Not Your Usual Founding Father


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Selected Readings from Benjamin Franklin

Edited by Edmund S. Morgan

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This engaging book reveals Benjamin Franklin’s human side—his tastes and habits, his enthusiasms, and his devotion to democracy and the people of the United States. Three hundred years after his birth, we may remember Franklin’s famous Autobiography, or his status as framer of the Declaration of Independence and the peace with Great Britain, or his experiments in electricity, or perhaps his sage advice on diligence and thrift. But historian Edmund S. Morgan invites us to meet the man himself, a sociable, good-natured, and extraordinary  human being with boundless curiosity about the natural world and a vision of what America could be.

Drawing on lifelong research in the vast Franklin archives, Morgan assembles both famous and lesser-known writings that offer insights into this founding father’s thinking. The book is organized around four major themes, each with an introduction. The first section includes journal excerpts and letters revealing Franklin’s personal tastes and habits. The second is devoted to Franklin’s inexhaustible intellectual energy and his scientific discoveries. The third and fourth chronicle his devotion to serving the people who became the United States both before and after the Revolution and to advancing his democratic vision of their future. Franklin’s humanity and genius have never seemed more real than in the pages of this appealing anthology.

Edmund S. Morgan is Sterling Professor of History Emeritus, Yale University, the author of a best-selling biography of Franklin, and the recipient of many awards for his previous books, including the Bancroft Prize, the Francis Parkman Prize, the Albert J. Beveridge Award, and the Colonial Dames of America Annual Book Award. He is a longtime member of the administrative board of The Papers of Benjamin Franklin.

"A fine collection, greatly enhanced by Morgan's sprightly and readable introductions."—Gordon S. Wood, Brown University

"Edmund Morgan, the most distinguished of Benjamin Franklin's scholars and fans, has put together a glorious compendium of his writings that reminds us how delightful and witty he was. You will be mesmerized—and find out what that word really means!"—Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

“What James Boswell did for Samuel Johnson, Edmund Morgan has now done for Benjamin Franklin, here allowing us into a conversation that brings the great man to life in all his Protean splendor.”—Joseph J. Ellis, author of Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation



“Of all the truly great American historians, Edmund S. Morgan comes closest to capturing the spirit of Benjamin Franklin's prose in his own work: enlightening, plain, witty, democratic, cosmopolitan, and crafty in the best sense of the word.  Here he arranges an expert's tour through Franklin's writings, offering readers a continual Christmas.”—Sean Wilentz, author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln



"There is perhaps no man in America as suited to selecting a single volume’s worth of Benjamin Franklin’s works than Yale historian Edmund S. Morgan. . . . A fine collection of Franklin’s writings that serves as a more-than-adequate introduction to the man or as a delightful complement to a good biography. This volume includes some of the writings with which those who read Franklin are fairly familiar, but also some unexpected gems. It is well-measured proportionally to give a sense of Franklin’s widely-varying interests and the many roles he took on throughout his long career. Morgan’s introductory notes and commentary on each section are useful without being overly analytical. . . . A most useful and appropriate collection."—Jeremy Dibbel, PhiloBiblos

"[Morgan] has expertly chosen letters and other items that best reveal the inner Franklin. . . . Morgan’s witty and insightful introductions to each section are a match for Franklin’s own masterful way with words. He manages to combine scholarly erudition with humor and stylistic grace, making this book a sheer delight. Highly recommended for all public libraries."—Library Journal (starred review)

"Edmund Morgan, who is the dean of Benjamin Franklin scholars, has done it again with Not Your Unusual Founding Father, a rich volume of Franklin’s writings."—Dennis Lythgoe, Deseret Morning News

“Mr. Morgan takes us on a journey as Franklin’s youthful mind—full of questions, speculations and juvenile skepticism—evolves, matures and expands like some galactic supernova.”—James Srodes, Washington Times


Edmund S. Morgan, has been honored with a 2006 special citation from the Pulitzer board for what Pulitzer officials described as "his creative and deeply influential body of work as an American historian that spans the last half century."

Selected as a 2007 AAUP University Press Book for Public and Secondary School Libraries.
ISBN: 9780300113945
Publication Date: November 15, 2006
320 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
14 b/w illus.
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Volume 25: October 1, 1777, through February 28, 1778

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The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 27

Volume 27: July 1 through October 31, 1778

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The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 26

Volume 26: March 1 through June 30, 1778

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The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 23

Volume 23: October 27, 1776, through April 30, 1777

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The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 24

Volume 24: May 1, 1777, through September 30, 1777

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