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Mrs Silence Dogood was a persona adopted by the young Ben Franklin to get his views published in his brother's Boston newspaper, the New-England Courant. In 1722, at the age of 16, Franklin wrote 14 letters to the editor using the pseudonymn Silence Dogood. Ben was apprenticed to his older brother, James, and James had just started publication of Boston's third newspaper, the New-England Courant.

James and Ben did not get along and eventually Ben would run away to Philadelphia. Probably because of these disagreements, Ben initially kept his authorship of the letters a secret from his brother -- he would disguise his handwriting and drop the letters off at the newspaper offices at night anonymously.

The letters ranged in subject matter from comments on pride, vanity, and fashion to freedom of speech, and the proper role of government. They were well received and much speculation was made concerning which learned man had written them. Ben -- with only two years of schooling -- was buoyed by the compliments he heard about the anonymous author.

It is interesting to note that many letters of the day were published anonymously using pen names. Most of the Federalist Papers were published in this manner. Yet today, many American newspapers will not publish anonymous letters to the editor, and most will not allow use of pen names. These newspapers will staunchly defend the right to freedom of speech, but forget that the right to free speech is meaningless if there is fear of reprisal.

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