The Autobiography of Ben Franklin Hardcover – May 1 2010
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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The Autobiography of
Franklin's Draft Scheme of the Autobiography
Copie d'un Projet très Curieux de Benjamin Franklin-Iere Esquisse de ses
Mémoires. Les additions à l'encre rouge sont de la main de Franklin.*
My writing. Mrs. Dogood's letters. Differences arise between my Brother and
me (his temper and mine); their cause in general. His Newspaper. The
Prosecution he suffered. My Examination. Vote of Assembly. His manner of
evading it. Whereby I became free. My attempt to get employ with other
Printers. He prevents me. Our frequent pleadings before our Father. The
final Breach. My Inducements to quit Boston. Manner of coming to a
Resolution. My leaving him and going to New York (return to eating flesh);
thence to Pennsylvania. The journey, and its events on the Bay, at Amboy.
The road. Meet with Dr. Brown. His character. His great work. At
Burlington. The Good Woman. On the River. My Arrival at Philadelphia. First
Meal and first Sleep. Money left. Employment. Lodging. First acquaintance
with my afterward Wife. With J. Ralph. With Keimer. Their characters.
Osborne. Watson. The Governor takes notice of me. The Occasion and Manner.
His character. Offers to set me up. My return to Boston. Voyage and
accidents. Reception. My Father dislikes the proposal. I return to New York
and Philadelphia. Governor Burnet. J. Collins. The Money for Vernon. The
Governor's Deceit. Collins not finding employment goes to Barbados much in
my Debt. Ralph and I go to England. Disappointment of Governor's Letters.
Colonel French his Friend. Cornwallis's Letters. Cabbin. Denham. Hamilton.
Arrival in England. Get employment. Ralph not. He is an expense to me.
Adventures in England. Write
a Pamphlet and print 100. Schemes. Lyons. Dr. Pemberton.
My diligence, and yet poor through Ralph. My Landlady. Her character.
Wygate. Wilkes. Cibber. Plays. Books I borrowed. Preachers I heard.
Redmayne. At Watts's. Temperance. Ghost. Conduct and Influence among the
Men. Persuaded by Mr. Denham to return with him to Philadelphia and be his
clerk. Our voyage and arrival. My resolutions in Writing. My Sickness. His
Death. Found D. R. married. Go to work again with Keimer. Terms. His
ill-usage of me. My Resentment. Saying of Decow. My Friends at Burlington.
Agreement with H. Meredith to set up in Partnership. Do so. Success with
Assembly. Hamilton's Friendship. Sewell's History. Gazette. Paper money.
Webb. Writing Busy Body. Breintnal. Godfrey. His character. Suit against
us. Offer of my Friends, Coleman and Grace. Continue the Business, and M.
goes to Carolina. Pamphlet on Paper Money. Gazette from Keimer. Junto
credit; its plan. Marry. Library erected. Manner of conducting the project.
Its plan and utility. Children. Almanac. The use I made of it. Great
industry. Constant study. Father's Remark and Advice upon Diligence.
Carolina Partnership. Learn French and German. Journey to Boston after ten
years. Affection of my Brother. His Death, and leaving me his Son.
Art of Virtue. Occasion. City Watch amended. Post-office. Spotswood.
Bradford's Behaviour. Clerk of Assembly. Lose one of my Sons. Project of
subordinate Juntos. Write occasionally in the papers. Success in Business.
Fire companies. Engines. Go again to Boston in 1743. See Dr. Spence.
Whitefield. My connection with him. His generosity to me. My
returns. Church Differences. My part in them. Propose a College. Not then
prosecuted. Propose and establish a Philosophical Society. War.
Electricity. My first knowledge of it. Partnership with D. Hall, etc.
Dispute in Assembly upon Defence. Project for it. Plain Truth. Its success.
Ten thousand Men raised and disciplined. Lotteries. Battery built. New
Castle. My influence in the Council. Colors, Devices, and Mottos. Ladies'
Military Watch. Quakers chosen of the Common Council. Put in the commission
of the peace. Logan fond of me. His Library. Appointed Postmaster-General.
Chosen Assemblyman. Commissioner to treat with Indians at Carlisle and at
Easton. Project and establish Academy. Pamphlet on it. Journey to Boston.
At Albany. Plan of union of the colonies. Copy of it. Remarks upon it. It
fails, and how. Journey to Boston in 1754. Disputes about it in our
Assembly. My part in them. New Governor. Disputes with him. His character
and sayings to me. Chosen Alderman. Project of Hospital. My share in it.
