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Benjamin Franklin and His Enemies
     

Benjamin Franklin and His Enemies

by Robert Middlekauff
 

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In this engaging study of the much-loved statesman and polymath, Robert Middlekauff uncovers a little-known aspect of Benjamin Franklin's personality—his passionate anger. He reveals a fully human Franklin who led a remarkable life but nonetheless had his share of hostile relationships—political adversaries like the Penns, John Adams, and Arthur Lee—

Overview


In this engaging study of the much-loved statesman and polymath, Robert Middlekauff uncovers a little-known aspect of Benjamin Franklin's personality—his passionate anger. He reveals a fully human Franklin who led a remarkable life but nonetheless had his share of hostile relationships—political adversaries like the Penns, John Adams, and Arthur Lee—and great disappointments—the most significant being his son, William, who sided with the British. Utilizing an abundance of archival sources, Middlekauff weaves episodes in Franklin's emotional life into key moments in colonial and Revolutionary history. The result is a highly readable narrative that illuminates how historical passions can torment even the most rational and benevolent of men.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Middlekauff (Glorious Cause, LJ 3/15/82) here gives a very readable history of America's first diplomat. Franklin acquired political enemies, Middlekauff suggests, because he was brilliant, annoying those less brilliant; because he spoke of and tried (less successfully) to lead a moral life, irritating the amoral; and because he fell short of his own moral yardstick, offending those as pious as he. Another basis for the enmity directed at him is that Franklin, a tradesman, moved for much of his life in genteel society, earning the contempt of Pennsylvania's proprietor, Thomas Penn, and other English lords. Franklin's moral failures are glossed over, presumably because those of his enemies were worse. Although books have already been written about Franklin's Tory son William, the present work might have been that much better if the author had devoted more than the last two pages to the family. Recommended for all those interested in this Founding Father.-Robert C. Moore, DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Co. Information Svcs., N. Billerica, Mass.
Booknews
Middlekauff (history, UC-Berkeley) explores Franklin's darker side, his passionate anger and his adversarial relationships with the Penns, John Adams, and Arthur Lee, and his disappointment in his son's loyalty to Britain, weaving episodes in Franklin's life into colonial and Revolutionary history. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
In this unusual study of Benjamin Franklin's personal relationships, Middlekauff (History/Univ. of Calif., Berkeley; The Mathers, 1971, etc.) points out that the beloved American sage and statesman had enemies who hated him and whom he hated in return.

Carl Van Doren called Franklin a "harmonious human multitude." In contrast to this popular image, Middlekauff depicts Franklin as a man of profoundly contradictory qualities who was often anything but "harmonious." For instance, Franklin loathed the autocratic proprietor of the Pennsylvania colony, Thomas Penn, for attempting to stanch democracy in the colony and for failure to defend the Pennsylvania frontier from Indian attacks. For his part, Middlekauff writes, Penn hated Franklin, recognizing in him a man of ability who sought to take the colony away from the Penn family. Also, despite years of admiring the British Empire, Franklin came to detest England and all of its institutions in light of the crisis that led to the American Revolution and the cruelty of the British war effort. The war also cost him his close relationship with his son William, the royal governor of New Jersey at the war's outset and a prominent Tory throughout. And as Middlekauff points out, even on the patriot side there were those who disliked and distrusted him: Arthur Lee, Ralph Izard, and John Adams, other American diplomats in Paris when Franklin was forging the key strategic relationship with France, resented Franklin's brilliant success with the French, his acceptance of the relaxed morality of French court life, and his expertise in the game of European diplomacy. For all this, Middlekauff's study does not really disturb the popular image of Franklin; in most of the cases he recounts, Franklin had reason to dislike his adversaries. And despite this, as the author points out, Franklin generally regarded his enemies "with some serenity, much as he might have regarded wayward children."

An original contribution to the extensive literature on Franklin.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780520213784
Publisher:
University of California Press
Publication date:
06/08/1998
Edition description:
REPRINT
Pages:
274
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

What People are Saying About This

Robert Wilson
Middlekauff's sensible and sensitive portraits. . .remind us that a period of our history we are tempted to see as costume drama was a time of passionate and potentially fatal seriousness. -- Washington Post

Meet the Author


Robert Middlekauff is Preston Hotchkis Professor of American History at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include The Mathers: Three Generations of Puritan Intellectuals (1971), which won the Bancroft Prize, and The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution (1982), which won the Commonwealth Club Gold Medal.

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