In this Book

Franklin in His Own Time
summary

In his time Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) was the most famous American in the world. Even those personally unacquainted with the man knew him as the author of Poor Richard’s Almanack, as a pioneer in the study of electricity and a major figure in the American Enlightenment, as the creator of such life-changing innovations as the lightning rod and America’s first circulating library, and as a leader of the American Revolution. His friends also knew him as a brilliant conversationalist, a great wit, an intellectual filled with curiosity, and most of all a master anecdotist whose vast store of knowledge complemented his conversational skills. In Franklin in His Own Time, by reprinting the original documents in which those anecdotes occur, Kevin Hayes and Isabelle Bour restore those oft-told stories to their cultural contexts to create a comprehensive narrative of his life and work.
 
The thirty-five recollections gathered in Franklin in His Own Time form an animated, collaborative biography designed to provide a multitude of perspectives on the “First American.” Opening with an account by botanist Peter Kalm showing that Franklin was doing all he could to encourage the development of science in North America, it includes on-the-spot impressions from Daniel Fisher’s diary, the earliest surviving interview with Franklin, recollections from James Madison and Abigail Adams, Manasseh Cutler’s detailed description of the library at Franklin Court, and extracts from Alexander Hamilton’s unvarnished Minutes of the Tuesday Club. Franklin’s political missions to Great Britain and France, where he took full advantage of rich social and intellectual opportunities, are a source of many reminiscences, some published here in new translations. Genuine memories from such old friends as Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, as opposed to memories influenced by the Autobiography, clarify Franklin’s reputation. Robert Carr may have been the last remaining person who knew Franklin personally, and thus his recollections are particularly significant.
 
Each entry is introduced by a headnote that places the selection in its historical and cultural contexts; explanatory notes provide information about people and places; and the editors’ comprehensive introduction and chronology detail Franklin’s eventful life. Dozens of lively primary sources published incrementally over more than a hundred years illustrate the complexity of the man, his mind, and his mannerisms in a way that no single biographer could.

 

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
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  1. Frontmatter
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  1. Contents
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  1. Introduction
  2. pp. vii-xxxii
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  1. Chronology
  2. pp. xxxiii-xxxix
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  1. Pehr Kalm, [Speaking about Natural History, 1748]
  2. pp. 1-4
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  1. Daniel Fisher, [Extracts from the Diary, 1755]
  2. pp. 5-11
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  1. House of Commons, The Examination of Doctor Benjamin Franklin (1767)
  2. pp. 12-38
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  1. Joseph Priestley, [Science, Religion, and Politics in London, 1769, 1795, 1802]
  2. pp. 39-45
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  1. Josiah Quincy, Jr., [Franklin in London, 1774–1775]
  2. pp. 46-51
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  1. John Adams, [Franklin as a Congressman and a Diplomat, 1775–1778]
  2. pp. 52-67
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  1. Abigail Adams, [Franklin in Boston and Paris, 1775 and 1784]
  2. pp. 68-70
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  1. Philip Gibbes, [Two Conversations with Benjamin Franklin, 1777–1778]
  2. pp. 71-77
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  1. Arthur Lee, [Extracts from the Journal, 1777]
  2. pp. 78-82
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  1. William Greene, [Franklin at Passy, 1778]
  2. pp. 83-85
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  1. John Baynes, [Franklin at Passy, 1783]
  2. pp. 86-98
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  1. Andrew Ellicott, [This Venerable Nestor of America, 1785]
  2. pp. 99-100
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  1. Benjamin Rush, [The Wisdom and Experience of Mellow Old Age, 1785–1789, 1805, 1806]
  2. pp. 101-107
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  1. Winthrop Sargent, [My Dinner with Franklin, 1786]
  2. pp. 108-109
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  1. Manasseh Cutler, [A Visit to Franklin Court, 1787]
  2. pp. 110-115
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  1. James Madison, [Franklin during the Constitutional Convention, 1787]
  2. pp. 116-118
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  1. Mary Stevenson Hewson, “Closing Scenes of Dr. Franklin’s Life: In a Letter from an Eye-Witness” (1790)
  2. pp. 119-120
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  1. John Jones, “Short Account of Dr. Franklin’s Last Illness by His Attending Physician” (1790)
  2. pp. 121-122
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  1. Louis Lefebvre de La Roche, “On Franklin” (1800)
  2. pp. 123-131
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  1. Thomas Jefferson, [Anecdotes of Doctor Franklin, 1818 and 1821]
  2. pp. 132-140
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  1. William Temple Franklin, [Anecdotes Relative to Dr. Franklin, 1818]
  2. pp. 141-144
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  1. Robert Aspland, [A Conversation with Franklin’s London Friends, 1821]
  2. pp. 145-146
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  1. Andr
  2. pp. 147-152
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  1. Pierre Jean Georges Cabanis, [A Short Account of Benjamin Franklin, 1825]
  2. pp. 153-168
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  1. Roberts Vaux and a Canadian Numismatist, [The Sawdust Pudding Supper: Two Versions, 1835 and 1875]
  2. pp. 169-173
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  1. Deborah Norris Logan, [Memoir of Dr. George Logan of Stenton, 1839]
  2. pp. 174-177
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  1. Robert Carr, “Personal Recollections of Benjamin Franklin” (1864)
  2. pp. 178-182
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  1. Permissions
  2. pp. 183-184
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  1. Works Cited
  2. pp. 185-186
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 187-196
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