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Benjamin Franklin and His Enemies Hardcover – March 4, 1996

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Editorial Reviews Review

Who could have imagined that Benjamin Franklin, the genial inventor and policy-maker who gained international popularity during the Revolutionary War was found by some to be "foul-mouthed" and "a very uneasy Spirit"? Robert Middlekauff, a historian at the University of California, Berkeley, examines Franklin's long battle not only with Thomas Penn, son of the founder of Pennsylvania, but John Adams, a bright lawyer who grew to hate Franklin, primarily out of jealousy over Franklin's celebrity. Though Franklin's attempts to have Penn stripped of his charter powers backfired, fortunately for Americans, he and Adams were able to rise above animosity for the good of the country.

From Library Journal

Middlekauff (Glorious Cause, LJ 3/15/82) here gives a very readable history of America's first diplomat. Franklin acquired political enemies, Middlekauff suggests, because he was brilliant, annoying those less brilliant; because he spoke of and tried (less successfully) to lead a moral life, irritating the amoral; and because he fell short of his own moral yardstick, offending those as pious as he. Another basis for the enmity directed at him is that Franklin, a tradesman, moved for much of his life in genteel society, earning the contempt of Pennsylvania's proprietor, Thomas Penn, and other English lords. Franklin's moral failures are glossed over, presumably because those of his enemies were worse. Although books have already been written about Franklin's Tory son William, the present work might have been that much better if the author had devoted more than the last two pages to the family. Recommended for all those interested in this Founding Father.
Robert C. Moore, DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Co. Information Svcs., N. Billerica, Mass.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 274 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition edition (March 4, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520202686
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520202689
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,941,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Middlekauff is Preston Hotchkis Professor of American History Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. The winner of a Bancroft Prize for The Mathers, he was Harmsworth Professor of American History at Oxford University and also served as Director of the Huntington Library, Art Gallery, and Botanical Gardens.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is an extraordinary literary work of history and biography. Middlekauff stikes the right balance here between erudition and urbanity. Seeing Benjamin Franklin through the eyes of his enemies reveals not just the complicated character of the man but also the complicated moment in history that he occupied. I highly recommend this book!
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By VA Duck on January 14, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An especially well focused biography; author Robert Middlekauff examines the men that became Franklin's friends and his enemies with an eye to reasoning WHY alliances and enmities developed. Not a psychological study by any means, instead a very insightful look into the characteristics of personalities which caused them to attract, or repel.

The odd hatreds and detestations that came about between the characters involved in Franklin's attempt to rid Pennsylvania of the proprietary government of the Penns, and later still the animosities that developed within the diplomatic delegation to France are examined as penetratingly as any written account that I have encountered. Silas Deane's alleged (never demonstrated) larceny, Arthur Lee's near-psychotic sense of self importance, John Adam's conflicted sense of duty and jealousy are clearly laid out with careful scholarship and documentation. But it is author Middlekauff's clever "connecting the dots" that makes the read a successful historical examination.

As ever, it is the enemies that garner more attention and interest than the friends. The opening chapters therefore make a less successful impression on the reader. Here the personalities and events seem less connected - more the laundry-list of names and personality traits that mesh well with Franklin's. Still, a well done, very interesting and important read of Franklin and the Revolutionary era. 4½ stars, if I could give it, but not five, the early chapters don't keep-up with the rest of the book. Also see
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jimeejet on February 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
Well worth reading, especially if you previously read

Van Dorn's biography. Otherwise you may miss much

of what is missing in Middlekauff's book. Great for any

Ben Franklin fan!/
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