Fact Check: Benjamin Franklin Supposedly Gave This Antisemitic Speech. We Looked at the Evidence

Getty Images / X account @IanMalcolm84
Getty Images / X account @IanMalcolm84


A newspaper clipping accurately quotes antisemitic comments by Benjamin Franklin in 1787.


Rating: Unfounded
Rating: Unfounded


The newspaper clipping was authentic, published by anti-Communist and antisemitic newspaper Common Sense on Nov. 15, 1966. However, it was unknown how, or with what evidence, the newspaper connected the quote to Franklin. There was no evidence to definitively confirm or disprove he said or wrote the passage during his life (1706-1790).


For years, a photo of an alleged newspaper clipping with a purported transcription of an anti-Semitic speech by U.S. Founding Father Benjamin Franklin has circulated online. In June 2024, for instance, an X user posted the image, asking whether the passage was accurately attributed to Franklin and, if so, why "so many incredibly famous intellectuals [have] written so negatively about Jewish behavior?"

According to the rumor, Franklin said the following:

In whatever country Jews have settled in any great numbers, they have lowered its moral tone, depreciated its commercial integrity, have segregated themselves and have not been assimilated, have sneered at and tried to undermine the Christian religion, have built up a state within a state, and have, when opposed, tried to strangle that country to death financially.

If you do not exclude them from the United States in the Constitution, in less than 200 years they will have swarmed in in such great numbers that they will dominate and devour the land and change our form of government.

If you do not exclude them, in less than 200 years our descendants will be working in the fields to furnish the substance while they will be in the counting house rubbing their hands. I warn you, gentlemen, if you do not exclude the Jews for all time, your children will curse you in your graves. Jews, gentlemen, are Asiatics; they will never be otherwise.

A text box beneath the passage claimed Franklin said the words in an address "before the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia 1787." The convention was a legitimate event for America's founding fathers — including Franklin — and state delegates to flesh out ideas for what would eventually become the U.S. Constitution. The convention lasted May to September 1787.

Similar posts with the in-question passage circulated on Reddit and Facebook, too. It surfaced online as early as August 2012.

The newspaper clipping itself was authentic. Snopes found a digital copy of it, published on Nov. 15, 1966 by an anti-Communist, ant-Semitic and pro-Nazi newspaper, Common Sense. However, it was unknown how, or with what evidence, the newspaper connected the quote to Franklin. Also, the column did not list an author. (Common Sense reportedly went defunct in June 1972.)

That said, historians and scholars have repeatedly discredited Franklin's alleged connection to the passage, referred to as the "Franklin Prophecy." While evidence confirms Franklin attended and spoke at the 1787 Philadelphia event, there's no evidence of him saying the alleged quote there — much less writing or saying the passage at any other point during his life (1706-1790). There's also no irrefutable evidence to definitively disprove the rumor about Franklin. For those reasons, we rated this claim "Unfounded."

Historians Dispute the Passage's Connection to Franklin

In 1938, the American Jewish Committee (AJC), a Jewish civil rights and lobbying group, published a pamphlet titled, "Benjamin Franklin Vindicated: An Exposure of the Franklin 'Prophecy' by American Scholars." Six academics contributed to the publication, and they all claimed the alleged speech was an anti-Semitic forgery — that is, Franklin did not say it — and its provenance was unknown.

Decades before the Common Sense column, an anti-Semitic journal, Liberation, first published the extract attributed to Franklin, according to the scholars. William Dudley Pelley — an American, pro-Nazi fascist who was arrested in 1942 and imprisoned on sedition and insurrection charges — edited that journal. (Other editions of the Liberation publication can be seen here and here.) Snopes found a digital copy of the issue including the passage, published on Feb. 3, 1934. That was possibly the first instance of the alleged Franklin passage appearing in print, though there was no evidence to confirm.

In the February volume, Pelley cited a private diary of someone who supposedly attended the Constitutional Convention and witnessed the alleged speech by Franklin firsthand. That alleged witness, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, was a South Carolinian delegate who became one of the country's founding fathers.

