A fleshed-out examination of Benjamin Franklin’s affinity with England.
British scholar Goodwin (Fatal Rivalry: Flodden, 1513: Henry VIII and James IV and the Decisive Battle for Renaissance Britain, 2013, etc.) takes up the case of Franklin’s time in England, which proved to be quite fruitful. Franklin spent two stints in London, first as a young printer’s apprentice learning the trade between 1724 and 1726 and then as a mature professional, scientist, author, and political representative for the Pennsylvania Assembly and Deputy Postmaster for America between 1757 and 1775. By the end, in the midst of the full-blown Colonial insurrection, Franklin was compelled to travel home to Philadelphia just prior to his arrest as what Parliament referred to as “one of the bitterest and most mischievous Enemies this Country had ever known.” The gentleman philosopher and winner of the Royal Society’s highest award for his groundbreaking work in electrical conduction, Franklin was warmly welcomed and celebrated in London when he first arrived in 1757. Enjoying a comfortable life on Craven Street, being admitted into the houses of the influential, and partaking in an intellectual flirtation with the young Polly Stevenson, Franklin nonetheless maneuvered discreetly but effectively to press for American grievances—e.g., against the Stamp Act and Quartering Act. However, his initial resistance to these strictures underestimated the American mood of revolt, and he soon actively propounded reconciliation for the benefit especially of less-restrictive trade and commerce between motherland and colony. Goodwin threads Franklin’s way among diverse British-American influences with a light, sure touch and fascinating detail. Overall, Franklin is shown as an astute player of men who subscribed to his own Poor Richard saying: “Let all Men know thee, but no man know thee thoroughly.”
The British author provides finely textured, subtle shading to a well-known American Founding Father.