Benjamin Franklin

by Edmund Sears Morgan

Hardcover, 2002




New Haven : Yale University Press, c2002.


Benjamin Franklin is perhaps the most remarkable figure in American history: the greatest statesman of his age, he played a pivotal role in the formation of the American republic. He was also a pioneering scientist, a best selling author, the country's first postmaster general, a printer, a bon vivant, a diplomat, a ladies' man, and a moralist-and the most prominent celebrity of the eighteenth century. Franklin was, however, a man of vast contradictions, as Edmund Morgan demonstrates in this brilliant biography. A reluctant revolutionary, Franklin had desperately wished to preserve the British Empire, and he mourned the break even as he led the fight for American independence. Despite his passion for science, Franklin viewed his groundbreaking experiments as secondary to his civic duties. And although he helped to draft both the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution, he had personally hoped that the new American government would take a different shape. Unraveling the enigma of Franklin's character, Morgan shows that he was the rare individual who consistently placed the public interest before his own desires.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member JBD1
One of the better among the recent crop of Franklin biographies.
LibraryThing member piefuchs
Short interesting biography of a great man. While it is difficult to squeeze Franklin's life into such a short book, Morgan does an admirable job. Well written.
LibraryThing member jpsnow
Morgan describes this as an introduction to a CD full of writings Franklin left us. It balances content between his personal and political life, focusing most of the last half on the latter. What doesn't fit the typical portrayal is that Franklin was a fit, athletic young man (he swam in a time
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when others of his class usually wouldn't). Franklin had an intense curiosity, an easygoing manner, and a very subtle approach to power through the influencing of others to get them to see an action as being in their best interest. He didn't want to split with England, but ultimately saw the basis for doing so and struggled to get them to accept that Americans would accept nothing less. He was endeared by locals at all levels during his stays in England and France.
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LibraryThing member chosler
Acclaimed short bio, heavy use of personal papers, strong focus on Franklin’s beliefs and diplomatic endeavors
LibraryThing member reannon
Morgan has spent a long time reading all of Franklin's writings and letters, which, when completely published, will comprise 45 or so volumes. His picture of Franklin that emerges is that of a man with immense talents, but who knew that he would have more influence if he listened more than he
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talked. He was also immensely curious about everything, including his fellow humans, no matter what gender, religion, or class. For example, he was a friend of the preacher George Whitefield, though he had by then developed his philosophy of moral virtues and had left any formal church.

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LibraryThing member Pool_Boy
Enjoyed this as I continue to read more about this country's founding fathers. I find Mr. Franklin almost as interesting as Thomas Jefferson. Now, while I appreciated an easy to read biography, I found the way the author clustered certain forward and backward looking comments from a point of time
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in Franklin's life took a bit of getting used to. Stylistically not my preference, but I got used to it. Worth a look as a first read in to Franklin's life.
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LibraryThing member HistReader
My first take after beginning this book was the title is misleading. Not because it isn't about Benjamin Franklin, but that it is not simply a biography. But upon further reflection, the title is exactly what the book is about: who was Benjamin Franklin.

From a well respected biographer-historian,
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Edmund S. Morgan boils down the essence of the prolific Founding Father. More like a philosophical work, Mr. Morgan skips an introductory chapter and begins exploring Franklin's scientific work.

"What was he thinking?" is the currency this book trades on and unfortunately, Benjamin Franklin was efficient at compartmentalizing his personal and public lives. Morgan is honest in prefacing aspects of the statesman's that shall remain mysteries.

Written in a manner allowing any reader to understand, only those familiar with Franklin's life will appreciate the scrutiny given one of America's finest scientist, humorist, printer, and politician.
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LibraryThing member Karlstar
I picked this book up in the store at the National Archies, which has a great selection of history books and DVD's. I've been wanting to read more Revolution Era history, so this seemed appropriate. Unfortunately, I found this to be very hard to read and difficult to put into perspective. It jumps
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right into the middle of Franklin's life, completely ignoring his childhood and family. It also focuses a bit too much on the people Franklin interacts with, rather than his actions. I did learn quite a bit about Franklin, the times and the other actors of the pre-Revolutionary War period, it did a good job at that. Unfortunately, because of the way it was written, I just found it very difficult to read more than a few pages at a sitting, which made it even more disjointed. I did get a good perspective of his attitudes and his approach to science and politics and his accomplishments.
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LibraryThing member jwhenderson
This is a short but incisive biography of one of the leaders of both Revolutionary America and the Enlightenment. Edmund Morgan highlights his contradictions that were evident in his difficult loyalty to revolutionary America, his scientific ventures, and his civic duties. This is a good place to
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start learning about the mind and life of one of America's first geniuses.
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National Book Critics Circle Award (Finalist — Biography/Autobiography — 2002)



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