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The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin [Hardcover]

Gordon S. Wood
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Eminent revolutionary historian Wood illuminates the life and times of perhaps our nation's most symbolic yet enigmatic forefather. Born of modest roots, Benjamin Franklin displayed from an early age a sharp mind and a literary gift, which served him as he went on to amass a small fortune, mostly as a printer, and to emerge as a civic leader. Wood, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for The Radicalism of the American Revolution, shows how Franklin's skills and charm enabled him to complete the remarkable transition from humble beginnings to gentlemanly status, occupying his later years with scientific experiments, philosophy and statesmanship. Wood also introduces us to Franklin the loyal British subject, who could scarcely conceive of a colonial government independent of the British, yet, in 1776, at the age of 70, came to play a key role in the Revolution. He secured the help of the French, who in turn helped ultimately to define Franklin as the "symbolic American." This is not a comprehensive biography. Instead, Wood's purpose is to supplant our common knowledge of Franklin as the iconic, folksy author of Poor Richard's Almanac with a different, richer portrait, a look at how a man "not even destined to be an American" became, paradoxically, the "symbol of America." What emerges is a fascinating portrait of Franklin, not only as a forefather but as a man. Illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School - This fascinating account provides a vivid picture of an extraordinary man adapting to changing times. Franklin was an intensely loyal British subject who looked forward to the time when he would take an active role in Britain's imperial schemes. His unshaken faith that the monarchy would inevitably behave fairly to the colonists blinded him to the growth of an increasingly powerful anti-British sentiment. Wood shows how Franklin was often completely out of touch with public opinion. At his death, America's brief, perfunctory eulogies sharply contrasted with the national mourning for him in France. In the 19th century, Franklin was rediscovered as the homespun philosopher, a simple man most noteworthy for his emphasis on self-improvement and industry. He was far more, as readers will discover. Black-and-white illustrations are included. - Kathy Tewell, Chantilly Regional Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Reviewers agree that Wood’s new book makes a valuable addition to the recent spate of Founding Fathers literature. More of a study than a biography, the book follows the twists and turns of Franklin’s life—from commoner to gentleman, from Royalist to Patriot—with great insight. Despite the title, Wood (author of Pulitzer Prize-winning The Radicalism of the American Revolution) presents Franklin as a “worldly foreigner” and then, later, as a symbol of home-grown democracy (Providence Journal). The Boston Globe points out that while Wood shows the qualities of Franklin that Americans embraced, he fails to show what they rejected; a “greater illumination of … the complexities of Americanization would have made a very worthwhile book even more so.”

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

From Booklist

Of all of our Founding Fathers, Franklin seems the most accessible. His portraits suggest an elderly, benign man; his writings are pithy, folksy, and they dispense common sense that supposedly reflects the emerging American character. Of course, the real Franklin was a more complicated and interesting figure. Professor Wood won the Pulitzer prize for The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1992). As revealed here, Franklin was an intensely ambitious young man, determined to rise above his humble origins. He was attracted to the trappings of British aristocracy. In a sense, he was the least American of the founders, since he spent most of the last three decades of his life in Britain and France. As Wood convincingly asserts, Franklin's conversion to American patriot was an evolutionary process; for most of his public life, he was a staunch supporter of the British empire. Once he committed to the patriot cause, though, he did so with considerable personal pain and loss. This superbly written work provides a fresh perspective on a justly admired but enigmatic figure. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

An illuminating, accessible and entertaining contribution to the growing literature about Benjamin Franklin. -- San Francisco Chronicle <br /><br />Exceptionally rich perspective on one of the most accomplished, complex, and unpredictable Americans of his own time or any other. -- The Washington Post Book World<br /><br />[Gordon Wood] conveys complex ideas in beguilingly simple prose, and deftly weaves the connections between the different Franklins. -- John Brewer, The New York Review of Books<br /><br />[Wood] possesses as profound a grasp of the early days of the Republic as anyone now working... --The New York Times Book Review

