Ben Franklin issued a challenge to future biographers by writing his own, very popular autobiography. This attempt by Walter Isaacson falls far short. It is really more of a quick sketch, never spending too much time in any one area of Franklin’s life, and never giving much evidence of Isaacson having done much original research. There are also several assertions throughout that aspects of the popular image of Franklin are incorrect, without any real arguments to back them.

A few things that you might not know about Franklin:

  • In 1756, wealthy after retiring from his printing business, Franklin funded a private militia to defend Pennsylvania’s settlers from Native Americans. This suggests that at least one founder did not have states in mind when he read the phrasing of the Second Amendment.
  • Throughout the lead-up to the American Revolution, Franklin attempted to find a series of compromises such as an American Congress that was loyal to the king. However, once he decided to support a war for independence he was one of the strongest advocates of the cause.
  • Many of the phrases in Poor Richard were not original, but polished to be more memorable. Franklin was an early student of memes.