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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 HistoryA 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 RebellionTracing 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 ConstitutionDrawing 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

10 thoughts on “The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin

  1. says:

    The best biography I ve ever read Franklin is so human I could walk into the next room and not be surprised to see him setting there.The biographer also makes a very compelling argument that Ben Franklin was the most indispensable figure in the American Revolutionary adventure Or at least tied with Washington.Most historians agree that without George Washington, there s nobody else who could ve stepped forward to successfully keep an army together, miraculously beat the most powerful country in the world, and then step down when people were asking him to become emperor.After this book, though, you ll believe the war was unwinnable without Franklin nobody else could ve gotten the French to lend the US money and give naval support and others did try.Plus, of course, the man s life was fascinating.

  2. says:

    A rebellion is always legal in the first person, such as our rebellion It is only in the third person their rebellion that it becomes illegal. Ben FranklinTouching the history of the venerated Founding Fathers, who apparently descended from heaven to wage war against George III, is a difficult task So it was with trepidation that I started this book, wondering what new angle yet another biographer was going to try to discover By the time I finished it took me almost as long as the Revolutionary War itselfthis is a big tome , I felt Mr Franklin was no longer a god but a self made guy I could relate to, albeit in a very respectful, reverent way.He was one of seventeen children 17 I mean, think of that There was no welfare system, no Google apps, no convenience stores How did a Founding Father emerge from that burden He was apprenticed to an older brother, but ran away, which made him a fugitive in New England, so he wound up in Pennsylvania, a colony run as a personal holding by the Penn family it isn t just Franklin we learn about in this book Then, Franklin began his extraordinary life I lost track of his inventions, of his process enhancements long before kaizen existed , of his frontier defense ideas, of his diplomatic victories, of never ends.If the Brits had treated Franklin and his views with respect, there probably wouldn t have been a consolidated revolution When he made the decision for independence, he never looked back John Adams and Thomas Jefferson led with passion, but The Sage was the one behind them, filling the gaps As the book explains, the Yanks didn t suddenly throw tea into the sea and demand the cutting of the cord from the Mother Countryresentment had been building for decades Faced with having to bear the physical and financial burden of fighting England s wars on their home soil, but then watching as the King and his cabinet made post fight decisions without regard to the feelings of the colonists, the Ben Franklins and George Washingtons slowly turned from loyal subjects to disgruntled rebels The waves do not rise, but when the winds blow.I think what I liked about this book, and Franklin himself, was his outlook He wasn t one of the high born southerners or British ground swillers In essence, he embodied the middle class, the shopkeepers of the world As he created his own wealth, he understood its use was to purchase one s own freedom Freedom to travel, freedom to eat what one wants, freedom to work or not work, freedom to choose one s own doctor, freedom to read the books one wants to read, freedom to print the books one wants to print He never patented his inventions, as he felt they should be available to help all, not just the 1 percenters of the world We ve spawned a new race Rougher, simpler violent, enterprising less refined We re a new nationality We require a new nation. This book takes that path, to help us understand the man behind the man Franklin could be infuriating he stayed overseas instead of coming home to his dying wife, he severed all ties with his Loyalist son , but he was right and far, far ahead of his time It s a LONG read, but worth it.Plus, it helped me get past the Ben Franklin of the movie musical, whom I have always loved because he was the one Founding Father I could envision singing and dancing on a staircase while the United States was being founded Book Season Autumn kites and storms

  3. says:

    W Brands The First American The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin was published in 2000 and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist Brands is a professor of history and government at the University of Texas and a prolific author He has written nearly three dozen books including biographies of Andrew Jackson, Ulysses Grant, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR and Ronald Reagan each of which I have read and reviewed.Given its encyclopedic breadth and scholarly bent, The First American has largely supplanted Carl Van Doren s 1938 Pulitzer Prize winning classic as the standard biography of Franklin With 716 pages of text and studious attention to every major facet of Franklin s unusually varied and interesting life, Brands biography is comprehensive, detailed and incredibly thoughtful.It is quickly obvious that this distinguished Founding Father is a somewhat elusive biographical subject a man of many talents who remains enigmatic due to his apparent affinity for contradictions and failure to chronicle his own innermost thoughts during a life situated on the front row of so much early American history.Nevertheless, Brands is able to craft a rich narrative which explores the familiar features of Franklin s life and captures many of the nuances which will have eluded readers who have never undertaken a serious study of the man Among the many excellent aspects of this biography are stories of young Franklin s journey to Philadelphia from Boston, his earliest weeks as an up and coming printer and his introduction to a notoriously unreliable governor of Pennsylvania.A later chapter devoted largely to chronicling his playful pursuit of a number of much younger French ladies and the ongoing exploration of Franklin s relationship with his oldest son are incredibly revealing But the most thought provoking observations are those related to Franklin s lifelong efforts to maintain allegiance to the American colonies while preserving his friendly status and strong personal relationships in Britain.But as interesting as this book can be, it is neither an effortless nor a particularly carefree read The author s writing style is penetrating and thoughtful but not consistently captivating or colorful And because it possesses a distinct scholarly quality some readers will find it a bit too erudite if not abstruse.In addition, Brands helpfully supplies background and context which can be useful for anyone unfamiliar with 18th century history But occasional context quickly morphs into relentless tangents which distract from the narrative and cause the reader to lose sight of the bigger picture Finally, despite the author s efforts to paint a robust and vibrant portrait of his subject, Benjamin Franklin remains stubbornly perplexing and mysterious after than seven hundred pages.Overall, H W Brands The First American is a solid biography of one of America s most fascinating Founding Fathers Benjamin Franklin s eccentricities and contradictions seem to confound even the most determined of biographers Nevertheless, readers with an interest in early American life or with one of America s most intriguing personalities will find this biography compelling and enlightening.Overall rating 3 stars

