Benjamin Franklin and His Enemiesby Robert Middlekauff
In this engaging study of the much-loved statesman and polymath, Robert Middlekauff uncovers a little-known aspect of Benjamin Franklin's personalityhis passionate anger. He reveals a fully human Franklin who led a remarkable life but nonetheless had his share of hostile relationshipspolitical adversaries like the Penns, John Adams, and Arthur Lee
In this engaging study of the much-loved statesman and polymath, Robert Middlekauff uncovers a little-known aspect of Benjamin Franklin's personalityhis passionate anger. He reveals a fully human Franklin who led a remarkable life but nonetheless had his share of hostile relationshipspolitical adversaries like the Penns, John Adams, and Arthur Leeand great disappointmentsthe 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.
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.
- University of California Press
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- 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)
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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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