Benjamin Franklin and the Morality of Chess in the New Republic

Les Harrison

It is common for most historians of chess in the United States of America to start with Ben Franklin. Franklin was, after all, a noted devote of the game. In addition to mentioning his fondness for chess in his Autobiography (1791), twelve years earlier Franklin wrote an eloquent defense of chess as a rational amusement suitable for the citizens of the new nation entitled The Morals of Chess(1779). Given the relative unpopularity of chess first in the colonies and, later, the new nation, Franklin comes off in these narratives in his familiar role as an intellectual visionary. Of course, the reasoning goes, Franklin, the great man, inventor of the fire department and lending library, founder of the University of Pennsylvania, elder statesman of the founding fathers, would naturally gravitate towards chess. In such narratives, Franklin’s love of chess becomes united with his service to the nation as both Ralph…

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Published by chessmusings

Chris Torres is a nationally renowned scholastic chess coach working in both Bakersfield and the San Francisco Bay Area. His classes have attracted players of strengths ranging from rank beginners to world champions. A chess professional since 1998, Chris is widely recognized as one of the main driving forces behind the explosion in popularity and sudden rise in quality of scholastic chess in California. Currently, Chris Torres has the ranking of candidate master and serves as the President of the Torres Chess and Music Academy. Mr. Torres’ hobbies include playing classical guitar and getting his students to appear on the national top 100 chess rating lists.

One thought on “Benjamin Franklin and the Morality of Chess in the New Republic

  1. Thanks for the reblog. I know there’s a French rebuttal to Franklin’s “Morals” but it was outside the scope of this entry. Thanks again.


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