ben Franklin. If I had one piece of advice to give to young people it would to turn off the television for a year or two and read the works of the men who helped shape America’s identity at its inception. Learn from the wisdom preserved for us by the best and brightest minds ever turned out by Western Civilization. Once you do that, you will realize who it is within the political class and the entertainment community that wants you to wander through life like a zombie. You will be able to discern who is telling you what you want to hear and who is telling you what you need to hear. You will be able to tell the difference between the man who is snake oil salesman from the man who is like the rattlesnake.

The rattlesnake as a symbol of America: ‘Don’t tread on me’

“I observed on one of the drums belonging to the Marines being raised that there was painted a rattlesnake, with this modest motto under it, “Don’t tread on me.” It occurred to me that the rattlesnake, being found in no other quarter of the world besides America, might therefore be chose to represent her. Having frequently seen the rattlesnake, I ran over in my mind every property by which she was distinguished.

I recollect that her eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids. She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance. She never begins an attack, not, when once engaged, ever surrenders; she is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage.

As if anxious to prevent all pretensions of quarreling with her, the weapons with which nature has furnished her she conceals in the roof of her mouth, so that, to those who are unacquainted with her, she appears to be a most defenseless animal, and even when those weapons are shown and extended for their defense, they appear weak and contemptible; but their wounds however small, are decisive and fatal. Conscious of this, she never wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her.

I confess I was wholly at a loss what to make of the rattles until I went back and counted them and found them just thirteen, exactly the number of the colonies united in America; and I recollected too that this was the only part of the snake that increased in numbers; perhaps it might be only fancy, but, I conceited the painter had shown a half formed additional rattle, which, I suppose, might have been intended to represent the province of Canada.

‘Tis curious and amazing to observe how distinct and independent of each other the rattles of this animal are, and yet how firmly they are united together, so as never to be separated but by breaking them to pieces. One of those rattles singly is incapable of producing sound, but the ringing of thirteen together is sufficient to alarm the boldest man living.

The rattlesnake is solitary and associated with her kind only when it is necessary for their preservation. In winter, the warmth of a number together will preserve their lives, while singly they would probably perish.

The power of fascination attributed to her, by a generous construction, may be understood to mean that those who consider the liberty and blessing which America affords, and once come over to her, never afterwards leave her, but spend their lives with her. She strongly resembles America in this, that she is beautiful in youth and her beauty increases with age, “her tongue also is blue and forked as the lightning, and her abode is among impenetrable rocks.”

I communicated my sentiments to a neighbor of mine, who had a surprising readiness at guessing everything which related to public affairs. He instantly declared it as his sentiments that the Congress meant to allude to Lord North’s declaration in the House of Commons that he never would relax his measure until he had brought America to his feet, and to intimate to his Lordship that were she brought to his feet, it would be dangerous treading on her.” — The Completed Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, compiled and edited by Mark Skousen, Ph.D. Pages 112-114.

Rebellion to Tyrants is obedience to God

“Only July 4 I had been appointed to a committee, along with Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, to design the great seal of the United States. I urged the following to be adopted: Moses standing on the shore, and extending his hand over the sea, thereby causing the same to overwhelm Pharaoh who is sitting in an open chariot, a crown on his head and a sword in his hand. Rays from a pillar of fire in the clouds reach to Moses to express that he acts by command of the Deity. Motto: Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” — The Completed Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, compiled and edited by Mark Skousen, Ph.D. Page 124.

Take a few moments to really think about America’s founding and what it meant to have men like Franklin at the helm when the fate of the nation hung in the balance. And then, when you’re done…if you really must, go back to the cartoons.

Joe Rogan and Alexis de Tocqueville dish out tough love Americans need

Joe Rogan

What does Joe Rogen have to do with Alexis de Tocqueville? Why should you listen to one and read the other? Let me show you.

When Alexis de Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America, he was amazed at how much Americans cherished equality (of opportunity) and liberty, going so far as to say: “Men are there seen on a greater equality in point of fortune and intellect, or, in other words, more equal in their strength, than in any other country of the world, or in any age of which history has preserved the remembrance.”

However, he also knew that the notion of equality could be warped in ways detrimental to the long-term health of the nation:

“There is … a manly and lawful passion for equality which incites men to wish all to be powerful and honored. This passion tends to elevate the humble to the rank of the great; but there exists also in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to attempt to lower the powerful to their own level, and reduces men to prefer equality in slavery to inequality with freedom.”

