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Franklin on Franklin

Franklin on Franklin

Paul M. Zall
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 328
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    Franklin on Franklin
    Book Description:

    Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography ends in 1758, some thirty years before he died, yet those three decades included some of the statesman's greatest triumphs. Paul Zall has created a new autobiographical account of Franklin's entire life. By returning to a newly recovered early draft of the Autobiography, he strips away later layers of moralizing to reveal the story as Franklin first wrote it: how a poor boy from Boston used words and hard work to become America's first world-class citizen. To cover Franklin's career as a diplomat and as the only signatory of all three key documents of the American Revolution, Zall interweaves autobiographical comments from Franklin's personal letters and private journals. Franklin emerges as different from the common perception. His raw words reveal the bitter infighting among both British and American politicians and his personal struggle with his son's choice of the opposite side in the fight for the future of two countries. Without the veneer of second thoughts, his lifelong struggle to control his temper carries greater poignancy, as do his later years spent nursing his wounded pride. Susceptible to both fallibility and frustration, the honest Franklin depicted in his own words nevertheless remains an uncommon common man, perhaps even more so than previously thought.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5803-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. iii-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. A Note on the Text
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction: Ben Franklin Revising
    (pp. 1-10)

    Editor Mathew Carey of theColumbian Magazineasked eighty-year-old Benjamin Franklin for permission to publish a biographical sketch of him. Franklin declined, insisting that he would do it himself. “I have in hand a full Account of my life,”¹ he said, adding that it would be published after his death. Who more capable of presenting himself to posterity than an expert writer who had practiced the art from childhood? Nevertheless, it would be another three years before death cut off the story at 1757, fortythree years short of being “a full account.”

    The autobiography remained in manuscript for many more...

  6. 1 Growing Up Bostonian January 1706–April 1722
    (pp. 11-25)

    Josiah, my Father, married young, and brought his Wife with three Children unto New England about 1682. . . .where they expected to enjoy their Mode of Religion with Freedom. By the same Wife he had 4 Children more born there, and by a second Wife ten more, in all 17, of which I remember 13 sitting at one time at my Father’s Table, who all grew up to be Men & Women, and married. I was the youngest Son & was born in Boston, N. England.²

    Josiah Franklin had left England because the state outlawed worship in churches other...

  7. 2 Becoming a Journalist April 1722–September 1723
    (pp. 26-30)

    My Brother had in 1720 or 21, begun to print a Newspaper. It was the second that appear’d in America, & was calledThe New England Courant.The only one before it was theBoston News Letter.I remember his being dissuaded by some of his Friends from the Undertaking, as not likely to succeed, one Newspaper being enough for America. [Now,] there are not less than five & twenty. He went on however with the Undertaking, and I was employ’d to carry the Papers thro’ the Streets to the Customers, after having work’d in composing the Types & printing...

  8. 3 On the Road to Philadelphia 25 September-1 October 1723
    (pp. 31-35)

    My Inclinations for the Sea, were by this time worn out, or I might now have gratify’d them. But having a Trade, & supposing my self a pretty good Workman, I offer’d my Service to the Printer of the Place, old Mr Wm. Bradford, who had been the first Printer in Pensilvania, but remov’d from thence upon the quarrel of Geo. Keith.² He could give me no Employment, having little to do, and help enough already. But, says he, my Son at Philadelphia has lately lost his principal Hand, Aquila Rose, by Death. If you go thither I believe he...

  9. 4 Settling at Philadelphia October 1723–May 1724
    (pp. 36-40)

    I shall be the more particular in a Description of my first Entry into that City, that you may in your Mind compare such unlikely Beginning with the Figure I have since made there. I was in my working Dress, my best Cloaths being to come round by Sea. I was dirty by tumbling about from my Journey; my Pockets were stuff’d out with Shirts & Stockings; I knew no Soul, nor where to look for Lodging, and I was very hungry, and my whole Stock of cash consisted of a Dutch Dollar and about a Shilling in Copper. The...

  10. 5 A Prodigal’s Return to Boston April 25–June 1724
    (pp. 41-48)

    I had a Brother-in-Law, Robert Holmes, Master of a Sloop that traded between Boston and Delaware. He being at New Castle, 40 Miles below Philadelphia, heard there of me, and wrote me a Letter, mentioning the Concern of my Friends in Boston at my abrupt Departure, assuring me of their Goodwill to me, and that every thing would be accommodated to my Mind if I would return, which he exhorted me to very earnestly. I wrote an Answer to his Letter, thank’d him for his Advice, but stated my Reasons for quitting Boston fully, & in such a Light as...

