Franklin's letter to the Journal of Paris in 1784 poked fun at modern habits of sleeping through daylight and burning fuel for light at night as this extract shows:
was the other evening in a grand company, where the new lamp of
Messrs. Quinquet and Lange was introduced, and much admired
for its splendour; but a general inquiry was made, whether the
oil it consumed was not in proportion to the light it afforded, in
which case there would be no saving in the use of it. No one
present could satisfy us in that point, which all agreed ought to be
known, it being a very desirable thing to lessen, if possible, the
expense of lighting our apartments, when every other article of
family expense was so much augmented.
I was pleased to see this general concern for economy, for I love economy exceedingly.
I went home, and to bed, three or four hours after midnight, with my head full of the subject. An accidental sudden noise waked me about six in the morning, when I was surprised to find my room filled with light; and I imagined at first, that a number of those lamps had been brought into it; but, rubbing my eyes, I perceived the light came in at the windows. I got up and looked out to see what might be the occasion of it, when I saw the sun just rising above the horizon, from whence he poured his rays plentifully into my chamber, my domestic having negligently omitted, the preceding evening, to close the shutters.
I looked at my watch, which goes very well, and found that it was but six o'clock; and still thinking it something extraordinary that the sun should rise so early, I looked into the almanac, where I found it to be the hour given for his rising on that day. I looked forward, too, and found he was to rise still earlier every day till towards the end of June; and that at no time in the year he retarded his rising so long as till eight o'clock. Your readers, who with me have never seen any signs of sunshine before noon "...
The letter concluded with a set of preposterous suggestions guaranteed to make his readers think about the issue.
His ideas were expanded by utilitarians but not politicians for the next 100 years.. ( Continue )