The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin
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In the first comprehensive biography of Benjamin Franklin in over sixty years, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands brings vividly to life one of the most delightful, bawdy, brilliant, original, and important figures in American history.
A groundbreaking scientist, leading businessman, philosopher, bestselling author, inventor, diplomat, politician, and wit, Benjamin Franklin was perhaps the most beloved and celebrated American of his age, or indeed of any age. Now, in a beautifully written and meticulously researched account of Franklin's life and times, his clever repartee, generous spirit, and earthy wisdom are brought compellingly to the page.
His circle of friends and acquaintances extended around the globe, from Cotton Mather to Voltaire, from Edmund Burke to King George III, from Sir Isaac Newton to Immanuel Kant. Franklin was gifted with a restless curiosity, and his scientific experiments with electric currents and the weather made him the leading pioneer in the new field of electricity on both sides of the Atlantic; among his many inventions were the lightning rod, the Franklin stove, and the harmonica, a musical instrument that became the rage of Europe.
From his humble beginnings in Boston as a printer's apprentice, he became, within two decades, the leading printer and one of the most important businessmen in the Colonies. A longtime Philadelphia civic leader, he created Philadelphia's first fire department, wrote the bestseller Poor Richard's Almanac, served as Postmaster General for the Colonies, and in the process, completely modernized the mail service. A bon vivant and ladies' man throughout his life, he matched wits with Parliament and the Crown during the decade leading up to the Stamp Act; and as the official agent to Parliament, representing several of the Colonies, he helped push the Colonies into open rebellion.
Tracing Franklin's gradual transformation from reluctant revolutionary to charismatic leader in the fight for independence, Brands convincingly argues that on the issue of revolution, as Franklin went, so went America. During the Revolutionary War, Franklin was charged by Congress with wooing the King of France to the American cause, and it was the diplomatic alliances he forged and funds he raised in France that allowed the Continental Army to continue to fight on the battlefield. In his final years, as president of the Constitutional Convention, it was Franklin who held together the antagonistic factions and persuaded its members to sign the Constitution.
Drawing on previously unpublished letters to and from Franklin, as well as the recollections and anecdotes of Franklin's contemporaries, H. W. Brands has created a rich and compelling portrait of the eighteenth-century genius who was in every respect America's first Renaissance man, and arguably the pivotal figure in colonial and revolutionary America. A fascinating and richly textured biography of the man who was perhaps the greatest of our Founding Fathers, The First American is history on a grand scale, as well as a major contribution to understanding Franklin and the world he helped to shape.
own eloquence, Henry uttered words to the effect that Caesar had met his Brutus and Charles I his Cromwell, and that George III might encounter someone similar among the Americans. At this the speaker of the house shouted treason and cut Henry off. Henry thereupon begged the House’s pardon and swore his loyalty to the king—but then undercut his apology by explaining that he had been carried away by fear for his country’s “dying liberty.” The apology was undercut further by a set of resolves
administering of the colonies. He had ordered the Massachusetts House of Representatives to rescind its appeal to the other colonies for common action against the Townshend acts, and when Adams and the others refused, he sent the troops ashore in Boston. In matters relating to Franklin personally, Hillsborough had proved something of a puzzle. Like Grafton he early dropped hints of an appointment for Franklin as undersecretary, but these came to no more than Grafton’s had (or would). He opposed
door did the contest take place. It proved a very agreeable affair. They played a few games; from modesty or otherwise, Franklin did not record who won. He enjoyed himself; she, herself. They arranged to meet again. At the second session they played again, with as much pleasure as before. Then Mrs. Howe directed the conversation to a mathematical problem she had been considering. Franklin, impressed, pursued the matter. The lady changed the subject once more. “What is to be done with this
taken, and in what consisted human happiness. The group met on Friday evenings, first at a tavern, later at a house hired for the purpose. To guide discussions, Franklin formulated a set of queries. Had members encountered any citizen failing in his business, and if so, what was the cause? Conversely, were certain citizens thriving, and why? Had any citizen accomplished a particularly praiseworthy feat? How might it be emulated? Were there any egregious errors that ought to be avoided? Had
proven more critical to the security of Pennsylvania, perhaps Thomas Penn would have taken less umbrage; but as things happened, the battery below Philadelphia was barely completed, and the militia had hardly started drilling seriously, before hints of peace began wafting across the Atlantic. The hints gained substance during the summer of 1748, and in October the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle officially concluded nearly a decade of conflict. Franklin later would say that there was never a good war