  11. 6 Plotting to Deceive & Being Deceived June-November 1724
    (pp. 49-58)

    Sir William, on reading my Father’s Letter, said he was too prudent. There was great Difference in Persons, and Discretion did not always accompany Years, nor was Youth always without. And since he will not set you up, says he, I will do it my self. Give me an Inventory of the Things necessary to be had from England, and I will send for them. You shall repay me when you are able. I am resolv’d to have a good Printer here, and I am sure you must succeed. This was spoken with such an Appearance of Cordiality, that I...

  12. 7 Living in London 25 December 1724–21 July 1726
    (pp. 59-68)

    Ralph and I were inseparable Companions. He led me about & show’d me the City. We took Lodgings togetherat a Fan Shop in Little Britain at3/6 per Week, as much as we could then afford. He found some Relations, but they were poor & unable to assist him. He now let me know his Intentions of remaining in London, and that he never meant to return to Philadelphia. He had brought no Money with him, the whole he could muster having been expended in paying for his Passage. I had about 15 Pistoles: So he borrowed occasionally of...

  13. 8 Sailing Home 23 July-11 October 1726
    (pp. 69-78)

    We sail’d from Gravesend on the 23d of July 1726. For the Incidents of the Voyage, I refer you to my Journal, where you will find them all minutely related.Perhaps the most important Part of that Journal is the Plan to be found in it which I formed at Sea, for regulating my future Conduct in Life. It is the more remarkable, as being form’d when I was so young, and yet being pretty faithfully adhered to quite thro’ to old Age:¹

    Those who write of the Art of Poetry teach us that if we would write what may...

  14. 9 Facing Uncertain Future in Philadelphia 1726–1727
    (pp. 79-88)

    We landed in Philadelphia the 11th of October, where I found sundry Alterations. Keith was no longer Governor, being superceded by Major [Patrick] Gordon; I met him walking the Streets as a common Citizen. He seem’d a little asham’d to see me, but pass’d without saying any thing. I should have been as much asham’d at seeing Miss Read, had not her Friends, despairing of my Return, persuaded her to marry another, one Rogers, a Potter—which was done in my Absence. With him however she was never happy. He was a worthless Fellow tho’ an excellent Workman. He spent...

  15. 10 Venturing into Business: May 1728–September 1730
    (pp. 89-94)

    We had not been long return’d to Philadelphia, before the Printing-House arriv’d from London. I found a House to hire near the Market, and took it. To lessen the Rent (which was then about 24£ a Year tho’ I have since known it let for 70), I took in Thomas Godfrey & his Family, who were to pay a considerable Part of it to me, and we to board with them. We settled with Keimer & left him by his Consent. We had scarce opened our Letters & put our Press in Order, before George House, an Acquaintance of mine,...

  16. 11 Entering Business For Himself: 1729–1730
    (pp. 95-102)

    About this time there was a Cry for more Paper-Money, there being but 15,000£ extant in the Province & that soon to be sunk. The wealthy Inhabitants oppos’d any Addition, fearing it would depreciate as it had done in New England to the Prejudice of all Creditors. We had discuss’d this Point in our Junto, where I was on the Side of an Addition, being persuaded that the first small Sum struck in 1723 had done much good, by increasing the Trade & Number of Inhabitants in the Province, since I now saw all the Houses inhabited, & many new...

  17. 12 Finding Felicity in Philadelphia 1731–1732
    (pp. 103-119)

    At the time I establish’d my self in Pensylvania, there was not a good Bookseller’s Shop to the Southward of Boston. In New-York & Philadelphia the Printers were indeed Stationers, they sold Paper, &c. Almanacks, and Ballads, and a few common School Books. Those who lov’d Reading were oblig’d to send for their Books to England. The Members of the Junto had each a few. We had left the Tavern where we first met, and hired a Room to hold our Club in. I propos’d that we should all of us bring our Books to that Room, where they could...

  18. 13 Promoting Virtue & Views: 1731–1754
    (pp. 120-129)

    Having mentioned agreat & extensive Projectwhich I had conceiv’d, it seems proper that some Account should be here given of that Project and its Object. Its first Rise in my Mind will appear in the following little Paper, accidentally preserv’d, viz.

    Observations on my Reading History in Library, May 9,1731

    “That the great Affairs of the World, the Wars, Revolutions, &c. are carried on and effected by Parties.

    “That the View of these Parties is their present general Interest, or what they take to be such,

    "That the different Views of these different Parties, occasion all Confusion.


