In 1747, Philadelphia was facing an unexpected crisis. Spanish, French, and Indian privateers were raiding properties along the Delaware River and capturing vessels en route to Philadelphia. The safety of residents and the viability of the port city’s economy were under threat. In his pamphlet Plain Truth, Benjamin Franklin urged the Pennsylvania Assembly to unite and establish a defensive voluntary military force to protect property and vet the incoming vessels. Franklin later recalled that the pamphlet, of which more than 2,000 copies were printed, “had a sudden and surprising Effect,” especially given the Quaker residents’ penchant to avoid confrontation. The pamphlet included the first political cartoon of any kind published in America, foreshadowing Franklin’s famous “Join or Die” cartoon of 1754 in the Pennsylvania Gazette.
Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790). Plain Truth or, Serious Considerations of the Present State of the City of Philadelphia and Province of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Benjamin Franklin, 1747.