Benjamin Franklin An American Life (Hardcover)
|Author: Walter Isaacson|
|Rescuing Benjamin Franklin from the clich of genial codger, this book celebrates the most interesting, advanced, and earthy of the founding fathers. 16-page four-color insert.|
From the Publisher:
He was, during his 84-year life, America's best scientist, inventor, diplomat, writer, and business strategist, and he was also one of its most practical -- though not most profound -- political thinkers. He proved by flying a kite that lightning was electricity, and he invented a rod to tame it. He sought practical ways to make stoves less smoky and commonwealths less corrupt. He organized neighborhood constabularies and international alliances, local lending libraries and national legislatures. He combined two types of lenses to create bifocals and two concepts of representation to foster the nation's federal compromise. He was the only man who shaped all the founding documents of America: the Albany Plan of Union, the Declaration of Independence, the treaty of alliance with France, the peace treaty with England, and the Constitution. And he helped invent America's unique style of homespun humor, democratic values, and philosophical pragmatism.
But the most interesting thing that Franklin invented, and continually reinvented, was himself. America's first great publicist, he was, in his life and in his writings, consciously trying to create a new American archetype. In the process, he carefully crafted his own persona, portrayed it in public, and polished it for posterity.
Through it all, he trusted the hearts and minds of his fellow "leather-aprons" more than he did those of any inbred elite. He saw middle-class values as a source of social strength, not as something to be derided. His guiding principle was a "dislike of everything that tended to debase the spirit of the common people." Few of his fellow founders felt this comfort with democracy so fully, and none so intuitively.
In this colorful and intimate narrative, Isaacson provides the full sweep of Franklin's amazing life, from his days as a runaway printer to his triumphs as a statesman, scientist, and Founding Father. He chronicles Franklin's tumultuous relationship with his illegitimate son and grandson, his practical marriage, and his flirtations with the ladies of Paris. He also shows how Franklin helped to create the American character and why he has a particular resonance in the twenty-first century.
About the Author:
In this biography, former CNN chairman Isaacson shows the many facets and incredibly prodigious activity of the Founding Father who was also an inventor, printer, diplomat, businessman, community organizer, and author of an important autobiography. He portrays Franklin as a practical man who championed and embodied middle class values, and who was himself the model for a new kind of American.
"In truth, Mr. Isaacson's book does not add enormously to the sum of our knowledge. But his clear prose and media savvy may bring in readers who have not ventured into the 18th century before....Mr. Isaacson has done plenty of research....He has also brought back the humor missing from the more academic tomes....[This] ambitious new study signals an important effort to bring Franklin back into focus. A new generation of readers needs to know more about the Founder who most appealingly embodies our great resourcefulness as a people--and more than a few of our weaknesses, too." - Ted Widmer 06/30/2003 New York Times Book Review
"[A] thoroughly researched, crisply written, convincingly argued chronicle that is also studded with little nuggets of fresh information." - Joseph J. Ellis 07/06/2003 Nation
"Transcends the limits of conventional hagiography....Isaacson has written a book whose research and writing would do credit to a professional historian. Isaacson's vivid and readable narrative gives a clear account of Franklin's scientific work, his extraordinary career as a social innovator, of his labors as a diplomat and statesman, and of the vagaries of his love life." - Robin Blackburn 07/14/2003