  19. 14 Taking Care of Business: 1736–1739
    (pp. 130-137)

    I had begun in 1733 to study Languages. I soon made myself so much a Master of the French as to be able to read the Books with Ease. I then undertook the Italian. An Acquaintance who was learning it also us’d often to tempt me to play Chess with him. Finding this took up too much of the Time I had to spare for Study, I at length refus’d to play any more, unless on this Condition, that the Victor in every Game, should have a Right to impose a Task, either in Parts of the Grammar to be...

  20. 15 Promoting the Great Awakening: 1739–1740
    (pp. 138-145)

    In 1739 arriv’d among us from England the Rev. Mr Whitefield, who had made himself remarkable there by speaking as an itinerant Preacher. He was at first permitted to preach in some of our Churches; but the Clergy taking some Dislike to him, soon refus’d him their Pulpits and he was oblig’d to preach in the Fields. The Multitudes of all Sects and Denominations that attended his Sermons were enormous, and the Effect on his Hearers extraordinary, notwithstanding his Abuse of them, by assuring them they were naturally “half Beasts and half Devils.” It was wonderful to see the Whitefield...

  21. 16 Promoting Provincial Defense: 1740s
    (pp. 146-155)

    I had on the whole abundant Reason to be satisfied with my being established in Pennsylvania. There were however two things that I regretted: There being no Provision for defence, nor for a compleat Education of Youth. No Militia nor any College. I therefore in 1743 drew up a Proposal for establishing an Academy; & at that time thinking the Rev. Mr [Richard] Peters, who was then out of Employ, a fit Person to superintend such an Institution, I communicated the Project to him. But he having more profitable Views, which succeeded, declin’d the Undertaking. And not knowing another at...

  22. 17 Establishing an Academy: 1749
    (pp. 156-159)

    Peace being concluded, and the Association Business therefore at an End, I turn’d my Thoughts again to the Affair of establishing an Academy....As in the Scheme of the Library I had provided only for English Books, so in this new Scheme my Ideas went no farther than to procure the Means of a good English Education.

    Peace being concluded, and the Association Business therefore at an End, I turn’d my Thoughts again to the Affair of establishing an Academy. The first Step I took was to write and publish a Pamphlet intitled, Proposals relating to the Education of Youth...

  23. 18 Retiring to Public Service: 1748–1753
    (pp. 160-169)

    When I disengag’d my self as above mentioned from private Business, I flatter’d myself that I had secur’d leisure during the rest of my Life, for Philosophical Studies and Amusements; and I proceeded in my Electrical Experiments with great Alacrity; but the Publick now considering me as a Man of Leisure, laid hold of me for their Purposes; every part of our Civil Government, and almost at the same time, imposing some Duty upon me. The Governor put me into the Commission of the Peace; the Corporation of the City chose me of the Common Council, and soon after an...

  24. 19 Experimenting with Electricity: 1743–1753
    (pp. 170-177)

    In 1746 [1743] being at Boston, I met there with a Dr Spence, who was lately arrived from Scotland, and show’d me some electric Experiments. They were very imperfectly perform’d, as he was not very expert; but being on a Subject quite new to me, they equally surpriz’d and pleas’d me. Soon after my Return to Philadelphia, our Library Company receiv’d from Mr Peter Collinson, F.R.S. of London, a Glass Tube, with some Account of the Use of it in making such Experiments.²In 1745, he sent over an Account of the new German Experiments in Electricity. This was the...

  25. 20 Promoting a United Front: 1754
    (pp. 178-193)

    In 1754, War with France being again apprehended, a Congress of Commissioners from the different Colonies was by an Order receiv’d from England to be assembled at Albany, there to confer with the Chiefs of the Six Nations, concerning the Means of defending both their Country and that of the Colonies. Our Governor, Mr Hamilton, having receiv’d this Order, acquainted the House with it, requesting they would furnish proper Presents for the Indians to be given on this Occasion; and nam’d the Speaker (Mr [Isaac] Norris) and my self, to be join’d by [John] Penn & Mr Secretary [Rev. Richard]...

  26. 21 Soldiering on the Frontier: 1756
    (pp. 194-204)

    To promote the Association necessary to form the Militia, I wrote a Dialogue, stating and answering all Objections I could think of to such a Militia, which was printed & had a good Effect. While the several Companies in the City & Country were forming and learning their Exercise, the Governor prevail’d with me to take Charge of our Northwestern Frontier, which was infested by the Enemy, and provide for the Defence of the Inhabitants by building a Line of Forts. I undertook this Business, tho’ I did not conceive my self well-qualified for it. He gave me full Powers...

