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Benjamin Franklin in London: The British Life of America's Founding Father Hardcover – 2012
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Americans know that he played a vital role in their independence but many may not know how hard he worked and how much he strived to maintain the connection to England. He felt that the colonies and the mother land should be inseparable but not unfairly weighted.
This book looks at his life in London, both as a young man, and then as a diplomat and agent for the various colonies who asked him to represent their interests in Parliament and at Court.
There were hotheads on both sides who pushed and provoked. Dr. Franklin was not one. He tried, unsuccessfully, to make London understand that if they chose to treat the colonies as a naughty child, they would get naughty behavior in return.
It was not until his final return from England in 1775 that he finally gave up on the dream of agreement. It was to lead to to a final break with many friends and his son, William.
This book should be in the bookstore of the house on Craven Street where Franklin lived many years. Anyone who is a fan of the man should make a pilgrimage there to the living museum in his old home. The museum is fascinating, as is this book.
I would recommend it highly to students of the Revolution, Franklin or the times of George III. Hindsight is 20/20 and it boggles the mind to think how different history might have been had he prevailed.
Nevertheless, the content is very good. I learned things I hadn't read elsewhere. The author was thorough and provides good background information for the time period. Had the usual needless psychological analysis in many places, but it wasn't enough to distract from the greatness of Franklin and his accomplishments.
The author also devotes some chapters to Franklin's early life, including the period before becoming a colonial agent in London and an earlier brief period in Britain working in the printing industry. Then the focus shifts to his return to Pennsylvania and his successful business and political careers. His impact on Philadelphia was enormous. His scientific achievements are discussed, including a rare American membership in Britain's Royal Society, which proved invaluable when he undertook his mission to London in 1757. The more I learn about Franklin's pre-London early life and achievements, the more I realize how significant a figure he was--very different from his playboy reputation. Moreover, Franklin along the way spent much time with important members of the Scottish Enlightenment, particularly Lord Kames, and this is another virtue of the book.
But the primary focus of the book is on the endless struggles, humiliations, defeats, and embarrassments Ben underwent as he stuck it out in an inhospitable environment for nearly twenty years. His job was not made any easier by events such as the Boston Tea Party, American boycotts of British good, resistance to the Stamp Act and the Navigation Acts, and other signs of growing American impatience with the dictatorial British administration. The capstone was the hour long public dressing down of Ben by the Solicitor General before the all powerful Privy Council. His cheerful countenance apparently was hiding a will of steel as well as a very sharp political operator.
The text is supported by impeccable research reflected in numerous notes and a solid bibliography. The author has chose to include a unique section: "SELECTED LIST OF PLACES TO VISIT AND RELATED ORGANIZATIONS" in both the UK and Pennsylvania. A valuable addition to the literature, both interesting to read and informative, and a true service to Franklin.
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I was able to hear the author give a lecture and really enjoyed it.