Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

An American Life

eBook - 2003
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Benjamin Franklin is the Founding Father who winks at us. An ambitious urban entrepreneur who rose up the social ladder, from leather-aproned shopkeeper to dining with kings, he seems made of flesh rather than of marble. In bestselling author Walter Isaacson's vivid and witty full-scale biography, we discover why Franklin seems to turn to us from history's stage with eyes that twinkle from behind his new-fangled spectacles. By bringing Franklin to life, Isaacson shows how he helped to define both his own time and ours. He was, during his 84-year life, America's best scientist, inventor, diplomat, writer, and business strategist, and he was also one of its most practical -- though not most profound -- political thinkers. He proved by flying a kite that lightning was electricity, and he invented a rod to tame it. He sought practical ways to make stoves less smoky and commonwealths less corrupt. He organized neighborhood constabularies and international alliances, local lending libraries and national legislatures. He combined two types of lenses to create bifocals and two concepts of representation to foster the nation's federal compromise. He was the only man who shaped all the founding documents of America: the Albany Plan of Union, the Declaration of Independence, the treaty of alliance with France, the peace treaty with England, and the Constitution. And he helped invent America's unique style of homespun humor, democratic values, and philosophical pragmatism. But the most interesting thing that Franklin invented, and continually reinvented, was himself. America's first great publicist, he was, in his life and in his writings, consciously trying to create a new American archetype. In the process, he carefully crafted his own persona, portrayed it in public, and polished it for posterity. Through it all, he trusted the hearts and minds of his fellow "leather-aprons" more than he did those of any inbred elite. He saw middle-class values as a source of social strength, not as something to be derided. His guiding principle was a "dislike of everything that tended to debase the spirit of the common people." Few of his fellow founders felt this comfort with democracy so fully, and none so intuitively. In this colorful and intimate narrative, Isaacson provides the full sweep of Franklin's amazing life, from his days as a runaway printer to his triumphs as a statesman, scientist, and Founding Father. He chronicles Franklin's tumultuous relationship with his illegitimate son and grandson, his practical marriage, and his flirtations with the ladies of Paris. He also shows how Franklin helped to create the American character and why he has a particular resonance in the twenty-first century.
Publisher: [S.l.] : Simon & Schuster, 2003
ISBN: 9780743260848
0743260848
Characteristics: 1 online resource
1 online resource (608 p.)
Call Number: eBook

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EvanSchoenfeld
Mar 17, 2018

Franklin the humorist, scientific researcher and statesman was creative and charming enough to redeem a host of faults. That he had towering faults is clear even from this fatally biased account, although I take it ill that the author buried some unworthy behavior. One strongly suspects that Postmaster Franklin pilfered his enemy’s private correspondence, which Isaacson pretends didn’t happen. He avoids considering Franklin’s pointless betrayal of his political partner Galloway and actually seems to relish B. F.’s weakness for political intrigue. That as Ambassador to France Franklin tolerated spies in his employ comes off as less of an offense than John Adams’ “sourness.” I suppose Isaacson was dazzled by Franklin’s celebrity. I can understand up to a point, but not to tolerating books that inspired the characterization of Biography as “bastard child of History.” It maddens that people distort the record, but in fairness this is still readable and entertaining. Fortunately, “The First American” by H. W. Brands is fun and much more reliable. That one I can recommend heartily. This one gave me an excuse to vent, which is a form of fun.

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Gana_G
Nov 13, 2016

that is not only a story of one person, it is the story of the nation. As always, Walter Isaacson beautifully described every significance of Benjamin Franklin. I just loved it.

r
Rainman
Mar 27, 2016

A revealing look at an intriguing man and a national savior: Benjamin Franklin's whole life was dedicated to helping the common man and to establishing the democratic republic of the United States. Isaacson's biography removes both the cartoonish image of Franklin the inventor and the idea that perhaps he was something other than a man like any other man--not without flaws. Isaacson's defense of Franklin's legacy at the end of the book was redundant, for me, because that legacy was clinched in one sentence: "He was the only person to sign all four of [America's] founding papers: the Declaration of Independence, the treaty with France [that brought their assistance to the cause], the peace accord with Britain, and the Constitution." He didn't, of course just sign them. He shaped them. He is very much the founding father, in my opinion.

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nsystems
Nov 21, 2014

He was as essential as Washington, Jefferson, and Madison. Isaacson does a masterful job with this biography.

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DaveMarsh
Sep 20, 2012

Excellent biography on this extraordinary man whose astonishing versatility and creativity produced important innovations in science, culture and politics.

Isaacson's work is thorough and balanced, bringing Franklin's many qualities to life, including his flaws.

I docked one star because of some unnecessary repetition, heavy use of unsubtle alliteration, and the reserving of about half the book's 500 pages to Franklin's role in the formation of the United States. Non-American readers may find the many other aspects of his life at least as interesting or more.

However, still a strongly recommended read.

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midwestcoast
Feb 11, 2012

Very interesting. Amazing a man can do so much in 80 years of life. Franklin was the first great American....

23520000081869seb Jan 23, 2012

Sept 2011

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surry99
Feb 25, 2017

pious

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