Catalogue


The first American : the life and times of Benjamin Franklin /
H.W. Brands.
edition
1st ed.
imprint
New York : Doubleday, 2000.
description
vi, 759 p. ; 25 cm.
ISBN
0385493282
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
author
imprint
New York : Doubleday, 2000.
isbn
0385493282
catalogue key
4030298
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
H. W. Brands is a professor of history at Texas A&M University in Bryan, Texas.
Awards
This item was nominated for the following awards:
Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, USA, 2000 : Nominated
Pulitzer Prize, USA, 2001 : Nominated
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
A lesser man would have been humiliated. Humiliation was the purpose of the proceeding. It was the outcome eagerly anticipated by the lords of the Privy Council who constituted the official audience, by the members of the House of Commons and other fashionable Londoners who packed the room and hung on the rails of the balcony, by the London press that lived on scandal and milled outside to see how this scandal would unfold, by the throngs that bought the papers, savored the scandals, rioted in favor of their heroes and against their villains, and made politics in the British imperial capital often unpredictable, frequently disreputable, always entertaining. The proceeding today would probably be disreputable. It would certainly be entertaining. The venue was fitting: the Cockpit. In the reign of Henry VIII, that most sporting of monarchs in a land that loved its bloody games, the building on this site had housed an actual cockpit, where Henry and his friends brought their prize birds and wagered which would tear the others to shreds. The present building had replaced the real cockpit, but this room retained the old name and atmosphere. The victim today was expected to depart with his reputation in tatters, his fortune possibly forfeit, his life conceivably at peril. Nor was that the extent of the stakes. Two days earlier the December packet ship from Boston had arrived with an alarming report from the royal governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson. The governor described an organized assault on three British vessels carrying tea of the East India Company. The assailants, townsmen loosely disguised as Indians, had boarded the ships, hauled hundreds of tea casks to deck, smashed them open, and dumped their contents into the harbor forty-five tons of tea, enough to litter the beaches for miles and depress the company's profits for years. This rampage was the latest in a series of violent outbursts against the authority of Crown and Parliament; the audience in the Cockpit, and in London beyond, demanded to know what Crown and Parliament intended to do about it. Alexander Wedderburn was going to tell them. The solicitor general possessed great rhetorical gifts and greater ambition. The former had made him the most feared advocate in the realm; the latter lifted him to his present post when he abandoned his allies in the opposition and embraced the ministry of Lord North. Wedderburn was known to consider the Boston tea riot treason, and if the law courts upheld his interpretagtion, those behind the riot would be liable to the most severe sanctions, potentially including death. Wedderburn was expected to argue that the man in the Cockpit today was the prime mover behind the outburst in Boston. The crowd quivered with anticipation. They all knew the man in the pit; indeed, the whole world knew Benjamin Franklin. His work as political agent for several of the American colonies had earned him recognition around London, but his fame far transcended that. He was, quite simply, one of the most illustrious scientists and thinkers on earth. His experiments with electricity, culminating in his capture of lightning from the heavens, had won him universal praise as the modern Prometheus. His mapping of the Gulf Stream saved the time and lives of countless sailors. His ingenious fireplace conserved fuel and warmed homes on both sides of the Atlantic. His contributions to economics, meteorology, music, and psychology expanded the reach of human knowledge and the grip of human power. For his accomplishments the British Royal Society had awarded him its highest prize; foreign societies had done the same. Universities queued to grant him degrees. The ablest minds of the age consulted him on matters large and small. Kings and emperors summoned him to court, where they admired his brilliance and basked in its reflected glory. Genius is prone to producing envy. Yet it was part of Franklin's genius that he had produced far less
Excerpt from Book