[Wood] possesses as profound a grasp of the early days of the Republic as anyone now working... (The New York Times Book Review) I cannot remember ever reading a work of history and biography that is quite so fluent, so perfectly composed and balanced... (The New York Sun) [Gordon Wood] conveys complex ideas in beguilingly simple prose, and deftly weaves the connections between the different Franklins. (John Brewer, The New York Review of Books) Exceptionally rich perspective on one of the most accomplished, complex, and unpredictable Americans of his own time or any other. (The Washington Post Book World) An illuminating, accessible and entertaining contribution to the growing literature about Benjamin Franklin. (San Francisco Chronicle ) --San Francisco Chronicle --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Gordon S. Wood is the Alva O. Way University Professor at Brown University. His 1970 book, The Creation of the American Republic 1776-1787, received the Bancroft and John H. Dunning prizes and was nominated for the National Book Award. His 1993 book, The Radicalism of the American Revolution, won the Pulitzer Prize. Professor Wood's work has also been recognized by the American Historical Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He contributes regularly to The New Republic and The New York Review of Books.

From The Washington Post

The shifts of fashion among America's educated classes are impossible to predict and often impossible to explain. How to account, for example, for the vogue recently enjoyed by that least charismatic of presidents, John Adams? Yes, David McCullough has many admirers, but sales of his Adams biography were wildly out of proportion to what anyone had expected. How, more recently, to account for the ongoing vogue for Benjamin Franklin? First a bestselling biography by the historian Edmund Morgan, then another by the journalist Walter Isaacson -- and now yet another, this by the most respected among all scholars of the colonial and Revolutionary periods, Gordon S. Wood.

Each of these three books has its interesting and admirable aspects, but what is perhaps most striking is that all three complement rather than supplant each other. Morgan's is essentially an interpretive study by someone who has spent much of his life examining Franklin's long career, Isaacson's is a full-dress biography written in a lively fashion, and Wood's relies heavily -- though never heavy-handedly -- on psychology. All three writers admire their subject virtually without reservation -- Wood alludes frequently to Franklin's "genius" -- yet each views him through a slightly different lens, giving the patient reader an exceptionally rich perspective on one of the most accomplished, complex and unpredictable Americans of his own time or any other.

Wood's biography, which does not pretend to be exhaustive or definitive, follows two broad lines of inquiry. The first, as its title makes clear, is Franklin's slow, difficult progress from ardent supporter of England and its empire to a complete reversal that left "no one . . . more committed to American independence than Franklin." The other is the powerful sensitivity to social stratification, traceable to his impoverished childhood and adolescence, that implanted in him "an anger with those who claimed an undeserved social superiority that would become an important spur to his ambition."

Anger is an emotion not commonly associated with Franklin. In American mythology he "seems to symbolize better than any other Founder the plain democracy of ordinary folk." As the Atlantic Monthly put it more than a century ago, he was and is "the personification of an optimistic shrewdness, a large, healthy nature, as of a young people gathering its strength and feeling its broadening power." In drawings and paintings he is often portrayed as jolly, as if he were our own home-grown Santa Claus.

As is usually the case with mythology, there is some truth to this, as Franklin did indeed take an essentially optimistic view of humanity and was affable and gregarious by temperament, but he was far too complicated to be chalked up as the avatar of joy. He was the 15th of his father's 17 children (by two wives) and, "in a hierarchical age that favored the firstborn son," at a disadvantage from the moment of his birth. Wood argues that the "bitterness" he felt about this lasted throughout his life and was a powerful motive behind his entrepreneurial and civic ambitions.

Franklin was also a commoner, the son of a candle and soap maker, at a time when the line between commoners and gentlemen was deep and wide: "This separation . . . , which John Adams called 'the most ancient and universal of all Divisions of People,' overwhelmed all other divisions in colonial culture, even that between free and enslaved that we today find so horribly conspicuous." Commoners worked, gentlemen were at leisure. Gentlemen prided themselves on their manners, their gentility, their "condescension," which now means "snobbery or haughtiness" but then was understood as "voluntary humiliation, that willing descent from superiority to equal terms with inferiors."

Franklin wanted to be a gentleman, first because he believed he was one by nature and second because achieving sufficient wealth would give him the freedom to pursue the other interests, scientific as well as civic, toward which he was drawn. His move from Boston to Philadelphia was the first step in that direction, and the success of his printing business was what made it possible. Wood is hard pressed to explain Franklin's marriage to the loud and crude Deborah Read, whom he does not seem to have loved and who was scarcely the adornment that an aspiring gentleman would want at his side ("She may in fact have become something of an embarrassment to him"), yet presumably she had her uses, and apparently she did not interfere with his upward march.

