Thursday, July 03, 2008

4th of July reading - a Franklin bio

For your 4th of July reading, I recommend The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin by Gordon Wood. (I have not read Walter Isaacson’s Franklin bio, but do have it on my to-do list). I decided to tackle Wood’s Franklin bio after reading and enjoying his Revolutionary Characters and The Purpose of the Past . Wood goes beyond general narrative history and poses interesting questions; he tends to be conservative in his arguments and thoughtful in his analysis. In this bio Wood peels away the myth of Franklin as a self-made man, the father of Poor Richard’s folk wisdom, a capitalist hero from the working class, the most “American” of the founders, to reveal a very different Franklin. Wood’s Franklin is a man who succeeds with the help of sponsors, a man who is very much celebrated as an intellectual, a man more at home in Europe, both in England and France where he lived for long periods, than in America, and a man of wealth, a "gentleman" (with all that the term connoted in the 18th century), rather than a simple laborer. It is only 19th century and later America which created a different Franklin to meet the need for a hero more in concert with the image of America at that time. I ended up having a new appreciation for Franklin, as the "real" Franklin is more appealing in some ways that the myth. Read it and decide for yourself.

7 comments:

  1. Anonymous8:41 PM

    I understood Franklin was a Party animal and far from Ethical,

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  2. don't forget to say hallel for july 4th:

    http://agmk.blogspot.com/2008/07/hallel-and-no-tahanun-for-july-4th.html#links

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  3. According to Isaacson (an easy and enjoyable read) Franklin also made a modest donation to the founding of Mikveh Israel in Philly, one the first shuls in America.

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  4. Maybe. But at University of Pennsylvania, BF is the epitome of secular, so much so, that I tend to suggest kids who have had too steady a diet of Yehadus not go there. Way tempting.

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  5. Bill Selliger8:01 AM

    Have you watched the HBO miniseries 'John Adams'? AWESOME, especially if you're well versed in our country's history. Also extraordinarily edifying, although not concentrating specifically on Franklin, is Ellis' 'Founding Brothers'. I think it won the Pulitzer.

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  6. I didn't watch the series, but I did read the book and enjoyed Ellis' book as well.

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  7. Anonymous9:26 AM

    Some ppl still read books how sad(;

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