We have reached a crucial point in American history, where the men who would prefer “equality in slavery” may outnumber the men who realize the difference between “equality of opportunity” and “equality of outcomes.” The reason we find ourselves in this predicament is because for far too long Americans have not been given “tough love.” The whiners and complainers have been coddled. They have been led to believe that in the movie that is their life, it is perfectly respectable to cast themselves as the victim.

Joe Rogen explains:

A lot of people say “I just want to, sorta…” They’re kind of dabbling in the idea of improving themselves. And the real way to do it is you’ve got to write down what the fuck you want and go after it because otherwise you live in a wishy-washy world. If you decide I’m going to get down to — bang — I’m going to do this. I’m going to run a marathon in less than five hours. Whatever the fuck it is, you gotta write that shit down and go for it.

What I tell people, and this is the best advice I ever heard or came up with: Live your life you’re the hero in your movie and right now is when the fucking movie starts and your life is a shitbag disaster like every fucking Arnold Schwarzenegger movie where he makes blender full of pizza and ice cream and that’s what he eats. Do you know what I mean? Those guys who are on the brink. They put a gun in their mouth and then put it down because they sit a photo of their daughter… Pretend that’s you. Pretend right you are in the part of the movie that starts and it shows you like a fucking loser — and just decide not to be a loser anymore.

Live your life like there was a documentary crew following you around and you are analyzing your own behavior.

Do what you would want to do so that your kids one day would look back on it one day and see that documentary and look on it with pride like: “Wow, my dad was a bad motherfucker.  He really did what he had to do. Wow, my mom really got her shit together.” I love a success story, but even more than a success story I love  “a dude who fucks his life up and then gets it back together again” story. Those are my favorite stories. …

You have to think that you’re the hero in your own fucking movie, and then you have to sit down and write shit down. Write down what you need to do.

Most people play the role of the victim in their movie. … “This life is fucking me over, man. I could have had this, and I should have had that. And why does this guy have this and what does that guy get that?” —  all things that are completely unrelated to you. All things where you find other people’s success is a downfall in your own existence. Instead of being inspired, instead of choosing to be positive, instead of improving constantly on the direction on whatever it is you want to achieve that is written down, you just sit around and spiral.

There’s nothing more miserable than sitting around someone fucking complaining all the time. It is one of the most annoying things ever. Everybody hate it when someone just sit around and they just complain about their life and they don’t do jack shit about it. And you tiptoe around it, you don’t know what to say. “Well, She get’s upset when you bring that up. I don’t want to bring that up.” And you want to go: “You fucking crazy bitch! You know what is wrong with you life. Stop announcing it to everybody else and go out and fix that shit.”

Tough love is what everybody needs. Me included.

That’s the only good thing about assholes on the Internet. Sometimes they say things that are right. … “Oh, that joke on the podcast. You’re an asshole for even thinking like that.” … You feel bad if things are correct. You feel bad if someone nails it. … You have to be able to have that honest assessment of yourself, and the only way to do that is if you’re taking account of yourself all day long. You have a mindset you want to maintain throughout the day.

Don’t let the world maintain your mindset. You choose what mindset you’re going to maintain.

Joe Rogan can come across as a cocky guy from time to time, but there is no denying that he’s a smart man. There is no denying that he has the recipe for success down pat. Take a moment to look back at your own life and try to step outside yourself and see it from an objective observer’s point of view. What kind of character are you? Are you more like the hero who is going to will himself to great heights, or are you more like a victim of cruel circumstances beyond your control? Is the world out to get you, or is the world your playground? The sooner you gain the ability to objectively analyze your life, the sooner you’ll be able to make the changes necessary to fulfill your true potential.

Will future generations of Americans revere Joe Rogan like history buffs revere Alexis de Tocqueville? If I was a betting man, I’d say no. However, that doesn’t take away the wisdom embedded within many of his podcasts. The point is this: Look for knowledge wherever you can find it. It exists everywhere. A Frenchman can “get” America better than most Americans, and a comedian/UFC commentator can impart more knowledge in a single podcast than many college professors can in an entire semester.

If you cast yourself as a hero in your own movie and look for learning opportunities from everyone you meet — including those who try your patience — life will reward you for it.