In these early and middle years of his adulthood, everything in Franklin turned him toward England. He "was a true-blue Englishman" who "had no thought that America should not be a part of England, at least as connected to England as Scotland was" and who cherished his vision of a "glorious English empire . . . made up only of Englishmen." When he finally got to London, he fell utterly in love with it and did not want to return to America; he was such a "thoroughgoing imperialist and royalist." He revered the Crown and thought it far wiser and more humane than Parliament, an opinion that Parliament did everything in its power to reinforce as it undertook one stupid, insulting colonial policy after another.

The stupidest and most damaging was the Stamp Act of 1765, which "seemed to Americans such a direct and unprecedented threat to their constitutional right not to be taxed without their consent that resistance was immediate, spontaneous, and widespread." Franklin, whose British loyalties were well known, initially was suspected of having had some role in getting the law enacted, so he reacted quickly to confirm his American sympathies. Eventually he played an influential role in Parliament's reluctant decision to repeal the act, but by then much of the damage was irreparable. Parliament continued to insist that it "had the right to legislate for the colonies 'in all cases whatsoever,' " a declaration of sovereignty that Franklin found intolerable and that hastened him along the road toward ardent support for the Revolution.

Before he got there Franklin tried hard to find common ground that would allow the empire to stand in all its glory and the American colonists to enjoy full constitutional rights, but pig-headed Parliament was having none of that: "Listening in Parliament. . . to the arrogant dismissals of Americans 'as the lowest of Mankind and almost of a different species from the English of Britain,' Franklin became more and more irate. . . . He was now convinced that the glorious empire to which he had devoted so much of his life was 'destroyed by the mangling hands of a few blundering ministers.' He felt his Americanness as never before. His emotional separation from England was now final and complete."

On March 20, 1775, he left England for the colonies, but he did not stay at home for long. The next year the new (and deeply troubled) American government sent him to France as a member of "a three-man commission to obtain arms and an alliance." The astonishing success of his mission requires no elaboration here: "Franklin was eventually able not only to bring the French monarchy into the war against Britain on behalf of the new republic of the United States but also to sustain the alliance for almost a half-dozen years." He also began his metamorphosis into the Franklin of myth:

"The French aristocrats were prepared for Franklin, and they contributed greatly to the process of his Americanization. They helped to create Franklin the symbolic American. In this sense Franklin as the representative American belonged to France before he belonged to America itself. Because the French had a need of the symbol before the Americans did, they first began to create the images of Franklin that we today are familiar with -- the Poor Richard moralist, the symbol of rustic democracy, and the simple backwoods philosopher."

That this image was nurtured into life by aristocratic, monarchist France is an irony almost too delicious to grasp, but of course the Franco-American connection has always been odd and contradictory. Think of Franklin's image, if you will, as first cousin to the Statue of Liberty -- another unlikely French gift to America, but a gift all the same, and one that we still treasure.

Copyright 2004, The Washington Post Co. All Rights Reserved.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

BOSTON BEGINNINGS

Franklin was born in Boston on January 17, 1706 January 6, 1705, in the old-style calendar), of very humble origins, origins that always struck Franklin himself as unusually poor. Franklin’s father, Josiah, was a non conformist from Northamptonshire who as a young man had immigrated to the New World and had become a candle and soap maker, one of the lowliest of the artisan crafts. Josiah fathered a total of seventeen children, ten, including Benjamin, by his second wife, Abiah Folger, from Nantucket. Franklin was number fifteen of these seventeen and the youngest son.

In a hierarchical age that favored the firstborn son, Franklin was, as he ruefully recounted in his Autobiography, “the youngest Son of the youngest Son for Generations back.”’ In the last year of his life the bitterness was still there, undisguised by Franklin’s usual irony. In a codicil to his will written in 1789 he observed that most people, having received an estate from their ancestors, felt obliged to pass on something to their posterity. “This obligation,” he wrote with some emotion, “does not lie on me, who never inherited a shilling from any ancestor or relation.”

