“His whole life has been one continued insult to good manners and to decency”*…
A man whose wit was matched only by the looseness of his tongue, the combative John Adams quickly acquired a hefty reputation for articulate jabs and razor-sharp put-downs at the expense of his allies and (numerous) rivals alike, including some of the most celebrated figures in American history (Bob Dole once described him as “an eighteenth-century Don Rickles”)…
American history comes alive: “7 of John Adams’ Greatest Insults.”
* John Adams, on Benjamin Franklin
As we hail the heckler, we might recall, in fairness to the heckled, that it was on this date in 1752 that Benjamin Franklin and his son tested the relationship between electricity and lightning by flying a kite in a thunder storm. Franklin was attempting a (safer) variation on a set of French investigations about which he’d read. The French had connected lightning rods to a Leyden jar; one one their experiments electrocuted the investigator. Franklin– who may have been a wastrel, but was no fool– used used a kite; the increased height/distance from the strike reduces the risk of electrocution. (But it doesn’t eliminate it: Franklin’s experiment is now illegal in many states.)
In fact, the French experiments had successfully demonstrated the electrical properties of lightning a month before; but word had not yet reached Philadelphia.