Benjamin Franklin

The 70-year-old statesman lived the high life in Paris and pulled off a diplomatic miracle

As Anne Keigher, an architect deeply involved with the London house Benjamin Franklin called home for almost 16 years, shows me around it, she points out a supporting pillar in the basement. “This original pier needed new concrete footing poured beneath it, so we were digging down to shore it up,” she says. “That’s when we discovered the bones.” Read more >>

The Revolution’s Second Toughest Job

Benjamin Franklin was far and away the most famous American when he went to France to wheedle help for the newborn American nation, which was having a very grim time of it when he got there late in 1776. Read more >>
I’ve been fighting the war of the American Revolution (on paper, that is, and with none of the suffering the participants endured) off and on since 1962, and my research has included journals, diaries, letters, newspapers, and books on nearly all the campaigns. Read more >>

One of his least-known contributions to modern life is also one of his most important

The French helped us win our Revolution. A few years later we were at war with Napoleon’s navy. The two countries have been falling in and out of love ever since. Why?

Congress serves freedom fries, American military wives talk of freedom kisses, vandals in Bordeaux burn and deface a model of the Statue of Liberty. It’s a good time to remember that American-French relations have had many ups and downs. Read more >>

More than two decades before the Revolution broke out, a group of Americans voted on a scheme to unite the colonies. For the rest of his life, Benjamin Franklin thought it could have prevented the war. It didn’t—but it did give us our Constitution.

FRANKLIN FLIES A KITE

In June of 1752, in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin performed what  may be the most famous scientific experiment of all time by flying a kite in a thunderstorm. In so doing, he verified his theory that lightning is a form of electricity. Read more >>

THE STRANGE FORGOTTEN LIFE OF AMERICA’S OTHER BEN FRANKLIN, BY AN AUTHOR SO FASCINATED HE’S WRITING A NOVEL ABOUT HIM

History, we’re told, is written by the victors; a nation tends to focus on its patriots, not its traitors, and those who depart are forgotten when gone. Read more >>

When the French Revolution broke out two hundred years ago this month, Americans greeted it enthusiastically. After all, without the French we could never have become free. But the cheers faded as the brutality of the convulsion emerged—and we saw we were still only a feeble newborn facing a giant, intimidating world power.

There were two great revolutions against European monarchs in the late eighteenth century. In the first, the French nation helped Americans achieve their independence from George III. Read more >>
It is an old joke in my family that my mother, the daughter of an immigrant tailor, never met a family poorer than her own until she met my father, who was lucky to get out of Germany in 1934 with the skin on his back. Read more >>

Only one man would have had the wit, the audacity, and the self-confidence to make the case

At the end of 1775, when fighting had already begun between the Americans and the British, an essay about the character of rattlesnakes appeared in the Pennsylvania Journal signed by “An American Guesser.” The Guesser, obviously a patriot and a w Read more >>

James Wilson was an important but now obscure draftsman of the Constitution. Carry Wills is a journalist and historian fascinated by what went on in the minds of our founders. The two men meet in an imaginary dialogue across the centuries.

  His red judge’s robe looked faded and theatrical by daylight. People at the bus stop stared at him, and his face flushed near the color of the robe. But he busily ignored them. Read more >>
At the first meeting of my first class in business school, our instructor divided the class into groups and gave each group a project. Read more >>

THE AMERICAN BALD EAGLE

Do we still want him for our national bird? Read more >>

“I … sigh in the midst of cheerful company”

It is difficult not to think of Benjamin Franklin in a purely American setting. Read more >>

“It is astonishing that the murderous practice of duelling should continue so long in vogue,” said Benjamin Franklin. Yet continue it did, often with peculiarly American variations

Few boys survive their school days without using their fists now and then. If these fights are extemporaneous affairs, fought in the immediate heat of anger, they are little more than animal reflex actions. Read more >>

Rakehells, men of good will, adventurers, and bunglers were all in the glittering pageant when the Old World came to help out the New

Two great historic figures, men who have merged into myth, are almost the sole remains of the alliance between France and the revolutionary forces of America—Lafayette and Benjamin Franklin. And like most myths time has changed them, clothing the reality in a web of romance. Read more >>

OF BALLOONS, THE FIRST AIR-MAIL LETTERS, AND THE EVER-ENTERPRISING FRANKLIN FAMILY

Seventy-seven-year-old Benjamin Franklin was at the top of his form in the fall of 1783. Minister to the court of France since 1776, this revered figure from the new young country had scored widely in France. Read more >>
Common Sense was a bestseller and turned the tide of public feeling toward independence, but for its author fame was followed by ingratitude.
The whole history of America affords examples of men who fitted precisely the needs of a particular moment, only to be cast aside, forgotten or traduced when the tide of events they created or manipulated waned and time passed them by. Read more >>
About to die at the untimely age of forty-four in 1883, Dr. George Miller Beard, a Connecticut physician and pioneer in neurology, remarked: “I should like to record the thoughts of a dying man for the benefit of science, but it is impossible.” And with those words, Dr. Read more >>

“So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature , since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do’

As bedfellows they were curiously mismatched. Yet Benjamin Franklin and John Adams once shared a bed at a crowded New Brunswick inn, which grudgingly provided them with a room to themselves hardly larger than the bed itself. The room had one small window. Read more >>
Benjamin Franklin was the most cosmopolitan spirit of his age. Read more >>

When Benjamin Franklin came home from France in diplomatic triumph, he left behind a lovely, highborn lady mourning the miles between them.