A lesser man would have been humiliated. Humiliation was the purpose of the proceeding. It was the outcome eagerly anticipated by the lords of the Privy Council who constituted the official audience, by the members of the House of Commons and other fashionable Londoners who packed the room and hung on the rails of the balcony, by the London press that lived on scandal and milled outside to see how this scandal would unfold, by the throngs that bought the papers, savored the scandals, rioted in favor of their heroes and against their villains, and made politics in the British imperial capital often unpredictable, frequently disreputable, always entertaining. The proceeding today would probably be disreputable. It would certainly be entertaining. The venue was fitting: the Cockpit. In the reign of Henry VIII, that most sporting of monarchs in a land that loved its bloody games, the building on this site had housed an actual cockpit, where Henry and his friends brought their prize birds and wagered which would tear the others to shreds. The present building had replaced the real cockpit, but this room retained the old name and atmosphere. The victim today was expected to depart with his reputation in tatters, his fortune possibly forfeit, his life conceivably at peril. Nor was that the extent of the stakes. Two days earlier the December packet ship from Boston had arrived with an alarming report from the royal governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson. The governor described an organized assault on three British vessels carrying tea of the East India Company. The assailants, townsmen loosely disguised as Indians, had boarded the ships, hauled hundreds of tea casks to deck, smashed them open, and dumped their contents into the harbor forty-five tons of tea, enough to litter the beaches for miles and depress the company's profits for years. This rampage was the latest in a series of violent outbursts against the authority of Crown and Parliament; the audience in the Cockpit, and in London beyond, demanded to know what Crown and Parliament intended to do about it. Alexander Wedderburn was going to tell them. The solicitor general possessed great rhetorical gifts and greater ambition. The former had made him the most feared advocate in the realm; the latter lifted him to his present post when he abandoned his allies in the opposition and embraced the ministry of Lord North. Wedderburn was known to consider the Boston tea riot treason, and if the law courts upheld his interpretagtion, those behind the riot would be liable to the most severe sanctions, potentially including death. Wedderburn was expected to argue that the man in the Cockpit today was the prime mover behind the outburst in Boston. The crowd quivered with anticipation. They all knew the man in the pit; indeed, the whole world knew Benjamin Franklin. His work as political agent for several of the American colonies had earned him recognition around London, but his fame far transcended that. He was, quite simply, one of the most illustrious scientists and thinkers on earth. His experiments with electricity, culminating in his capture of lightning from the heavens, had won him universal praise as the modern Prometheus. His mapping of the Gulf Stream saved the time and lives of countless sailors. His ingenious fireplace conserved fuel and warmed homes on both sides of the Atlantic. His contributions to economics, meteorology, music, and psychology expanded the reach of human knowledge and the grip of human power. For his accomplishments the British Royal Society had awarded him its highest prize; foreign societies had done the same. Universities queued to grant him degrees. The ablest minds of the age consulted him on matters large and small. Kings and emperors summoned him to court, where they admired his brilliance and basked in its reflected glory. Genius is prone to producing envy. Yet it was part of Franklin's genius that he ha
First Chapter
A lesser man would have been humiliated. Humiliation was the purpose of the proceeding. It was the outcome eagerly anticipated by the lords of the Privy Council who constituted the official audience, by the members of the House of Commons and other fashionable Londoners who packed the room and hung on the rails of the balcony, by the London press that lived on scandal and milled outside to see how this scandal would unfold, by the throngs that bought the papers, savored the scandals, rioted in favor of their heroes and against their villains, and made politics in the British imperial capital often unpredictable, frequently disreputable, always entertaining. The proceeding today would probably be disreputable. It would certainly be entertaining. The venue was fitting: the Cockpit. In the reign of Henry VIII, that most sporting of monarchs in a land that loved its bloody games, the building on this site had housed an actual cockpit, where Henry and his friends brought their prize birds and wagered which would tear the others to shreds. The present building had replaced the real cockpit, but this room retained the old name and atmosphere. The victim today was expected to depart with his reputation in tatters, his fortune possibly forfeit, his life conceivably at peril. Nor was that the extent of the stakes. Two days earlier the December packet ship from Boston had arrived with an alarming report from the royal governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson. The governor described an organized assault on three British vessels carrying tea of the East India Company. The assailants, townsmen loosely disguised as Indians, had boarded the ships, hauled hundreds of tea casks to deck, smashed them open, and dumped their contents into the harbor forty-five tons of tea, enough to litter the beaches for