Benjamin Franklin written by Edmund S. Morgan

Essay by rodkestaylor November 2008

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The name of the book I reviewed was Benjamin Franklin written by Edmund S. Morgan, published by Yale University Press in 2002. The author states the purpose of writing this book was to expose the true Benjamin Franklin that has been misrepresented by scholars in the past. Morgan used the numerous letters Franklin exchanged between his friends and an autobiography to develop this book.

The book begins by the author asking his readers to overcome the common image of Franklin huddled around a candle writing his endless amount of words he composed in his lifetime. The author suggests that we envision a man who enjoys the open air, walking, women, telling jokes, and having a drink with his friends.1 Morgan immediately achieves separating the common known characteristics of Franklin to the Franklin that he has come to know from his research of the letters of correspondence.

Morgan expertly guides us through the early years of Franklin’s life describing him as a very athletic youth and very interested in the mysteries of life.

He also describes a young man who believed in God, but found it hard to understand the conflicting opinions of every established church and religion. This would probably explain why Franklin shied away from discussions of religious nature.

Franklin became involved as a printer at a very young age. When Franklin was only twelve years old he was apprenticed to his brother James. He did not have a good relationship with brother and fled to Philadelphia in 1723 which would become his so called home.

While in Philadelphia Franklin became a printer himself, publishing the Pennsylvania Gazette and Poor Richards Almanac. During his free time Franklin set up a debate club, a fire department, a library, and an academy that would develop into the University of...