Its success. Boxes. Made a Commissioner of the Treasury. My commission to
defend the frontier counties. Raise Men and built Forts. Militia Law of my
drawing. Made Colonel. Parade of my Officers. Offence to Proprietor.
Assistance to Boston Ambassadors. Journey with Shirley, etc. Meet with
Braddock. Assistance to him. To the Officers of his Army. Furnish him with
Forage. His concessions to me and character of me. Success of my Electrical
Experiments. Medal sent me. Present Royal Society, and Speech of President.
Denny's Arrival and Courtship to me. His character. My service to the Army
in the affair of Quarters. Disputes about the Proprietor's Taxes continued.
Project for paving the City. I am sent to England. Negotiation there.
Canada delenda est. My Pamphlet. Its reception and effect. Projects drawn
from me concerning the Conquest. Acquaintance made and their services to
me-Mrs. S. M. Small, Sir John P., Mr. Wood, Sargent Strahan, and others.
Their characters. Doctorate from Edinburgh, St. Andrew's. Doctorate from
Oxford. Journey to Scotland. Lord Leicester. Mr. Prat. De Grey. Jackson.
State of Affairs in England. Delays. Eventful Journey into Holland and
Flanders. Agency from Maryland. Son's appointment. My Return.
Allowance and thanks. Journey to Boston. John Penn, Governor. My conduct
toward him. The Paxton Murders. My Pamphlet. Rioters march to Philadelphia.
Governor retires to my House. My conduct. Sent out to the Insurgents. Turn
them back. Little thanks. Disputes revived. Resolutions against continuing
under Proprietary Government. Another Pamphlet. Cool thoughts. Sent again
to England with Petition. Negotiation there. Lord H. His character.
Agencies from New Jersey, Georgia, Massachusetts. Journey into Germany,
1766. Civilities received there. Göttingen Observations. Ditto into France
in 1767. Ditto in 1769. Entertainment there at the Academy. Introduced to
the King and the Mesdames, Mad. Victoria and Mrs. Lamagnon. Duc de
Chaulnes, M. Beaumont, Le Roy, D'Alibard, Nollet. See Journals. Holland.
Reprint my papers and add many. Books presented to me from many authors.
My Book translated into French. Lightning Kite. Various
Discoveries. My manner of prosecuting that Study. King of Denmark invites
me to dinner. Recollect my Father's Proverb. Stamp Act. My opposition to
it. Recommendation of J. Hughes. Amendment of it. Examination in
Parliament. Reputation it gave me. Caressed by Ministry. Charles Townsend's
Act. Opposition to it. Stoves and chimney-plates. Armonica. Acquaintance
with Ambassadors. Russian Intimation. Writing in newspapers. Glasses from
Germany. Grant of Land in Nova Scotia. Sicknesses. Letters to America
returned hither. The consequences. Insurance Office. My character. Costs me
nothing to be civil to inferiors; a good deal to be submissive
to superiors, etc., etc. Farce of Perpetual Motion. Writing
for Jersey Assembly. Hutchinson's Letters. Temple. Suit in Chancery. Abuse
before the Privy Council. Lord Hillsborough's character and conduct. Lord
Dartmouth. Negotiation to prevent the War. Return to America. Bishop of St.
Asaph. Congress. Assembly. Committee of Safety. Chevaux-de-frise. Sent to
Boston, to the Camp. To Canada, to Lord Howe. To France. Treaty, etc.
Twyford, at the Bishop of St. Asaph's, 1771.
Dear son: I have ever had pleasure in obtaining any little anecdotes of my
ancestors. You may remember the inquiries I made among the remains of my
relations when you were with me in England, and the journey I undertook for
that purpose. Imagining it may be equally agreeable to you to know the
circumstances of my life, many of which you are yet unacquainted with, and
expecting the enjoyment of a week's uninterrupted leisure in my present
country retirement, I sit down to write them for you. To which I have
besides some other inducements. Having emerged from the poverty and
obscurity in which I was born and bred, to a state of affluence and some
degree of reputation in the world, and having gone so far through life with
a considerable share of felicity, the conducing means I made use of, which
with the blessing of God so well succeeded, my posterity may like to know,
as they may find some of them suitable to their own situations, and
therefore fit to be imitated.