miles and depress the company's profits for years. This rampage was the latest in a series of violent outbursts against the authority of Crown and Parliament; the audience in the Cockpit, and in London beyond, demanded to know what Crown and Parliament intended to do about it. Alexander Wedderburn was going to tell them. The solicitor general possessed great rhetorical gifts and greater ambition. The former had made him the most feared advocate in the realm; the latter lifted him to his present post when he abandoned his allies in the opposition and embraced the ministry of Lord North. Wedderburn was known to consider the Boston tea riot treason, and if the law courts upheld his interpretagtion, those behind the riot would be liable to the most severe sanctions, potentially including death. Wedderburn was expected to argue that the man in the Cockpit today was the prime mover behind the outburst in Boston. The crowd quivered with anticipation. They all knew the man in the pit; indeed, the whole world knew Benjamin Franklin. His work as political agent for several of the American colonies had earned him recognition around London, but his fame far transcended that. He was, quite simply, one of the most illustrious scientists and thinkers on earth. His experiments with electricity, culminating in his capture of lightning from the heavens, had won him universal praise as the modern Prometheus. His mapping of the Gulf Stream saved the time and lives of countless sailors. His ingenious fireplace conserved fuel and warmed homes on both sides of the Atlantic. His contributions to economics, meteorology, music, and psychology expanded the reach of human knowledge and the grip of human power. For his accomplishments the British Royal Society had awarded him its highest prize; foreign societies had done the same. Universities queued to grant him degrees. The ablest minds of the age consulted him on matters large and small. Kings and emperors summoned him to court, where they admired his brilliance and basked in its reflected glory. Genius is prone to producing envy. Yet it was part of Franklin's genius that he had produced far less
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2000-06-01:
With all those books about Washington and Lincoln, it's refreshing to see that this Texas A&M history professor has taken on that kite-flying diplomat and Postmaster General, Ben Franklin. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2000-09-04:
"Franklin's story is the story of a manDan exceedingly gifted man and a most engaging one. It is also the story of the birth of AmericaDan America this man discovered in himself, then helped create in the world at large," says Texas A&M historian Brands (T.R.: The Last Romantic, etc.) in the prologue to his stunning new work. Franklin's father took him out of school at age 11, but the boy assiduously sacrificed sleep (while working as an apprentice printer) to read and learn, giving himself rigorous exercises to develop his ease with language and discourse, among other disciplines. In essence, as Brands vividly demonstrates, Franklin defined the Renaissance man. He made multiple contributions to science (electricity, meteorology), invention (bifocal lenses, the Franklin furnace) and civic institutions (the American Philosophical Society, the University of Pennsylvania, the U.S. Post Office). But Brands is primarily concerned with Franklin's development as a thinker, politician and statesman and places his greatest emphasis there. In particular, Brands does an excellent job of capturing Franklin's exuberant versatility as a writer who adopted countless personaeDevidence of his gift for seeing the world through a variety of different lensesDthat not only predestined his prominence as a man of letters but also as an agile man of politics. From Franklin's progress as a self-declared "Briton"Dserving as London agent for Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and other coloniesDto his evolution as an American (wartime minister to France, senior peace negotiator with Britain and, finally, senior participant at the Constitutional Convention), Brands, with admirable insight and arresting narrative, constructs a portrait of a complex and influential man ("only Washington mattered as much") in a highly charged world. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Choice on 2001-02-01:
This is a comprehensive biography of Franklin--it includes topics as diverse as Franklin's family life, vocations as printer and author, scientific interests and discoveries, political careers in Pennsylvania and the US, and his diplomatic career in the Revolution. The biography will certainly lead the reader to appreciate that Franklin was a polymath and Renaissance man. On the other hand, the author omits topics that would have interested Franklin scholars. Missing are almost all historiographical controversies over Franklin: Franklin the model bourgeois man, the detractor of German Pennsylvanians and Quakers, the danger to Native Americans, or the compromising, self-serving politician. The book contains little scholarly apparatus and a minimum of citations, mostly of Franklin's published papers. Brands provides no overarching thesis about Franklin and strikes out in no new direction. Given the book's air of triumphal progress, Franklin would enjoy this biography. The readers for whom this work appears intended are, therefore, people coming to learn about Franklin for the first time. It is not appropriate for students beyond the undergraduate level, and since it is over 700 pages long, it is not likely that undergraduates will easily take to reading it. J. D. Marietta; University of Arizona