  4. says:

    This biography of Franklin is billed as comprehensive and it certainly is that It would seem to contain essentially every thing that is known about the great man s life I would say it is a must read for anyone interested in American history Even though it is a huge book.By the title, Brands makes the case that it is Franklin who most deserves the credit for the steps that led to the creation of the American republic Washington, of course, deserves the credit for winning the war, but who got it started is the question.Before reading this work I had believed that it was John Adams who deserved most of the credit, probably because I had read about Adams than Franklin I also knew that Franklin was a libertine which I don t like.However, Brands has convinced me that it is indeed Franklin who most merits the credit for the birth of my country In fact it is likely that because he was a libertine he got along with the French so well and secured their critical assistance when John Adams could not.Reading the detail of Franklin s dealings with the British government as agent for the colonies in London, leading up to the split, makes me thank our lucky American stars for the incredible arrogance, stupidity and greed of parliament and George III If they had any foresight London would today be the capitol of the greatest nation on earth, albeit with most of the population on the other side of the Atlantic Franklin was arguing for unification and the British governement said, no you are our possession.

  5. says:

    I haven t read any of the author s other works, so I can t comment on how his style and craft may be evolving, but this book is well written, well thought out, and as far as I can discern, well researched.Like most people, I ve known of Franklin all my life well, less about 6 years And, like most people, I also knew he flew a kite in an electrical storm which seems rather foolhardy to down right dangerous, if you understand what the quantity of power in a typical lightning strike is , invented the lightning rod, was a printer by trade, wrote and published Poor Richard s Almanac , invented the Franklin stove , had something to do with the U.S Postal System, and was a diplomat in France at some point.Unlike most people, I also knew that he was honored by having his name engraved into the assembly hall of the Boston Latin School and in the 7th grade was required to read The Autobiography of Ben Franklin along with another colonial thriller, Johnny Tremain.What I learned from this book was a great deal To go over all of the specifics would probably take a sizable fraction of the book itself So, I ll restrict my comments to a few choice morsels.Franklin spent years in both England and France I mean years Ok, I knew about when he was young and drank water while all his co workers drank lots of beer in a print shop in England He was there for extended visits in both countries England first before actual armed rebellion and then France Heck, he even planned on living in England permanently because he was so well accepted and so pleased with the culture, intellectual environment and big city life.Franklin s experiment with the kite was well designed to minimize risks to the experimenter, but others repeated it and at at least one got a serious shock chalk one up to the stunningly obvious But, the kite experiment was one of a series that helped define that various phenomena were all interrelated and described the same basic, underlying principle or forces.All of Franklin s real innovation and contribution to the organization and operation of the Postal Service came during decades of part time effort as a Royal appointee His work with the post revolutionary USPS was basically to restore the fine operation that he had already created.Franklin did not patent and essentially gave away the plans for the Franklin fireplace i.e stove to help people heat the homes with less fuel and with less money.I could go on and on, but if anything I ve written here intrigues you, go out and read the book And, yes, I liked it.

  6. says:

    An excellent biography of an amazing person Deeply researched, it revelas all the aspects of Franklin s life, especially those he glossed over in his autobiography.

  7. says:

    A monumental yet eminently readable biography of arguably the most impressive and important of the early figures in American history Written in a very clear style, the book moves along, drawing the reader into wanting to know the next events in this very fascinating life VERY HIGHLY RECOMMEND From He was the foremost American of his day, yet today he is little than a mythic caricature in the public imagination Benjamin Franklin, perhaps the pivotal figure in colonial and revolutionary America, comes vividly to life in this masterly biography.Wit, diplomat, scientist, philosopher, businessman, inventor, and bon vivant, Benjamin Franklin was in every respect America s first Renaissance man From penniless runaway to highly successful printer, from ardently loyal subject of Britain to architect of an alliance with France that ensured America s independence, Franklin went from obscurity to become one of the world s most admired figures, whose circle included the likes of Voltaire, Hume, Burke, and Kant Drawing on previously unpublished letters and a host of other sources, acclaimed historian H W Brands has written a thoroughly engaging biography of the eighteenth century genius A much needed reminder of Franklin s greatness and humanity, The First American is a work of meticulous scholarship that provides a magnificent tour of a legendary historical figure, a vital era in American life, and the countless arenas in which the protean Franklin left his legacy.

  8. says:

    Absolutely loved this book Franklin was then and always will be a fascinating man I would definitely recommend this book

  9. says:

    This is a well written and highly enjoyable biography It not only details Franklin s life, but also fleshes out the era to put his doings in the proper context My only minor criticism is that, at times, it is a bit too detailed for the casual reader.

  10. says:

    Superb biography of one of the greatest early Americans Franklin lived many different lives within one printer, businessman, philosopher, scientist, meteorologist, inventor, politician, mediator, minister, representative of the people Brands does a great job bringing him to life, focusing on the varied aspects of Franklin s personality and how he effectively negotiated with people in various parts of his life over the years to get what he or the fledgling U.S needed Brands does not hesitate to point out Franklin s less than stellar moments such as when he, for reasons known only to him, would not return to Philadelphia from London when his wife Deborah suffered a stroke Or his falling out with his son William a situation that both of them could have easily avoided, or at least tried to minimize But overall Brands praises Franklin as a sage who profoundly shaped this country and Britain by turn and helped it stand on its own There are many reasons why this man is on the 100 bill, all deserving I read Walter Isaacson s biography of Franklin a few years ago While Isaacson certainly did a good job, I thought that Brands really succeeded in explaining all of the contradictions inherent within Franklin Brands also seemed to focus on Franklin s political work than Isaacson did Both books are good, and someone wanting to learn about Franklin could not go wrong with either one.