Because the young Franklin was unusually precocious (“I do not remember when I could not read,” he recalled), his father initially sent the eight-year-old boy to grammar school in preparation for the ministry. But his father soon had second thoughts about the expenses involved in a college education, and after a year he pulled the boy out of grammar school and sent him for another year to an ordinary school that simply taught reading, writing, and arithmetic. These two years of formal education were all that Franklin was ever to receive. Not that this was unusual: most boys had little more than this, and almost all girls had no formal schooling at all. Although most of the Revolutionary leaders were college graduates—usually being the first in their families to attend college—some, including Washington, Robert Morris, Patrick Henry, Nathanael Greene, and Thomas Paine, had not much more formal schooling than Franklin. Apprenticeship in a trade or skill was still the principal means by which most young men prepared for the world.

Franklin’s father chose that route of apprenticeship for his son and began training Franklin to be a candle and soap maker. But since cutting wicks and smelling tallow made Franklin very unhappy, his father finally agreed that the printing trade might better suit the boy’s “Bookish Inclination.” Printing, after all, was the most cerebral of the crafts, requiring the ability to read, spell, and write. Nevertheless, it still involved heavy manual labor and was a grubby, messy, and physically demanding job, without much prestige.

In fact, printing had little more respectability than soap and candle making. It was in such “wretched Disrepute” that, as one eighteenth-century New York printer remarked, no family “of Substance would ever put their Sons to such an Art,” and, as a consequence, masters were “obliged to take of the lowest People” for apprentices. But Franklin fit the trade. Not only was young Franklin bookish, but he was also nearly six feet tall and strong with broad shoulders—ideally suited for the difficult tasks of printing. His father thus placed him under the care of an older son, James, who in 1717 had returned from England to set himself up as a printer in Boston. When James saw what his erudite youngest brother could do with words and type, he signed up the twelve-year-old boy to an unusually long apprenticeship of nine years.

That boy, as Franklin later recalled in his Autobiography, was “extremely ambitious” to become a “tolerable English Writer.” Although literacy was relatively high in New England at this time—perhaps 75 percent of males in Boston could read and write and the percentage was rapidly growing— books were scarce and valuable, and few people read books the way Franklin did.’ He read everything he could get his hands on, including John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Plutarch’s Lives, Daniel Defoe’s Essay on Projects, the “do good” essays of the prominent Boston Puritan divine Cotton Mather, and more books of “polemic Divinity” than Franklin wanted to remember. He even befriended the apprentices of booksellers in order to gain access to more books. One of these apprentices allowed him secretly to borrow his master’s books to read after work. “Often,” Franklin recalled, “I sat up in my Room reading the greatest Part of the Night, when the Book was borrow’d in the Evening & to be return’d early in the Morning lest it should be miss’d or wanted.” He tried his hand at writing poetry and other things but was discouraged with the poor quality of his attempts. He discovered a volume of Joseph Addison and Richard Steele’s Spectator papers and saw in it a tool for self-improvement. He read the papers over and over again and copied and recopied them and tried to recapitulate them from memory. He turned them into poetry and then back again into prose. He took notes on the Spectator essays, jumbled the notes, and then attempted to reconstruct the essays in order to understand the way Addison and Steele had organized them. All this painstaking effort was designed to improve and polish his writing and it succeeded; “prose Writing” became, as Franklin recalled in his Autobiography, “of great Use to me in the Course of my Life, and was a principal Means of my Advancement.” In fact, writing competently was such a rare skill that any one who could do it well immediately acquired importance. All the Founders, including Washington, first gained their reputations by some thing they wrote.

In 1721 Franklin’s brother, after being the printer for another person’s newspaper, decided to establish his own paper, the New England Courant. It was only the fourth newspaper in Boston; the first, published in 1690, had been closed down by the Massachusetts government after only one issue. The second, the Boston News-Letter; was founded in t it became the first continuously published newspaper not only in Boston but in all of the North American colonies. The next Boston paper, begun in 1719 and printed by James Franklin for the owner, was the Boston Gazette.” These early newspapers were small, simple, and bland affairs, two to four pages published weekly and containing mostly reprints of old European news, ship sailings, and various advertisements, together with notices of deaths, political appointments, court actions, fires, piracies, and such matters. Although the papers were expensive and numbered only in the hundreds of copies, they often passed from hand to hand and could reach beneath the topmost ranks of the city’s population of twelve thousand, including even into the ranks of artisans and other “middling sorts.”

