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The True Benjamin Franklin   By: (1856-1927)

The True Benjamin Franklin by Sydney George Fisher

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The True Benjamin Franklin


The True Benjamin Franklin

By Sydney George Fisher

Author of "Men, Women, and Manners in Colonial Times," "The Making of Pennsylvania," "The Evolution of the Constitution," etc.

"If rigid moral analysis be not the purpose of historical writing, there is no more value in it than in the fictions of mythological antiquity." CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, SR.



Philadelphia J. B. Lippincott Company 1903




Preface to the Third Edition

Since the appearance of the first edition there has been some discussion of the question whether Mrs. Foxcroft was really Franklin's daughter. In the present edition I have added an appendix going fully into this question.

Franklin's plain language about love and marriage and his very frank descriptions of his own shortcomings in these matters seem to have surprised many people. I might have explained this more fully in the first edition, but to any one who knows the age in which Franklin lived there is nothing that need cause surprise.

It was an age of frank autobiographies and plain, detailed, introspective statements about love affairs. Rousseau flourished in those days, also Gozzi and Madame Roland; and Casanova began writing his most extraordinary memoirs just about the time of Franklin's death. Anyone who is at all familiar with these authors will readily understand why Franklin wrote his "Advice on the Choice of a Mistress." His "Speech of Polly Baker" was of the same sort. It had a most extraordinary circulation because people were then looking at these matters from that point of view. The philosophic thought of that age was somewhat inclining to the opinion, since then much developed by German theorists like Nietzche, that religion had made love impure. Franklin, as at page 106, was also inclining that way.

Such things must be mentioned and given their proper position and importance in a book calling itself "The True Benjamin Franklin." There are many books describing the false Franklin, the impossible Franklin, the Franklin that never existed, and could not in the nature of things exist, and to these books those who do not like the truth are referred.


This analysis of the life and character of Franklin has in view a similar object to that of the volume entitled "The True George Washington," which was prepared for the publishers by Mr. Paul Leicester Ford and issued a year or two ago.

Washington sadly needed to be humanized, to be rescued from the myth making process which had been destroying all that was lovable in his character and turning him into a mere bundle of abstract qualities which it was piously supposed would be wholesome examples for the American people. This assumption that our people are children who must not be told the eternal truths of human nature, but deceived into goodness by wooden heroes and lay figures, seems, fortunately, to be passing away, and in a few years it will be a strange phase to look back upon.

So thorough and systematic has been the expurgating during the last century that some of its details are very curious. It is astonishing how easily an otherwise respectable editor or biographer can get himself into a state of complete intellectual dishonesty. It is interesting to follow one of these literary criminals and see the minute care with which he manufactures an entirely new and imaginary being out of the real man who has been placed in his hands... Continue reading book >>

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