From Publishers Weekly
This wonderful biography of an extraordinary man results from a perfect marriage of subject and scholar. Among the most senior of our senior historians, Yale professor emeritus Morgan (American Slavery, American Freedom, etc.) proves himself still at the height of his powers. While Franklin remains, as Morgan writes, elusive and hard to know because "it is so hard to distinguish his natural impulses from his principles," the author probably comes as close to understanding him as anyone can. Rather than focusing on Franklin's role as classic, representative American, Morgan instead gives us a portrait of his public life, almost a third of it spent abroad, in England and France, more than any comparable figure of his generation. In Morgan's hands, Franklin therefore turns out to be more cosmopolitan than provincial, more worldly than Pennsylvanian. He also shines in this biography as someone deeply committed to his fellow Americans and the nation they were creating. Many previous biographers have sought to explain how Franklin helped lay the foundations for a distinctive American mind and personality. Morgan instead takes us more into Franklin's thinking and activities as diplomat and politician and into the way his winning personality served his country so well at the moment it needed him. While suitably critical when Franklin deserves criticism, Morgan's bravura performance is nevertheless a buoyant appreciation of a man whose fame as aphorist in Poor Richard's Almanack and as the scientist who helped discover electricity have often obscured his devotion to the public good. It's hard to imagine a better life study of a man we've all heard about but who is barely known. 20 illus.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Through the simple admission that this biography is meant primarily to introduce Franklin to the general reading public, Morgan avoids the biographer's dilemma of choosing between a narrative focus or presenting a comprehensive history of a subject. He begins with an overview that seeks to educe Franklin's character through an examination of the principles and ideas of this early American Renaissance man as expressed across the board in the various parts of his life. Yet, it is not Franklin the Renaissance man, but rather Franklin the Founding Father of whom Morgan is writing, arguing persuasively that this was the role to which the statesman was most devoted. In telling this story, the author creates a vivid narrative, an adventure story of sorts, which grabs readers with the tale of his subject's part in the political developments of 18th-century America. Yet, the author never loses sight of the importance of the other aspects of the man's personality and the thoughts and actions of others toward him. This is the key to this biography's success: it engages readers' interest in the great drama of this fascinating man's life. Teens may well begin here, and have material enough, but this fascinating introduction could entice them to look further.Ted Westervelt, Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.