Edmund S. Morgan's biography "Benjamin Franklin" covers the span of the famous American's life from youth through his years as an elder statesman. Morgan paints a picture of a man who loves life in all its aspects, yet feels a deep and personal responsibility for others. Franklin is not portrayed as a religious man, but still a man of strong personal ethics. He is driven by an insatiable curiosity coupled with careful objectivity and a habit of writing about everything.
As a young man, Benjamin Franklin worked for his brother as a "printer's devil." Young Ben did not always agree with his brother, and he was already becoming observant of the political events around him. He submitted satirical commentaries to the paper, signing them Silence Dogood. Ben's older brother was displeased when he learned the true identity of Widow Dogood. The ensuing quarrel ended with Ben running away, and eventually establishing his own printing press.
Franklin acted as ambassador between the colonies and England during the years prior to the Revolutionary War. Franklin, who considered himself an Englishman, focused on trying to heal the rift between the colonies and Britain. He was, however, fighting a losing rearguard action. The colonials -- even those who considered themselves loyal to the crown -- objected to being governed by Parliament. With no representatives in that body that were native to the colonies, the agents who were supposed to be representing colonial interests had little or no concept of the true political state of affairs, despite letters and newspapers that flowed across the ocean with the trade ships. News could be months in traveling, and was always was delivered rife with personal bias. Franklin was battling against both physical and ideological distances.
Ambassador to France
When the colonies went to war with Britain, it was clear that they would need financial and military backing if they were to succeed in establishing their independence. France, long at odds with Britain, was willing to lend money and arms to the colonials. Franklin had many contacts in France from his tour of Europe in his youth and from his time in England. He was able to charm, wheedle and promise his way into obtaining funds for the fledgling nation, even though it was not yet sure if it was one unified nation or 13 small states.
Franklin was not a young man when he went to France. After eight years of wheedling for money, patching up diplomatic incidents caused by provincial assistants and dealing with increasingly poor health, he was able to leave France and return home. Once there, he resumed his intellectual pursuits, adding a large dining room for meetings and a library to his home. He participated in local politics, but became less vocal as he aged. He became a renowned elder statesman, respected for his wisdom, restraint and boundless curiosity.
- "Ben Franklin"; Edmund S. Morgan; 2003
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