Benjamin Franklin: His Contribution to the American Tradition

By I. Bernard Cohen | Go to book overview

Foreword

ONE of the outstanding needs in Franklin scholarship is a study of his humorous writings and satires; many of them, created as "space-fillers" for his newspaper, have never been identified as his and collected. I am certain that when such a job will have been done, Franklin will emerge as America's first humorist, in the tradition of Mark Twain, Mr. Dooley and Will Rogers. So it is with a sense of regret that we learn that Mark Twain never found in Benjamin Franklin a kindred iconoclastic spirit and that apparently he never knew the gay and witty Franklin-master of the hoax and practical joke, writer of "tall stories," author of joyous drinking songs and lover of puns, who also wrote a few "broad" and earthy pieces that his editors have not thought fit to be reprinted. Mark Twain's generation was acquainted with Franklin chiefly as a moralizer about daily life, presented in the Autobiography and Poor Richard's maxims on thrift, industry, good health and the way to become wealthy. Throughout most of the nineteenth century Franklin was never grasped in his full stature; his scientific research which had caused scientists throughout the world to call him the Newton of their age was reduced to the single experiment of the lightning kite, and he became known as an inventor of stoves, lightning rods and all manner of useful gadgets,

-xi-

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Benjamin Franklin: His Contribution to the American Tradition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • General Introduction For The Makers of the American Tradition Series vii
  • Foreword xi
  • Contents xxi
  • Chronology xxiii
  • I Introduction 27
  • II ◆ The Lessons of Experience 68
  • III · Self-Improvement and Mutual Aíd 112
  • IV ◆ In the Service of the Community 164
  • V Inventions and Applications of Science 189
  • VI ◆ The Style of Being American 225
  • Bibliography 307
  • Index 309
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