Fleming’s biography delightfully portrays a great inventor, scientist, author, politician, and ambassador. In addition, he provides insightful views of Franklin’s eminently human qualities as a father and as a socially charming man. His illegitimate son William, for example, was welcomed into the Franklin household, where father and son formed a warm relationship until William’s aggressive loyalism divided them. Similarly, though his wife, Deborah, remained in Philadelphia during his extended trips to England and France, Franklin invariably traveled with his son, later with his grandsons. Fleming discusses such close familial relationships at length, including Franklin’s affections for his daughter, Sally, and for his friend Polly Stevenson, whom Franklin treated as a daughter. Viewing these traits against Franklin’s formidable professional achievements, young readers will enjoy this balanced version of Franklin, the affectionate, attentive, if occasionally misguided family man. Franklin’s youthful follies also solicit reader interest, providing further glimpses into his humanity.
Franklin was born into the artisan’s world and despite his financial success always closely associated himself with this class. A printer, he shrewdly maintained connections to these artisans, thus ensuring his own popularity. Even while serving the American cause in France, he printed his own propaganda, and despite his many accomplishments he called himself a...
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