These early papers were labeled “published by authority.” Remaining on the good side of government was not only wise politically, it was wise economically. Most colonial printers in the eighteenth century could not have survived without government printing contracts of one sort or another. Hence most sought to avoid controversy and to remain neutral in politics. They tried to exclude from their papers anything that smacked of libel or personal abuse. Such material was risky. Much safer were the columns of dull but innocuous foreign news that they used to fill their papers, much to Franklin’s later annoyance. It is hard to know what colonial readers made of the first news item printed in the newly created South Carolina Gazette of 1732: “We learn from Caminica, that the Cossacks continue to make inroads onto polish Ukrania”

James Franklin did not behave as most colonial printers did. When he decided to start his own paper, he was definitely not publishing it by authority In fact, the New England Courant began by attacking the Boston establishment, in particular the program of inoculating people for smallpox that was being promoted by the Puritan ministers Cotton Mather and his father. When this inoculation debate died down, the paper turned to satirizing other subjects of Boston interest, including pretended learning and religious hypocrisy, some of which provoked the Mathers into replies. Eager to try his own hand at satire, young Benjamin in 1722 submitted some essays to his brother’s newspaper under the name of Silence Dogood, a play on Cotton Mather’s Essays to Do Good, the name usually given to the minister’s Bonifaicius, published in 1710. For a sixteen-year-old boy to assume the persona of a middle-aged woman was a daunting challenge, and young Franklin took “exquisite Pleasure” in fooling his brother and others into thinking that only “Men of some Character among us for Learning and Ingenuity” could have written the newspaper pieces.

These Silence Dogood essays lampooned everything from funeral eulogies to “that famous Seminary of Learning,” Harvard College. Al though Franklin’s satire was generally and shrewdly genial, there was often a bite to it and a good deal of social resentment behind it, especially when it came to his making fun of Harvard. Most of the students who attended “this famous Place,” he wrote, “were little better than Dunces and Blockheads.” This was not surprising, since the main qualification for entry, he said, was having money. Once admitted, the students “learn little more than how to carry themselves handsomely, and enter a Room genteely, (which might as well be acquire’d at a Dancing-School,) and from whence they return, after Abundance of Trouble and Charge, as great Blockheads as ever, only more proud and self-conceited.” One can already sense an underlying anger in this precocious and rebellious teenager, an anger with those who claimed an undeserved social superiority that would become an important spur to his ambition.

When Franklin’s brother found out who the author of the Silence Dogood pieces was, he was not happy, “as he thought, probably with reason,” that all the praise the essays were receiving tended to make the young teenager “too vain.” Franklin, as he admitted, was probably “too saucy and provoking” to his brother, and the two brothers began squabbling. James was only nine years older than his youngest brother, but he nonetheless “considered himself as my Master & me as his Apprentice.” Consequently, as master he “expected the same Services from me as he would from another; while I thought he demean’d me too much in some he requir’d of me, who from a Brother expected more Indulgence.”

Since the fraternal relationship did not fit the extreme hierarchical relationship of master and apprentice, the situation became impossible, especially when James began exercising his master’s prerogative of beating his apprentice.

Indentured apprentices were under severe contractual obligations in the eighteenth century and were part of the large unfree population that existed in all the colonies. In essence they belonged to their masters: their contracts were inheritable, and they could not marry, play cards or gamble, attend taverns, or leave their masters’ premises day or night without permission. With such restraints it is understandable that Franklin was “continually wishing for some Opportunity” to shorten or break his apprenticeship.

In 1723 that opportunity came when the Massachusetts government—like all governments in that pre-modern age, acutely sensitive to libels and any suggestion of disrespect—finally found sufficient grounds to forbid James to publish his paper. James sought to evade the restriction by publishing the paper under Benjamin’s name. But it would not do to have a mere apprentice as editor of the paper, and James had to return the old indenture of apprenticeship to his brother. Although James drew up a new and secret contract for the remainder of the term of apprenticeship, Franklin realized his brother would not dare to reveal what he had done, and he thus took “Advantage” of the situation “to assert my Freedom.”

His situation with his brother had become intolerable, and his own standing in the Puritan-dominated community of Boston was little better. Since Franklin had become “a little obnoxious to the governing Party” and “my indiscreet Disputations about Religion began to make me pointed at with Horror by good People, as an Infidel or Atheist,” he determined to leave Boston. But because he still had some years left of his apprenticeship and his father opposed his leaving, he had to leave secretly. With a bit of money and a few belongings, the headstrong and defiant seventeen-year-old boarded a ship and fled the city, a move that was much more common in the mobile eighteenth-century Atlantic world than we might imagine. Thus Franklin began the career that would lead him “from the Poverty & Obscurity in which I was born & bred, to a State of Affluence & some Degree of Reputation in the World.”

