The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin

The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin

Gordon S. Wood

Language: English

Pages: 320

ISBN: 0143035282

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

From the most respected chronicler of the early days of the Republic—and winner of both the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes—comes a landmark work that rescues Benjamin Franklin from a mythology that has blinded generations of Americans to the man he really was and makes sense of aspects of his life and career that would have otherwise remained mysterious. In place of the genial polymath, self-improver, and quintessential American, Gordon S. Wood reveals a figure much more ambiguous and complex—and much more interesting. Charting the passage of Franklin’s life and reputation from relative popular indifference (his death, while the occasion for mass mourning in France, was widely ignored in America) to posthumous glory, The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin sheds invaluable light on the emergence of our country’s idea of itself.











correspondence on to Franklin. Bailyn believes that it was Thomas Pownall who gave Franklin the letters. But the editors of the Papers suggest John Temple and William Strahan, as well as Pownall, as possibilities. Bailyn, Hutchinson, 225, 231–35; Papers of Franklin, 19:403–7. 91. The editors of Franklin’s Papers believe that his sending of these letters to the radicals in Massachusetts “was probably the most controversial act of his career.” Papers of Franklin, 19:401. 92. BF to Thomas Cushing,

American Review,ref-1 North Briton (newspaper), ref-1 Oath of the Horatii, The (David), ref-1, ref-2 Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, Etc. (Franklin), ref-1 Odell, Jonathan, ref-1n77 Oeuvres de M. Franklin,ref-1 Oliver, Andrew, ref-1, ref-2, ref-3, ref-4, ref-5 Otis, James, ref-1, ref-2 Otto, Louis, ref-1 Paine, Thomas, ref-1, ref-2 paper, Franklin as dealer in, ref-1 paper money, ref-1, ref-2, ref-3, ref-4 Parker, James, ref-1, ref-2, ref-3,

and Thomas Hutchinson, Harvard graduate and member of the Massachusetts council. In the few years since the public had “laid hold” of him, he had come a long way. A squabble among the colonies over precedence at the conference did not bode well for their cooperation. Virginia, perhaps the most important colony of all, did not even send a delegation. But finally the representatives who attended agreed that some sort of colonial union was needed, and they appointed a committee made up of a

Society, and William Strahan, the Scottish-born printer of Dr. Johnson’s dictionary and the first volumes of David Hume’s history of England and later a member of Parliament. They in turn introduced him to ever widening circles of important people. With his affable nature Franklin was as “clubbable” as Dr. Johnson said James Boswell was, and he joined several clubs, where he met all sorts of scientists, philanthropists, and explorers, including Captain James Cook and Joseph Priestley.66 His

individuals.55 Thus English officials thought that some of the colonial leaders were rebellious and were conspiring to throw off British rule and become independent. Events in Massachusetts in 1768 convinced the House of Lords, for example, that “wicked and designing men” in the colonies were “evidently manifesting a design . . . to set up a new and unconstitutional authority independent of the crown of England.” The answer to such plots was to send fleets and troops to the colonies and bring

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