  27. 22 Making a Mission to London: 1756–1757
    (pp. 205-217)

    Our new Governor, Capt. [William] Denny, brought over for me the Medal of the Royal Society, which he presented to me at an Entertainment given him by the City. He accompanied it with very polite Expressions of his Esteem for me, having long been acquainted with my Character. After Dinner, when the Company as was customary at that time, were engag’d in Drinking, he took me aside into another Room, and acquainted me that he had been advis’d by his Friends in England to cultivate a Friendship with me, as one who was capable of giving him the best Advice,...

  28. 23 Lobbying in London: 1757–1762
    (pp. 218-225)

    I went first to visit Dr Fothergill, to whom I was strongly recommended, and whose Counsel respecting my proceedings I was advis’d to obtain. He was against an immediate Application to the Government, and thought the Proprietaries should first be personally apply’d to, who might possibly be induc’d by the Interposition & Persua-sion of some private Friends to accommodate Matters amicably.

    Dr. John Fothergill, leader of British Quakers, served as Franklin’s London physician.

    I then called on my old Friend and Correspondent Mr Peter Collinson, who told me that John Hanbury, the great Virginia Merchant, had desired to be informed...

  29. 24 Skirmishing with Parliament: 1757–1765
    (pp. 226-231)

    You require my History from the time I set Sail for America. I left England about the End of August 1762, in Company with Ten Sail of Merchant Ships under Convoy of a Man of War.... On the first of November, I arriv’d safe and well at my own House, after an Absence of near Six Years, found my Wife and Daughter well, the latter grown quite a Woman, with many amiable Accomplishments acquir’d during my Absence, and my Friends as hearty and affectionate as ever, with whom my House was fill’d for many Days, to congratulate me on my...

  30. 25 Coping in a Calm: 1766–1770
    (pp. 232-239)

    I must leave it to your Judgment to act in the Affair of your Daughter's Match as shall seem best. If you think it a suitable one, I suppose the sooner it is compleated, the better. In that case, I would only advise that you do not make an expensive feasting Wedding, but conduct every thing with Frugality and Economy, which our Circumstances really now require to be observed in all our Expences; For since my Partnership with Mr. Hall is expired [on 21 January 1766], a great source of our Income is cut off; and if I should lose...

  31. 26 Agitating For All Americans: 1770–1774
    (pp. 240-249)

    The Porter at first deny’d his Lordship, on which I left my Name, and drove off. But before the Coach got out of the Square, the Coachman heard a Call, turn’d, and went back to the Door, when the Porter came and said, “His Lordship will see you, Sir.” I was shown into the Levee Room, where I found Governor (Francis) Barnard [ex-governor of Massachusetts], who I understand attends there constantly. Several other Gentlemen were there attending, with whom I sat down a few Minutes. When Secretary [John] Pownall came out to us, and said his Lordship desired I would...

  32. 27 Failing to Reconcile: 1774–1775
    (pp. 250-258)

    About the Beginning of [November] being at the Royal Society, Mr. [Matthew] Raper one of our Members told me there was a certain Lady who had a Desire of Playing with me at Chess, fancying she could beat me, and had requested him to bring me to her; it was, he said, a Lady with whose Acquaintance he was sure I should be pleas’d, a Sister of Lord [Viscount Richard] Howe’s, and he hop’d I would not refuse the Challenge. I said I had been long out of Practice, but would wait upon the Lady when he and she should...

  33. 28 Forging Independence: 1775–1785
    (pp. 259-269)

    I found at my arrival all America from one End of the 12 united Provinces to the other, busily employed in learning the Use of Arms. The Attack upon the Country People near Boston by the Army had rous’d every Body, and exasperated the whole Continent; the Tradesmen of this City, were in the Field twice a day, at 5 in the Morning, and Six in the Afternoon, disciplining with the utmost Diligence, all being Volunteers. We have now three Battalions, a Troop of Light Horse, and a Company of Artillery, who have made surprizing Progress. The same Spirit appears...

  34. 29 Free at Last: 1785–1790
    (pp. 270-288)

    Having stayed in France about eight years and a half, I took leave of the Court and my friends, and set out on my return home, July 12, 1785, leaving Passy with my two grandsons [Benjamin Bache and William Temple Franklin], at four P.M.; arrived about eight o’clock at St. Germain. I found that the motion of the litter, lent me by the Duke de Coigny, did not much incommode me. It was one of the Queen’s, carried by two large mules, the muleteer riding another; M. [Louis] LeVeillard and my children in a carriage. We drank tea... and went...

  35. Notes:
    (pp. 289-298)
  36. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 299-302)
  37. Index
    (pp. 303-316)