In this unusual study of Benjamin Franklin's personal relationships, Middlekauff (History/Univ. of Calif., Berkeley; The...



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.

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0520213785

Page Count: 275

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1996