Yes, Yale voted to retain the name of Calhoun College – named for John C. Calhoun – this week. All the media attention was on that move, but Yale didn’t succumb to the revisionist trend that includes renaming things and tearing down statues.
However, Yale also announced that they had named two colleges at the same time. One of these was named for Benjamin Franklin.
Franklin, a Founding Father, appears on the $100 bill and is honored in numerous ways across the country – especially in Philadelphia. He had some opinions that could be considered just as controversial as the views of Calhoun that caused some to want to drop his name from a Yale college. My point is not to trash Franklin or move to remove from the $100 bill. I am just demonstrating the absurdity of the positions of revisionists and taking positions to their logical ends.
Franklin made a lot of comments about German immigrants coming to the American colonies during the 1700s. I had heard before he was concerned about Philadelphia becoming predominantly German-speaking and favored a push by some in the city to direct all the immigrants from Germany to go to the surrounding areas that are now the suburbs. When he was younger, he published a German-language newspaper that failed after a year.
Franklin thought Germans were stupid among other things:
“Those who come hither are generally of the most ignorant Stupid Sort of their own Nation…and as few of the English understand the German Language, and so cannot address them either from the Press or Pulpit, ’tis almost impossible to remove any prejudices they once entertain…Not being used to Liberty, they know not how to make a modest use of it…I remember when they modestly declined intermeddling in our Elections, but now they come in droves, and carry all before them, except in one or two Counties…In short unless the stream of their importation could be turned from this to other colonies, as you very judiciously propose, they will soon so out number us, that all the advantages we have will not in My Opinion be able to preserve our language, and even our Government will become precarious.”
He also didn’t think Germans were white enough, calling them “swarthy”
Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion.
24. Which leads me to add one Remark: That the Number of purely white People in the World is proportionably very small. All Africa is black or tawny. Asia chiefly tawny. America (exclusive of the new Comers) wholly so. And in Europe, theSpaniards, Italians, French, Russians and Swedes, are generally of what we call a swarthy Complexion; as are the Germans also, the Saxons only excepted, who with the English, make the principal Body of White People on the Face of the Earth. I could wish their Numbers were increased. And while we are, as I may call it,Scouring our Planet, by clearing America of Woods, and so making this Side of our Globe reflect a brighter Light to the Eyes of Inhabitants in Mars or Venus, why should we in the Sight of Superior Beings, darken its People? why increase the Sons of Africa, by Planting them in America, where we have so fair an Opportunity, by excluding all Blacks and Tawneys, of increasing the lovely White and Red? But perhaps I am partial to the Complexion of my Country, for such Kind of Partiality is natural to Mankind.
As a descendant of some of these German immigrants who came to Pennsylvania before eventually ending up in North Carolina, I could take offense at this. I could demand Franklin be removed from the $100 bill and that his statue be upended everywhere, but I won’t.
I don’t believe in rewriting history and I think Yale did the right thing by not changing the name of Calhoun College. History is history, even with all its warts. You can’t learn from it if you totally blot it out.
Yale students upset about Franklin name
The New York Times reports that actual Yale students were actually upset about the Franklin naming:
Many students were perplexed by the selection of Franklin, who received an honorary degree from Yale. Franklin, like many other founding fathers, was once a slaveholder himself before he became involved in the abolitionist movement. Mr. Salovey explained that Franklin was a “personal hero and role model” of Charles B. Johnson, a businessman and Yale alumnus who donated $250 million to pay for the new buildings — the largest gift in the school’s history — and who suggested the honor.
Of course, the NYT didn’t have any quotes from all the Yale students interviewed about the Franklin name, so I’m not sure that there were that “many” who were “perplexed” by the move.
If these students were upset about a slaveholder (Franklin) who later became an abolitionist, then very few names of any white males prior to 1865 can be used as a name on Yale’s campus.