According to Pelley, Pinckney published his diary for private distribution among friends under the title, "Chit-Chat Around the Table During Intermission." But, Pelley claimed, most copies were destroyed during the American Civil War. "Among the few copies extant is one given by Mr. Pinckney to his daughter," Pelley wrote. "[It] is from this copy that the following extract [Franklin's alleged speech] has been taken.

However, Snopes was unable to find a copy of the purported diary to confirm whether it contained Franklin's alleged speech. In the February 1934 article, Pelley did not state the then-location or owner of the diary, nor how he supposedly learned of its contents.

In the 1938 AJC pamphlet, historian Charles A. Beard — who dismissed the claim about Franklin in a separate 1935 publication, "Charles A. Beard Exposes Anti-Semitic Forgery About Benjamin Franklin" — said the alleged diary was never verified despite "extensive researches." He said his search for it only "produced negative results."

Also in the AJC pamphlet, Beard said he approached multiple people to ask about the provenance of the alleged speech but nobody confirmed Franklin's attribution.

Despite being convinced the so-called "Franklin Prophecy" was a forgery, he wrote to another scholar familiar with the writings of Franklin and Pinckney — historian J. F. Jameson. Jameson told Beard it was "almost certain Pinckney did not keep a diary of convention proceedings," and "that there is nowhere any evidence that Franklin ever made such a speech and that it is inconceivable that he should ever have done so."

After searching through Franklin's writings with the help of others, Beard said he found no evidence Franklin ever expressed "any such sentiments against the Jews as are ascribed to him." He wrote: "In his writing on immigration, Franklin made no mention of discrimination against Jews."

In fact, on page seven of the AJC pamphlet, Beard and the publication's other contributors cited an incident in which Franklin supposedly participated in a fundraiser to benefit Philadelphia's Jewish community: "When the Hebrew Society of Philadelphia sought to raise money for a 'religious house,' or synagogue, in Philadelphia, Franklin signed the petition of appeal for contributions to 'citizens of every religious denomination,' and gave £5 himself to the fund," the pamphlet said.

Also in the pamphlet, Henry Butler Allen, then-director of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, reiterated Beard's findings regarding the alleged diary; that it "has not been produced." On the next page, he repeated the anecdote about Franklin supposedly donating to the synagogue in Philadelphia and dismissed claims the Franklin Institute was allegedly in possession of the diary. "The truth is, we do not possess the notorious diary. In fact we know no more about its whereabouts than we did before, and that was nothing," Allen wrote.

Alfred Rigling, the Franklin Institute's then-librarian, echoed Allen and Beard in the AJC pamphlet, saying:

Historians and Historical Societies have endeavored to locate the Pinckney work, but without success. There is no copy in the Library of Congress, or the New York Public Library. Our state Historical Society has made careful investigation and fails to find any information concerning it.

Three other contributors to the AJC pamphlet agreed. They were J. Henry Smythe, author of "The Amazing Ben Franklin" and member of the Benjamin Franklin Committee of the National Society, Sons of the American Revolution; Julian Boyd, librarian of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and Carl van Doren, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography "Benjamin Franklin."

More than five decades after the AJC pamphlet's publication, the American Philosophical Society published a book by Nian-Sheng Huang, a history professor at the California State University Channel Islands, in which Huang concluded the Pinckney diary and subsequent Franklin passage was "proved to be a forgery." (The book's title is "Benjamin Franklin in American Thought and Culture, 1790-1990, Volume 211.")

On June 8, 2023, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum echoed Huang and the AJC contributors by calling the passage "an antisemitic speech falsely attributed to Benjamin Franklin."

Multiple outlets have addressed the unfounded claim about the "Franklin Prophecy," such as the Atlanta Jewish Connector, an initiative of the Atlanta Jewish Times, and the U.K. media nonprofit JewThink.

Snopes contacted the University of Pennsylvania's Benjamin Franklin Society, as well as the Jewish Labor Committee and American Jewish Congress, for their comment on the findings of this report. We will update this article if we receive responses.


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