Reviews
Review Quotes
Advance Praise forThe First American "A vivid yet thorough account, endlessly fascinating, of America's most multidimensional 18th-century man, in all his diverse roles." -James MacGregor Burns, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winningRoosevelt: The Lion and the Fox "H. W. Brands is a master storyteller. With a wit, originality, and erudition to rival his subject's, Brands gives us Benjamin Franklin living. This is biography at its most riveting-as intimate as a dinner party, albeit one attended by the greatest figures of their age." -Richard Norton Smith, author of Patriarch: George Washington and theNew American Nation, director of the Gerald R. Ford Museum "H. W. Brands, tucked away in America's Texas heartland, has quietly been establishing himself as a chronicler of the American experience, with understated and comprehensive books about the Cold War, the 1890s, and Teddy Roosevelt.The First Americanis an extension of that effort. Brands, somewhat like the late Barbara Tuchman, understands that the public interest is best served by general, narrative histories-not by arcane monographs." -Robert D. Kaplan, author of theNew York TimesbestsellerBalkan Ghosts, winner of the Pulitzer Prize "The First Americanis a fast-paced, skillfully written biography of the always glittering Benjamin Franklin. The reader can only marvel at the multifarious Renaissance hats Franklin wore simultaneously: journalist, father, inventor, provocateur, moralist, ladies' man, diplomat, propagandist, revolutionary, tinkerer, and humorist. Another truly inspired work by one of America's best historians." -Douglas Brinkley, author of Dean Acheson:The Cold War Years, director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies, professor of history at the University of New Orleans Critical Acclaim forT.R: The Last Romantic "H. W. Brands has written a rip-roaring life of Theodore Roosevelt. Every red-blooded American should read this entertaining book." -Paul Johnson,The Wall Street Journal "An energetic and capacious biography...Brands has mined the prodigious treasure of letters, diaries, and published writings of the man more assiduously than anyone else I can think of. T.R. will stand for some time as the standard one-volume life." -Washington Post Book World
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Library Journal, June 2000
Library Journal, September 2000
Publishers Weekly, September 2000
Wall Street Journal, September 2000
New York Times Book Review, October 2000
Washington Post, January 2001
Boston Globe, February 2001
Choice, February 2001
Reference & Research Book News, February 2001
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Publisher Fact Sheet
Abrilliant scientist, businessman, philosopher, writer, inventor, diplomat, politician, & wit, Benjamin Franklin was the most celebrated American of his age. His circle of friends & acquaintances extended from Voltaire to Hume, Newton, & Kant. His experiments with electricity & the weather were the talk of scientific circles on both sides of the Atlantic, & among his inventions were the lightning rod & the Franklin stove. The leading printer in the colonies & longtime Philadelphia civil leader, he created the first fire department in the city, wrote the bestseller Poor Richard's Almanac, served as Postmaster General and, in the process, completely modernized the mail service. A bon vivant & ladies' man in London & later Paris, he matched wits with Parliament & the Crown on behalf of the colonists a decade before the Revolution, & wooed the king of France to the American cause during the Revolutionary War. It was the diplomatic alliances he forged & funds he raised in France on behalf of Congress that allowed George Washington to continue to fight in the battlefield. As The First American makes clear, Franklin was, in every respect, America's first Renaissance man. H. W. Brands draws on previously unpublished letters to & by Franklin, as well as the recollections & anecdotes of Franklin's contemporaries, to create a rich & engaging portrait of the eighteenth-century genius who helped to inform & transform the nascent nation. Arguing that Franklin was the pivotal figure in colonial & revolutionary America, Brands discusses his impact on the politics of Pennsylvania & the other colonies, & traces his gradual transformation from reluctant revolutionary to charismatic leader in the fight for independence. He describes Franklin's central role in crafting the Declaration of Independence, in winning a crucial alliance with France during the war, & in persuading antagonistic factions to join together to ratify the Constitution. The First American is a major contribution to understanding Franklin & the world in which he lived & helped to shape.