PHILADELPHIA

Franklin arrived in the Quaker city renowned for its religious freedom in 1723, hungry; tired, dirty; and bedraggled in his “Working Dress,” his “Pockets stuffed out with Shirts and Stockings,” with only a Dutch dollar and copper shilling to his name. He bought three rolls, and “with a Roll under each Arm, and eating the other,” he wandered around Market, Chestnut, and Walnut Streets, and in his own eyes, and the eyes of his future wife, Deborah Read, who watched him from her doorway, made “a most awkward ridiculous Appearance.” He finally stumbled into a Quaker meetinghouse on Second Street, and “hearing nothing said,” promptly “fell fast asleep, and continu’d so till the Meeting broke up, when one was kind enough to wake me.”

Franklin tells us in his Autobiography that he offers us such a “particular”—and unforgettable—description of his “first Entry” into the city of Philadelphia so “that you may in your Mind compare such unlikely Beginnings with the Figure I have since made there.” Although he tried in his Autobiography to play down and mock his achievements, Franklin was nothing if not proud of his extraordinary rise. He always knew that it was the enormous gap between his very obscure beginnings and his later worldwide eminence that gave his story its heroic appeal.

Philadelphia in the 1720s numbered about six thousand people, but it was growing rapidly and would soon surpass the much older city of Boston. The city, and the colony of Pennsylvania, had begun in the late seventeenth century as William Penn’s “Holy Experiment” for poor persecuted members of the Society of Friends. But by the time Franklin arrived, many of the Quaker families, such as the Norrises, Shippens, Dickinsons, and Pembertons, had prospered, and this emerging Quaker aristocracy had come to dominate the mercantile affairs and politics of the colony. At the same time, however many non-English immigrants— Germans at first and later Scotch-Irish—had begun to pour into the colony in increasing numbers. Most of these new immigrants came as servants; indeed, at least half the population of Philadelphia during the early and middle decades of the eighteenth century was composed of indentured servants.

Since the Philadelphia that Franklin moved to was still a very small town, knit together by face-to-face relationships, Franklin was able to become acquainted with people fairly quickly. He first looked for work with the dominant printer of the colony, Andrew Bradford, who was the government printer and since 1719 had been publishing Pennsylvania’s only newspaper, the American Weekly Mercury. When Franklin discovered that Bradford had no place for him, he ended up working in the shop of a rival printer, Samuel Keimer. He eventually found lodging in the home of a plain carpenter, John Read, the father of the woman who had watched his awkward and ridiculous entry into the city.

He soon made friends in the town with clerks and other middling sorts who had intellectual and literary ambitions similar to his. He was unusually amiable, told a good story and worked at getting along with people. He tells us that very early on he developed “the Habit of expressing my self in Terms of modest Diffidence, never using when I advance any thing that may possibly be disputed, the Words, Certainly, undoubtedly, or any others that give the Air of Positiveness to an Opinion.” Looking back, he realized that this habit had been “of great Advantage” to him in persuading people to come round to his point of view.”

With his amiability and talent he soon became an artisan to be reckoned with. He knew more about printing than his employer, Samuel Keimer; indeed, as Governor William Keith of Pennsylvania quickly surmised, this talented teenager knew more about printing than anyone in Philadelphia. He was extremely bright and naturally affable, and his future as an artisan looked very promising.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From AudioFile

Benjamin Franklin, one of the best-known Americans at the time of the Revolution, rose from humble beginnings with the help of wealthy friends impressed with his intelligence. The scientist, writer, and printer was a reluctant revolutionary--he stayed in London in hopes of reaching a compromise with England--but his support of the rebels was instrumental in gaining French assistance. This biography looks at Franklin's life through his own words, those of the many critics he faced as an emerging member of the new American middle class, and those who later on saw in Franklin a template for their own lives. Peter Johnson reads as a lecturer, conveying information with only occasional emotion. Still, the evolution of Franklin's image, through his own efforts and those of others, is a fascinating prism through which to view the founding of our nation. J.A.S. © AudioFile 2004, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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