Founding Brothers

by

Joseph J. Ellis

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Benjamin Franklin Character Analysis

Benjamin Franklin was the oldest member of the Founding Fathers. Aside from serving as a politician, Franklin was also an author, publisher, scientist, and activist. In the period that the book covers, Franklin was already old and frail. He mainly appears through his involvement with the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, which delivered a petition to Congress calling for the immediate abolition of slavery. The fact that Franklin signed the petition gave it significantly more authority than it otherwise would have had. He died in 1790.

Benjamin Franklin Quotes in Founding Brothers

The Founding Brothers quotes below are all either spoken by Benjamin Franklin or refer to Benjamin Franklin. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Conflict vs. Compromise Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Founding Brothers published in 2002.
Chapter 3 Quotes

What Voltaire was to France, Franklin was to America, the symbol of mankind’s triumphal arrival at modernity. When the two great philosopher-kings embraced amid the assembled throngs of Paris, the scene created a sensation, as if the gods had landed on earth and declared the dawning of the Enlightenment. The greatest American scientist, the most deft diplomat, the most accomplished prose stylist, the sharpest wit, Franklin defied all the categories by inhabiting them all with such distinction and nonchalant grace.

Related Characters: Benjamin Franklin
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:
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Benjamin Franklin Character Timeline in Founding Brothers

The timeline below shows where the character Benjamin Franklin appears in Founding Brothers. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Preface: The Generation
Conflict vs. Compromise Theme Icon
Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
The Personal vs. The Political Theme Icon
Present vs. Hindsight Theme Icon
...“eight most prominent political leaders” of the time: Abigail and John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington. The book focuses on a series... (full context)
Chapter 3: The Silence
Conflict vs. Compromise Theme Icon
Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
Patriotism and American Values Theme Icon
...and challenged the constitutional ban on restricting the slave trade. It was signed by Benjamin Franklin. (full context)
Conflict vs. Compromise Theme Icon
Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
Franklin’s support meant that Madison was wrong; the problem would not go away simply by ignoring... (full context)
Conflict vs. Compromise Theme Icon
Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
The Personal vs. The Political Theme Icon
Patriotism and American Values Theme Icon
In March 1790, Benjamin Franklin was weak and unwell, though had lived so long that he seemed “immortal.” He had... (full context)
Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
The Personal vs. The Political Theme Icon
Present vs. Hindsight Theme Icon
Patriotism and American Values Theme Icon
Franklin argued that slavery violated the ideals of the revolution, and wrote a scathing parody of... (full context)
Conflict vs. Compromise Theme Icon
Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
The Personal vs. The Political Theme Icon
Present vs. Hindsight Theme Icon
...have been too late to institute gradual emancipation. Yet it is beyond question that when Franklin died on April 17, 1790, the possibility of gradual emancipation died with him. (full context)
Chapter 4: The Farewell
Conflict vs. Compromise Theme Icon
Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
The Personal vs. The Political Theme Icon
Present vs. Hindsight Theme Icon
Patriotism and American Values Theme Icon
...1789, at a time when he was the only realistic candidate for the role. After Franklin’s death in 1790, Washington was alone at the top of the “Mount Olympus” of American... (full context)
Chapter 5: The Collaborators
Conflict vs. Compromise Theme Icon
Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
The Personal vs. The Political Theme Icon
Patriotism and American Values Theme Icon
...role in 1776 and 1789. The four people who stood out were George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson; because Washington had already served and Franklin was dead, this... (full context)