Form and Content
Thomas Fleming’s Benjamin Franklin traces the life and career of a man whose activities encompassed virtually all of eighteenth century America’s formative decades. The only person to sign the three principal documents of the revolutionary era—the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris, and the United States Constitution—Franklin was both the oldest and the most distinguished American revolutionary. Fleming comprehensively explores the sources of Franklin’s drive, talents, and intellect. Organized chronologically, his nineteen chapters rely on Franklin’s own extensive writings—his autobiography, letters, and published pieces—to lend substance to his story. Full-page reproductions of paintings, engravings, and photographs attractively illustrate the book.
The son of a pious Boston candle and soap maker, Franklin was the youngest son in a family of seventeen. Abandoning an apprenticeship at his brother’s print shop, Franklin sailed to Philadelphia in 1723 at the age of seventeen. Thoroughly grounded in his trade, he nevertheless arrived bedraggled, exhausted, and penniless. Over ensuing years, however, remarkable ambition and stamina brought his fortune. Within twenty years, after publishing The Pennsylvania Gazette and writing Poor Richard’s Almanack (17331758), he had in fact become a wealthy man. At the age of forty-two, retiring from his printing business, he was thereafter free to pursue new...
(The entire section is 490 words.)