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Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography ends in 1758, some thirty years before he died. Those three decades included some of the statesman’s greatest triumphs, yet instead of including them in his memoir, Franklin spent the years continually revising his original text. Paul Zall has created a new autobiographical account of Franklin’s entire life. By returning to a newly recovered early draft of the Autobiography, he strips away later layers of moralizing to reveal the story as Franklin first wrote it: how a poor boy from Boston used words and hard work to become America’s first world-class citizen. To cover Franklin’s career as a diplomat and as the only signatory of all three key documents of the American Revolution, Zall interweaves autobiographical comments from Franklin’s personal letters and private journals. Franklin emerges as different from the common perception of him as a crafty “Man of Reason.” His raw words reveal the bitter infighting among both British and American politicians and his personal struggle with his son’s choice of the opposite side in the fight for the future of two countries. Without the veneer of second thoughts, his lifelong struggle to control his temper carries greater poignancy, as do his later years spent nursing his wounded pride. Susceptible to both fallibility and frustration, the honest Franklin depicted in his own words nevertheless remains an uncommon common man, perhaps even more so than previously thought.
"Franklin’s is a good life story and Zall puts it together well."—Barbara Oberg
"A strikingly revealing, unvarnished portrait of one of our most beloved and seemingly benign Founding Fathers."—Booklist
"This edition and the comparison of texts make one of America’s most fascinating men yet more fascinating."—Choice
"Does an excellent job of allowing Franklin’s own words to reveal the major events and emotions in his life."—Library Journal
"Shows us a rawer, franker, more human and vulnerable Franklin."—Louisville Courier-Journal
"A refreshing take on one of the most studied classics in American literature, Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography. Zall provides a new approach to understanding the Founding Father’s famous memoir . . . by filling in the many lacunae in the text and providing what Franklin never got to: the end of the story."—Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
"Few scholars equal Zall in knowledge and understanding of Franklin’s works….an excellent book."—Robert Middlekauff
"Since Franklin completed [his autobiography] in his middle 40s, with over four more decades of a busy and important life ahead of him, the work was incomplete. No longer. Zall . . . begins where Franklin left off, using only authentic Franklin notes."—USA Today Magazine
"Leave it to Paul M. Zall, preeminent research scholar, intellectual, and historian, to present Benjamin Franklin in an innovative style that goes beyond a simple biography. . . . Gives us new insight into the internal struggles of a truly great American."—White House Studies
"American history enthusiasts will truly enjoy the intimate portrait of an American icon with Paul M. Zall’s excellent biography."—WTBF Radio
The University Press of Kentucky
Place of Publication
Benjamin Franklin, Statesmen, American Revolution, Founding fathers
United States History
Franklin, Benjamin and Zall, Paul M., "Franklin on Franklin" (2005). United States History. 112.