That felicity, when I reflected on it, has induced me sometimes to say,
that were it offered to my choice, I should have no objection to a
repetition of the same life from its beginning, only asking the advantages
authors have in a second edition to correct some faults of the first. So I
might, besides correcting the faults, change some sinister accidents and
events of it for others more favorable. But though this were denied, I
should still accept the offer. Since such a repetition is not to be
expected, the next thing most like living one's life over again seems to be
a recollection of that life, and to make that recollection as durable as
possible by putting it down in writing.
Hereby, too, I shall indulge the inclination so natural in old men, to be
talking of themselves and their own past actions; and I shall indulge it
without being tiresome to others, who, through respect to age, might
conceive themselves obliged to give me a hearing, since this may be read or
not as any one pleases. And, lastly (I may as well confess it, since my
denial ... --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From the Back Cover
Franklin's extraordinary range of interests and accomplishments are brilliantly recorded in his Autobiography, considered one of the classics of the genre. Covering his life up to his prewar stay in London as representative of the Pennsylvania Assembly, this charming self-portrait recalls Franklin's boyhood, his determination to achieve high moral standards, his work as a printer, experiments with electricity, political career, experiences during the French and Indian War, and more. Related in an honest, open, unaffected style, this highly readable account offers a wonderfully intimate glimpse of the Founding Father sometimes called "the wisest American."
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Top Customer Reviews
The first part of this book was really letters to his son and the latter part continued the narrative. He writes with a subtle humor that at times had me in stitches. He writes about his scientific achievements and inventions such as what has become known as the "Franklin stove," and his experiments with electricity. Evidentally, there were some in the scientific community who did not believe that lightening was electricity and he took delight in proving them wrong (he very briefly mentions his kite experiment).
He writes about virtues and his cultivation of them. He reflects upon religion yet he was not dogmatic. He was civic minded, starting, among other things, a fire department and a public library. In short, he was a reflective, intelligent, industrious, remarkable man and we realize this best by reading his own words. My father was right; I should have read this years ago.
Without the insight from Issacson, or, I suspect, from any decent biography of Franklin, the autobiography is disjointed, as he wrote different sections at different times of his life, and some time periods are eliminated completely. And it seems to have multiple personalities, struggling between the subjects of self-help, biography, history and simple meanderings and ruminations of an old man.
As a companion book - 5 stars; as a standalone - 2-3 stars
Franklin recounts his family's modest life in England and the circumstances that brought them to Boston. He was among the youngest of a very large family, ultimately finding his way to Philadelphia to find work as a printer when an apprenticeship with an older brother turned sour.
We always think of Franklin as being a slightly older statesman among the Founding Fathers, when in fact he was a full generation older than Washington or Jefferson. Unlike popular perception, he was an athletic and vibrant youth, who rescued a drowning Dutch companion and taught swimming to children of London's elite.
Philadelphia in the 1720's and 1730's was a small town, never sure if it would really take off as a settlement. Franklin quickly befriended key politicians who felt Philadelphia had grown sufficiently to have a world-class print shop. He played a key role in the town's development, leading civic groups in establishing libraries, fire companies, meeting halls, and street cleaning services. Of course, he was also the consummate politician, serving in office, and networking his way to his first fortune by publishing government documents and printing the first paper currency. He also had a knack for working with the several important religious sects of that time and place, especially the pacifist Quakers, even though Franklin was a deist.
Franklin was a clever businessman.Read more ›
Essentially, Ben Franklin's Autobiography contains "unstructured" structure, in which the narrative meanders along different episodes of Franklin's life. The division of the Autobiography into four Parts, solely a modern addition by critics, is not extremely helpful in partitioning the events in the book into easily understandable parts for the reader. What the reader sees are blocks of text occaisionally separated by poetic or witty verses Franklin has included, an obstacle that sometimes allows the experience of reading the Autobiography to be monotonous. The content, and by association, the themes, are somewhat obscured to modern readers by the structure of the book as well as Franklin's language. However, the organization of the book is not completely ineffective for the reason that it lends to the reader's understanding of four different mindsets of Benjamin Franklin, allowing for a more multifaceted understanding of Franklin himself. All four of these mindsets contain similar themes of acheiving the American Dream and becoming a better person with age.
While Franklin's Autobiography has high historic value, its other value is the documented story about the man behind the myth.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Got off to a slow start but eventually picked up about 1/3 of the way along. An amazing man who wrote in the english of his time and who lived a life guided by vision and... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Rudy Cooper
This book gives one a great insight into the life of Benjamin Franklin. I would suggest this book to all who are interested in history.Published 5 months ago by Sieg
This is a great book. I love it. A must-read for anyone who likes autobiographies, world history, US history or business. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Tree Ponders Leaf