Unpaid Annotation
The first major biography of Benjamin Franklin in more than sixty years, The First American is history on a grand scale -- a work of meticulous scholarship and a thoroughly engaging portrait of the foremost American of his day.Diplomat, scientist, philosopher, businessman, inventor, wit, and bon vivant, Benjamin Franklin was in every respect America's first Renaissance man. The eighteenth-century genius comes to life in this masterwork by acclaimed historian H. W. Brands, whose access to previously unpublished letters and a host of other sources makes this the definitive biography.A much-needed reminder of Franklin's greatness and humanity, The First American provides a magnificent tour of a legendary historical figure, the countless arenas in which the protean Franklin left his legacy, and a pivotal era in American life.
Main Description
In the first comprehensive biography of Benjamin Franklin in over sixty years, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands brings vividly to life one of the most delightful, bawdy, brilliant, original, and important figures in American history. A groundbreaking scientist, leading businessman, philosopher, bestselling author, inventor, diplomat, politician, and wit, Benjamin Franklin was perhaps the most beloved and celebrated American of his age, or indeed of any age. Now, in a beautifully written and meticulously researched account of Franklin's life and times, his clever repartee, generous spirit, and earthy wisdom are brought compellingly to the page. His circle of friends and acquaintances extended around the globe, from Cotton Mather to Voltaire, from Edmund Burke to King George III, from Sir Isaac Newton to Immanuel Kant. Franklin was gifted with a restless curiosity, and his scientific experiments with electric currents and the weather made him the leading pioneer in the new field of electricity on both sides of the Atlantic; among his many inventions were the lightning rod, the Franklin stove, and the harmonica, a musical instrument that became the rage of Europe. From his humble beginnings in Boston as a printer's apprentice, he became, within two decades, the leading printer and one of the most important businessmen in the Colonies. A longtime Philadelphia civic leader, he created Philadelphia's first fire department, wrote the bestsellerPoor Richard's Almanac, served as Postmaster General for the Colonies, and in the process, completely modernized the mail service. A bon vivant and ladies' man throughout his life, he matched wits with Parliament and the Crown during the decade leading up to the Stamp Act; and as the official agent to Parliament, representing several of the Colonies, he helped push the Colonies into open rebellion. Tracing Franklin's gradual transformation from reluctant revolutionary to charismatic leader in the fight for independence, Brands convincingly argues that on the issue of revolution, as Franklin went, so went America. During the Revolutionary War, Franklin was charged by Congress with wooing the King of France to the American cause, and it was the diplomatic alliances he forged and funds he raised in France that allowed the Continental Army to continue to fight on the battlefield. In his final years, as president of the Constitutional Convention, it was Franklin who held together the antagonistic factions and persuaded its members to sign the Constitution. Drawing on previously unpublished letters to and from Franklin, as well as the recollections and anecdotes of Franklin's contemporaries, H. W. Brands has created a rich and compelling portrait of the eighteenth-century genius who was in every respect America's first Renaissance man, and arguably the pivotal figure in colonial and revolutionary America. A fascinating and richly textured biography of the man who was perhaps the greatest of our Founding Fathers, The First American is history on a grand scale, as well as a major contribution to understanding Franklin and the world he helped to shape.
