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October 27, 2005

Benjamin Franklin (Bio.)

Edmund S. Morgan – 0300101627

This little book is brilliantly and lovingly written, and a light while informative work which everyone ought to read.

While biographical, it deals more heavily with the latter years of Dr. Franklin’s life: the period of decades when he was, in effect, ambassador to the European Western world, molder of opinions about America, and chief financier of the Revolutionary War. There is sufficient detail about his activities (pre-and post-revolutionary) to inform the reader of just how pivotal he was, and it offers sufficient personal information about him in order for the reader to become familiar with Franklin, the man: his nature, scientific proclivities, love of people and camaraderie, thoughts, concepts of the country he loved and served, and the evolution of his attitudes toward revolution.

I, for one, was not aware of how much Franklin believed in the British Empire, how much he felt himself to be a “British American”, and how hard he tried to influence the English parliament to accede to American requests for autonomy within the empire, before finally concluding that revolution was the only answer . . . at which time he worked mightily to support and finance it, and later to contribute to the founding of the American democratic republic. Also interesting are the unfulfilled ideas which Franklin had about how the union ought to be: a union of the people, not just of the states, and one more oriented to the general welfare, albeit within a capitalist system. (e.g.: he usually gave his inventions over to public domain, without patenting them, for their general use.)

I’m certain there are more voluminous and comprehensive biographies of Franklin—or at least tomes which are much longer--but it is difficult for me to imagine one which is more wonderfully crafted and pleasurable to read.

One of America’s most distinguished historians has indeed written one of the best books on the greatest statesman of his—or any--age.

“Superb. . . . The best short biography of Franklin ever written.” Gordon Wood, New York Review of Books.

‘Nough said. Read it!! It is well worth the several hours it will require.

Posted by respeto at October 27, 2005 11:45 AM