Originally posted 15 August 2012
Benjamin Franklin was far too old for military service in 1776, but this passage from his diary shows that he did his part for the morale of the troops.
“We had for our chaplain a zealous Presbyterian minister, Mr. Beatty, who complained to me that the men did not generally attend his prayers and exhortations. When they enlisted, they were promised, besides pay and provisions, a gill of rum a day, which was punctually serv’d out to them, half in the morning, and the other half in the evening; and I observ’d they were as punctual in attending to receive it; upon which I said to Mr. Beatty, “It is, perhaps, below the dignity of your profession to act as steward of the rum, but if you were to deal it out and only just after prayers, you would have them all about you.” He liked the tho’t, undertook the office, and, with the help of a few hands to measure out the liquor, executed it to satisfaction, and never were prayers more generally and more punctually attended; so that I thought this method preferable to the punishment inflicted by some military laws for non-attendance on divine service.”
Old Ben knew human nature quite well, and his closing words show a commendable desire to soften overly harsh discipline. One can imagine soldiers who were forced to attend those prayers being happy that they had something to look forward to at the end of the service.