Cover image for Franklin : the essential founding father
Franklin : the essential founding father
Srodes, James.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Washington, DC : Regnery Pub. ; Lanham, MD : Distributed to the trade by National Book Network, [2002]

Physical Description:
x, 435 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E302.6.F8 S85 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
E302.6.F8 S85 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
E302.6.F8 S85 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
E302.6.F8 S85 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
E302.6.F8 S85 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Historian and biographer James Srodes tells Benjamin Franklin's incredible life story, making full use of the previously neglected Franklin papers to provide the most riveting account yet of the journalist, scientist, polilician, and unlikely adventurer. From London, Paris, Philadelphia to his numerous romantic liaisons, Franklin's life becomes a panorama of dramatic history.

Author Notes

James Srodes is the author of Allen Dulles: Master of Spies, which was named Best Intelligence Book of 2000 by the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, and the coauthor of a best-selling biography of automaker John DeLorean. A longtime journalist, Srodes has written for many publications, including Forbes, Business Week, Financial World, The Sunday Telegraph, The Daily Telegraph, and The Spectator. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, Cecile

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Since hundreds of volumes outlining the life and times of Benjamin Franklin have been published, the challenge is in finding something new and unique to say about one of America's most intriguing architects. Srodes rises to this challenge, providing a page-turning biography devoted to chronicling the evolution of the man as a nation builder. Arguing convincingly that Franklin was the essential founding father, "the catalyst that made other founders coalesce and interact with each other," he focuses the bulk of his narrative on the second half of Franklin's remarkable life. Franklin the diplomat, the statesman, and the staunch advocate of independence emerges in middle age, after a string of remarkable successes and rebounds in the realms of business, publishing, and science. Srodes probes underneath the myth, dissecting the shrewd, ambitious Renaissance man primarily responsible for one of the greatest political experiments in the history of western civilization. --Margaret Flanagan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Seasoned journalist Srodes (Allen Dulles: Master of Spies) charts Benjamin Franklin's "evolution from striving craftsman to daring diplomat, spy, and national master builder" in an account that situates Franklin as the "essential American." While acknowledging that the successful businessman, scientist, philosopher and social activist had his share of critics during his lifetime and after (D.H. Lawrence, for example, pronounced him "a sexual monster"), Srodes tends to grant such claims little time. Franklin's "malleable" temperament and the many talents he developed over his long life suited him well for his role as a catalyst for progress, Srodes writes: to Franklin, "the idea, not the sponsor, should be the point." When situating Franklin within the context of the conflicting public sentiments with which he had to deal New England and Virginian patriots, who disdained men from the middle colonies; William Penn's heirs, whom Franklin had to coax to share the cost of the French and Indian War; and the Quaker merchant elite, who considered Franklin's challenges to their ordered society dangerous Srodes approaches a more balanced portrait. Ultimately, the author contends, while other scientists and philosophers paralleled and even outdistanced Franklin, his greatest accomplishment was that he was the "ingredient that made change happen" and a man whose "best skills were to plot strategy in private and to write documents for public purposes." An extensive bibliography, some of it annotated, will assist interested readers in locating valuable primary and secondary sources for further study. (Apr.) Forecast: Regnery has a couple of big titles lately, and perhaps the enthusiasm for John Adams will spill over into demand for another founder. Still, this has to compete with last year's comprehensive The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin, by H.W. Brands. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

A journalist and author of Allen Dulles: Master of Spies, Srodes presents a biography of Benjamin Franklin in mostly favorable terms. He incorporates some heretofore neglected archival materials and concludes that Franklin was of much greater importance to the founding of an independent America than previous scholars have recognized. While his biography is enjoyable to read, the author's conclusions are overstated. Clearly, Franklin had a significant role in pre-Revolutionary America, especially as he encouraged the people to consider independence from England and as a member of the committee that drafted the Declaration. But his was not the only voice championing independence nor was it the most effective. Likewise, his presence at the Constitutional Convention was valuable, but he was not a critical player in the drafting of the document. Franklin was indeed a brilliant, energetic, and complex man, and one too often overlooked for his political accomplishments, which Srodes illuminates in a compelling fashion. Franklin may not be quite as great as Srodes portrays him, but neither is he as corrupt or self-important as his detractors suggest. The truth obviously lies somewhere in between. For those who have read David McCullough's John Adams, Srodes's Franklin provides an interesting complement. Libraries that already hold several other Franklin biographies might not need this one; however, if the other biographies are very dated, this is a fine way to upgrade holdings in this area. Thomas J. Baldino, Wilkes Univ., Wilkes-Barre, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Watch out! The Franklin Tercentenary is coming, and we can expect a steady flow of works about Benjamin Franklin that will surely increase in number as 2006 approaches. However, anyone working on an interpretative biography of Franklin might want to stop and rethink it, because, in the words of Gordon Wood, Morgan's book is "the best short biography of Franklin ever written." (New York Review of Books, September 26, 2002). Morgan's biography grew out of an introductory piece for the CD-ROM version of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin, and it is Franklin's version of Franklin. Morgan (emer., Yale Univ.) makes very clear in his preface that his work is not a full biography, that it is "purposely short." "It is meant only to say enough about the man to show that he is worth the trouble," Morgan writes. "It is the result of reading everything on the disk and in the volumes [Papers of Benjamin Franklin] but not much else, and therefore, pretty one-sided, a letter of introduction to a man worth knowing, worth spending time with." But what an introduction! This is an essential work for anyone with an interest in Franklin, the American Revolution, or the art of biography.Srodes's book is more comprehensive than Morgan's treatment. A journalist, Srodes tells a good story, a balanced story, but nothing really sets this work apart from previous biographies. The standard full biographies still remain Carl Van Doren's Benjamin Franklin (1938) or the more recent by H.R. Brands, The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin (CH, Feb'01). Srodes's work will interest general readers and undergraduates, but probably will not greatly interest specialists. ^BSumming Up: Morgan--Essential. All public and academic libraries; Srodes--Recommended. General and undergraduate readers. G. W. Franz Pennsylvania State University, Delaware County Campus

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Prologuep. 3
Chapter 1 Traits and Prospectsp. 11
Chapter 2 Hope and Gloryp. 33
Chapter 3 The Pursuit of Virtuep. 47
Chapter 4 Rising Citizenp. 63
Chapter 5 The Eminent Mr. Franklinp. 79
Chapter 6 Join or Diep. 103
Chapter 7 First Bloodp. 123
Chapter 8 A New Nemesisp. 143
Chapter 9 Degrees and Separationp. 155
Chapter 10 Rejection and Returnp. 169
Chapter 11 Back to Londonp. 185
Chapter 12 Countdown to Revolutionp. 199
Chapter 13 The Death of a Dreamp. 219
Chapter 14 To the Brink of Warp. 239
Chapter 15 Revolutionp. 259
Chapter 16 Declaring for Libertyp. 275
Chapter 17 The Diplomacy of Warp. 291
Chapter 18 Winning Recognitionp. 307
Chapter 19 Dismal Daysp. 323
Chapter 20 The Final Roundp. 339
Chapter 21 The Struggle for Peacep. 355
Chapter 22 Home at Lastp. 371
Epiloguep. 389
Notesp. 395
Bibliographyp. 409
Acknowledgmentsp. 417
Indexp. 419