A Companion to Benjamin Franklin

A Companion to Benjamin Franklin

A Companion to Benjamin Franklin

A Companion to Benjamin Franklin


This companion provides a comprehensive survey of the life, work and legacy of Benjamin Franklin - the oldest, most distinctive, and multifaceted of the founders.
  • Includes contributions from across a range of academic disciplines
  • Combines traditional and cutting-edge scholarship, from accomplished and emerging experts in the field
  • Pays special attention to the American Revolution, the Enlightenment, journalism, colonial American society, and themes of race, class, and gender
  • Places Franklin in the context of recent work in political theory, American Studies, American literature, material culture studies, popular culture, and international relations


David Waldstreicher

“But do you like Benjamin Franklin?” It’s a question I have fielded dozens of times. After writing a book about Franklin’s relationship to America’s original sin, slavery (Waldstreicher, 2004), I suppose I should have been prepared for it. Still the question always flummoxed me. I always answered yes, and meant it. Of course I like Franklin. How could anyone not like Franklin?

Not just because he was one of the most interesting people who lived in eighteenth-century America. Not just because he invented or had a hand in inventing a lot of useful things, like a stove, bifocals, and the Constitution of the United States of America. Not just because he was a shrewd, artful, sometimes hilarious writer. But because I think of myself as indebted to him in more ways that I can account for – and because I would like to build on but move beyond him in at least a few ways. Americans today are Benjamin Franklin. We can’t help but be. And we are not. We can’t help that, either.

Jill Lepore (2010) has recently written of the desire of some Americans to treat history as a religion, in which the founding fathers have all the answers and our job is to stay true to their words and actions. With Franklin it goes even deeper than deep politics, or religion. The fact that The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin remains a classroom standard and that biographies and television series rolled off the presses for the tercentenary of his birth, makes the problem of our relationship to him rather more complicated as well as ubiquitous.

One of Franklin’s great legacies to Americans was his willingness, indeed, to run away from home, to start something new. And one of the great . . .

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