Voice of the Past: Ben Franklin on Moving

Ben Franklin

I am slowly returning to my blog, having spent more time than I thought possible moving 600 miles from the east coast of the US to the Midwest. I join the ranks of many movers whose personal effects have been savaged by a large, green and yellow moving company Christened with the name of the Puritan’s flagship to Plymouth.  As the only recourse after hours of browbeating by stentorian customer service representatives is either a. alcohol or b. a Zen-like piece of mind, I have to choose the latter if I desire to not die of stress.

I should have remembered my Poor Richard’s Almanack before heading out on this adventure, for Ben Franklin offers sagely advice for the modern migrating American:

“I never saw an oft removed Tree,

Nor yet an oft removed Family,

That throve so well, as those that settled be.

And again, Three Removes are as bad as a Fire.”

–Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1758. 

Franklin had an axe to grind with the Puritans too, it seems. After all, Ben left Boston in his youth to make in his own way in the world. In Ben’s estimation, after my 14th remove in 33 years, I should be contented by the fact that I could have had a pile of cinders instead of crates of possessions. When Ben made the move from Boston to Philly, he arrived with only the clothes on his back (a minimalist!):

“I have been the more particular in this description of my journey, and shall be so of my first entry into that city, that you may in your mind compare such unlikely beginnings with the figure I have since made there. I was in my working dress…I was dirty from my journey; my pockets were stuff’d out with shirts and stockings, and I knew no soul nor where to look for lodging. I was fatigued with travelling, rowing, and want of rest, I was very hungry; and my whole stock of cash consisted of a Dutch dollar, and about a shilling in copper.”

–Autobiography of Ben Franklin, 1785.

Another piece of advice, unheeded in my most recent caravan. So, dear migrant, should you ever yearn to move from place to place, take Ben’s advice.

Pack lightly.

Ben Franklin Boombox

Franklin Photo credit: Angela Rutherford / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
Beatbox  Photo credit: Lulu Hoeller / Foter / CC BY

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