Main Description
In the first comprehensive biography of Benjamin Franklin in over sixty years, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands brings vividly to life one of the most delightful, bawdy, brilliant, original, and important figures in American history. A groundbreaking scientist, leading businessman, philosopher, bestselling author, inventor, diplomat, politician, and wit, Benjamin Franklin was perhaps the most beloved and celebrated American of his age, or indeed of any age. Now, in a beautifully written and meticulously researched account of Franklin's life and times, his clever repartee, generous spirit, and earthy wisdom are brought compellingly to the page. His circle of friends and acquaintances extended around the globe, from Cotton Mather to Voltaire, from Edmund Burke to King George III, from Sir Isaac Newton to Immanuel Kant. Franklin was gifted with a restless curiosity, and his scientific experiments with electric currents and the weather made him the leading pioneer in the new field of electricity on both sides of the Atlantic; among his many inventions were the lightning rod, the Franklin stove, and the harmonica, a musical instrument that became the rage of Europe. From his humble beginnings in Boston as a printer's apprentice, he became, within two decades, the leading printer and one of the most important businessmen in the Colonies. A longtime Philadelphia civic leader, he created Philadelphia's first fire department, wrote the bestseller Poor Richard's Almanac, served as Postmaster General for the Colonies, and in the process, completely modernized the mail service. A bon vivant and ladies' man throughout his life, he matched wits with Parliament and the Crown during the decade leading up to the Stamp Act; and as the official agent to Parliament, representing several of the Colonies, he helped push the Colonies into open rebellion. Tracing Franklin's gradual transformation from reluctant revolutionary to charismatic leader in the fight for independence, Brands convincingly argues that on the issue of revolution, as Franklin went, so went America. During the Revolutionary War, Franklin was charged by Congress with wooing the King of France to the American cause, and it was the diplomatic alliances he forged and funds he raised in France that allowed the Continental Army to continue to fight on the battlefield. In his final years, as president of the Constitutional Convention, it was Franklin who held together the antagonistic factions and persuaded its members to sign the Constitution. Drawing on previously unpublished letters to and from Franklin, as well as the recollections and anecdotes of Franklin's contemporaries, H. W. Brands has created a rich and compelling portrait of the eighteenth-century genius who was in every respect America's first Renaissance man, and arguably the pivotal figure in colonial and revolutionary America. A fascinating and richly textured biography of the man who was perhaps the greatest of our Founding Fathers, The First American is history on a grand scale, as well as a major contribution to understanding Franklin and the world he helped to shape.
Table of Contents
Prologue: January 29, 1774p. 1
Boston Beginnings: 1706-23p. 9
Friends and Other Strangers: 1723-24p. 35
London Once: 1724-26p. 60
An Imprint of His Own: 1726-30p. 82
Poor Richard: 1730-35p. 106
Citizen: 1735-40p. 132
Arc of Empire: 1741-48p. 157
Electricity and Fame: 1748-51p. 187
A Taste of Politics: 1751-54p. 207
Join or Die: 1754-55p. 228
The People's Colonel: 1755-57p. 252
A Larger Stage: 1757-58p. 272
Imperialist: 1759-60p. 290
Briton: 1760-62p. 308
Rising in the West: 1762-64p. 331
Stamps and Statesmanship: 1764-66p. 359
Duties and Pleasures: 1766-67p. 378
Reason and Riot: 1768-69p. 398
The Rift Widens: 1770-71p. 422
To Kick a Little: 1772-73p. 444
The Cockpit: 1774-75p. 464
Rebel: 1775-76p. 491
Salvation in Paris: 1776-78p. 520
Bonhomme Richard: 1778-79p. 545
Minister Plenipotentiary: 1779-81p. 571
Blessed Work: 1781-82p. 597
Savant: 1783-85p. 621
Home: 1785-86p. 643
Sunrise at Dusk: 1786-87p. 666
To Sleep: 1787-90p. 692
Epilogue: April 17, 1990p. 712
Source Notesp. 717
Acknowledgmentsp. 743
Indexp. 745
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

This information is provided by a service that aggregates data from review sources and other sources that are often consulted by libraries, and readers. The University does not edit this information and merely includes it as a convenience for users. It does not warrant that reviews are accurate. As with any review users should approach reviews critically and where deemed necessary should consult multiple review sources. Any concerns or questions about particular reviews should be directed to the reviewer and/or publisher.

  link to old catalogue

Report a problem