BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: The Shaping of Genius by Arthur Bernon Tourtellot

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: The Shaping of Genius

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A rich and unique study of Franklin's first fifteen years, which ordinarily conjure merely the image of an impish, ill-used apprentice preparing to run away from Boston to Philadelphia. Tourtellot, author of a number of popularly-oriented books on American history, has made a scholarly investigation of Franklin's early intellectual progress, the traditions that nourished him, and the rapidly changing Boston of 16631723. Describing Franklin's English and Flemish forebears in great detail as colorful, public-minded, independent craftsmen devoted to religion and education, Tourtellot fleshes out the overall intellectual ferment in early New England from the ""biblical commonwealth"" to secular expansion. Both shaped Franklin, who--although his Autobiography is sparse on the subject--read enormously and discussed constantly. In the Cromwellian tradition, he absorbed John Bunyan, the Mathers' practical moral writings, Plutarch, and Socrates; Tourtellot insists, however, that John Locke was Franklin's major inspiration. Apprenticed as a printer to his brother, who published an iconoclastic broadsheet, the adolescent Franklin wrote reams of satire under the name of Silence Dogwood, lampooning the clergy and the ""rising moneyed class"" from an intellectual rather than populist standpoint. It was the ability he displayed and the simultaneous political clampdown in Boston, rather than his brother's treatment, that prompted Franklin to sneak off to Philadelphia at the age of seventeen. A rewarding, dense but readable complement to biographies that pass more quickly through these years and this historical period.

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 1976
Publisher: Doubleday