I had a problem paying attention to history in high school, and even in college. I did passably well and forgot 90% of what I learned. I was way more focused on biology and astronomy and thought history was boring. As a result, whenever history comes up in conversation I feel way out of the loop and it’s a tad embarrassing.
I’ve been trying to rectify this by reading biographies and I thought it would be like pulling teeth, but it’s been delightfully entertaining – I was not expecting that.
This book was written as though the author actually knew Ben Franklin, there’s a bibliography in the back of the book that’s around 60 pages long, it’s extraordinarily well researched!
It was written in a tone like he was Franklins best friend, and is telling us stories and tidbits from his life not just a list of accomplishments and dates. It actually sounded *almost* like a narrative. I loved this part of it, it actually made a biography hard to put down, which I didn’t know was a thing.
I learned stuff right off the bat from the first page, and this guy lead one of the most interesting lives I’ve ever heard of. If he were a fictional character people would say he was written over the top and not believable.
What I remembered from him in high school was he was an eccentric inventor who was also a politician, I didn’t realize how he almost single handedly developed the city of Philadelphia. He arrived there when the city had ~2,000 people living in it, without paved roads. He developed the school system and the tax system to pay for it – as well as helped out with the first school for black children. He practically invented the police department, taking it from a gang of paid thugs to a tax paid civil service – he did the thing for the fire dept, postal service, and militia. He went from being a Loyalist to King George to an outspoken Rebel who helped develop the Declaration of independence. I mean, there’s about 10001 things I’m leaving off this list too, he dabbled with electricity and developed the lightning rod (which was a big deal back then), and helped develop paper currency.
What I really loved about the author, though, is that he didn’t glance over the negative aspects of Franklin. He had a very hard time maintaining personal and intimate relationships even with his own family. He really did not treat his brother, John, all that well, nor his son William – and his wife died alone. He did own slaves to begin with, and argued that America should be more white. However, later on in life after working with the school for black children he had a change of heart and became an outspoken abolitionist ~100 years before they would be set free.
Holy wow, this guys life was something else