Mr. Franklin: A Selection from His Personal Letters

By Benjamin Franklin; Leonard W. Labaree et al. | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

ON January 17, 1706, as we reckon the calendar today, the wife of a candlemaker of Boston, Josiah Franklin, presented to him his fifteenth child and tenth son. The parents named him Benjamin after the father's youngest brother. Following a brief schooling the boy was put out to learn the printer's trade, but a few years later he ran away to Philadelphia. There he became a prosperous printer and publisher; then, retiring from active business, he devoted his attention in turn to scientific investigation, provincial and imperial politics, and diplomacy. In each of these three fields he won renown on two continents; he was honored by colleges, universities, and learned societies at home and abroad and was entertained by nobles and churchmen, by courtiers and kings. When he died at the age of eighty-four he was mourned as one of the great men of the world. Twenty thousand people, the greatest assemblage Philadelphia had ever seen, watched his funeral procession. The members of the American House of Representatives and the French National Assembly voted unanimously to wear mourning for this man who had begun life as the youngest son of a simple artisan in the provincial town of Boston. These, in briefest outline, are the basic facts in the career of one of the outstanding men in our history, the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of whose birth is being celebrated on January 17, 1956.

Franklin's life, nearly spanning the eighteenth century, saw the rise of the American people from colonial subordination and intense localism to political independence and national union, from crude frontier provincialism to a cultural maturity of substantial achievements and great promise for the future. In nearly every phase of this evolution and growth Benjamin Franklin was a central figure, so central, in fact, that there is more than a little justification for calling his period "The Age of Franklin."

This is not the place to analyze in detail the elements of Franklin's greatness, if indeed it is ever possible to analyze satisfactorily a man of authentic

-xiii-

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Mr. Franklin: A Selection from His Personal Letters
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction xiii
  • Brother and Sister 3
  • The Scientific Spirit 4
  • Family Report 6
  • A Whirlwind For Mr. Franklin 8
  • A Philosopher Looks At Death 10
  • A Lesson In Relativity 12
  • Type For The Connoisseur 13
  • An Optimist And His Enemies 15
  • Pater Familias 17
  • A Pen Has A Sharp Point 20
  • The Arts Move Westward 21
  • Conversation in a Coach 22
  • Prudential Algebra 25
  • A New Use For Madeira Wine 27
  • A Revolt Begins 29
  • How To Pay For A War 34
  • A Scientist Turns Politician 36
  • How To Recommend A Stranger 41
  • Twelve Commandments 42
  • Father Is Not Pleased 44
  • Money Talks 48
  • The Delightful Ladies Of France 50
  • Two Americans 52
  • Miss Virginia 53
  • What Good is a New-Born Baby? 55
  • Independence Has Its Responsibilities 59
  • Farewell 60
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