In the biography of The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by H. W. Brands discusses Benjamin Franklinr’s life during the 18th Century and the profound impact he had on America.
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Brands provides insight and a comprehensive accounting of Franklinr’s life and achievements from birth to beyond his final days. He begins with the establishment of the Franklin family and the birth of Benjamin Franklin in Boston, MA 1706. This was not a progressive time in any aspect. Boston was underdeveloped and heavily influenced by the Puritan leader, Cotton Mather. Under British rule, colonists lacked many liberties and an identity. This was a sad and wearisome period for the American colonies.
Franklin being one of sixteen siblings, had a poverty-stricken childhood. Although underprivileged, he learned to read and write early on. His father encouraged his education but due to the economy, Franklin began cultivating his work ethics at a very early age. He ran away from Boston and the apprenticeship with his brother to begin profitable ventures in Philadelphia, as a publisher and author. His publication of the Poor Richards Almanac (Brands 124) and sharing his free-thinking ideology, was the starting point in his infamous journey. While in Philadelphia, he joined the Philosophical Society and began his endeavors in science.
Franklin entered the political realm in his retirement. He advocated for collaboration, equality, and most of all peace. He became a voice of reason. Disputes over land heightened as the French and Indians attacked the colonists. The proprietors aiding in their future demise; refused to pay any taxes. Franklin elected into the Assembly, returned to England and began his attack on the proprietors using an alias; John Locke and the court of public opinion (Brands 284). He knew that the primary objective needed to be; replacement of proprietary government by royal government (Brands 357).
Through the years he diligently continued efforts to achieve collaboration and peace between the crown and colonists. During the Sugar and Stamp Act in 1763 protected Britain by keeping riots at bay while successfully repealing it for the colonists. In support of the cause he procured financing and allies. In 1783 Franklin was instrumental in negotiating the Treaty of Paris with Great Britain that finally ended the American Revolutionary War. His most profound role in his life was serving as a delegate at the Constitutional Convention 1787. Franklinr’s input was vital in establishing a new government. He assisted in the drafting of the two of the most important documents in American history; The US Constitution and The Declaration of Independence.
Benjamin Franklin was the first American and most influential of our time. He believed that all people were created equal and capable. His ingenuity and ambition proved to the world that anything was possible. Constantly self-evolving, he was convinced that there was always a better way. He led an impressive life as a publisher, author, educator, scientist, inventor, freemason, and founder of the United States. As a writer he challenged authority and the views of others with free-thinking. As an inventor and scientist, he changed the world forever with his theories and experiments with lightning and electricity. He invented the Franklin stove and bifocals. He helped structure American society by originating the first library, fire department, college and postal service. As he retired in his early eighties, he continued his contribution to science and invented medical and printing devices.
Two months prior to his death in 1790, he submitted an anti-slavery petition to congress. In his final petition to congress he wrote Mankind are all formed by the same Almighty being, alike objects of his care, and equally designed for the enjoyment of happiness (Brands 708). Even in old age, he was still Americar’s voice of reason.
In preparation of his final days, Franklin had set up a foundation that consisted of evolving funds (Brands 712) to support future trade apprentices. The Boston Fund foundation was worth of $4.5 million dollars and helped students for more than two centuries. As Brand concludes, he writes; Considering the length and breadth of his multiple legacies, he was probably the first American, of any generation (Brands 712).
Like most Americans, H.W Brands highly regards Benjamin Franklin. Brands bias was prominent throughout the entire book. While working toward his doctorate in history, he studied under historian Robert A. Divine. Since that time Brands and Divine have co-authored similar books together. I really wonder how much of Brands views were influenced by his studies with Divine.
Therefore, I think Brands could have been more critical in some respects. He seems to breeze over and downplays some of the low points in Franklinr’s life. To read of Franklinr’s involvement with countless women and affairs was shameful. This type of behavior is contradicting to the 13 cardinal virtues (Brands 98) that he developed. I was not expecting to learn that he was addicted to women and had many affairs. I felt that his courting of Debra and entire marriage was terribly sad. I understand that a marriage of convenience was common then but I expected more from him. I was also disappointed to read about his relationship (or lack thereof) with his son William. I find this difficult to understand, especially after losing his other son. I think it was hypocritical of him to reject William for refusing to forego his loyalties to the crown. He was narrow minded to demand his son to join the cause just because he did. Franklin himself ran from the control of his own father and should have been more understanding. It is disheartening to know that at the end of his life he regretted how he treated his wife and son. How he was with his family life, at one point had me questioning who he was. After reading this book, I cannot help but feel that Franklin was a self-serving in his personal life. I was happy to read that once he finally retired in his eighties, he became more of a family man and spent time with his grandchildren.
Brands book is more detailed and true-to-life than the textbook. I enjoyed this aspect and found the content to be more relatable and genuine. I was concerned about the size of this book and if it was going to easy to follow. It was so well written and interesting that I was able to stay focused till the end. Brands brings the reader up close and personal with insight into Franklinr’s ideology, character, and personality traits. I enjoyed the accounting of Ben Franklinr’s fascinating life, all his accomplishments, and his many political endeavors. This book helped me to have a better understanding of Benjamin Franklin and events in the 18th Century that led to the Constitutional Convention and progression of America. I have even more regard for Franklin and this period now.
This book is an excellent read and I would highly recommend it. Bands apparent predisposition could make a reader question some of his content, but he is a passionate historian and author. His achievements and drive are commendable. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about American history through the time line of Franklinr’s life. I agree with the bookr’s conclusion; Benjamin Franklin truly was the first American and irrefutably the most influential man in
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