BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, POLITICIAN by Francis Jennings

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, POLITICIAN

The Mask and the Man
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A revisionist look at Franklin, focusing on his long struggle against the power of the Penn family and his evolution into one of the nation's first revolutionaries. Jennings (Empire of Fortune, 1988, etc.) dismisses much of Franklin's Autobiography as a series of half-truths designed, like a campaign speech, to present himself in the best possible light for posterity. Instead, Jennings suggests that Franklin's struggle against Thomas Penn, which is not even mentioned in the Autobiography, was central to Franklin's political development and is crucial in understanding his later revolutionary career. Founded by William Penn, the Pennsylvania colony was ruled, when Franklin arrived from Boston in 1723, as a proprietary colony by the Penn family. After establishing himself as a successful printer and newspaper publisher, and while making signficant contributions to the study of electricity and creating America's first lending library and philosophical society, Franklin challenged the intractable Penns for political primacy in the colony: He supported the Quaker politicians in the Pennsylvania assembly, many of whom he privately despised, in their resistance to Thomas Penn's bad faith dealings with the local Indians and his arbitrary, inept rule of the colony, largely from London. Franklin also emerges as a champion of colonial defense against incursions by the French and Indian tribes. Franklin became a dedicated servant of the Crown and was at first very successful representing colonial interests in London. Ultimately, he became the focus of royal ire and was denounced on the floor of the Privy Council in an episode that led to his final break with Britain. As Pennsylvania's chief statesman, he was instrumental in calling the first meetings of patriots that led to the formation of the Continental Congress, and ultimately to the Revolution. A fine portrait of the political side of ``the first American.''

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-393-03983-8
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1996




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