Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was a man of
genius that transcends the centuries

Benjamin Franklin

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"Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that's the stuff life is made of." These words, penned by one of the most famous of the American founding fathers, Ben Franklin, summed up his view of life and the world.

While most of us have a view of this incredible man as the little chubby, balding man with glasses, this is a somewhat misdirected view of a spirited man of many talents. The History Channel has done something that has been sorely needed, a factual, unvarnished account of one of the most pivotal men in American history. Among the founding fathers perhaps only Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin would actually fit in today. Franklin was a man of genius that transcends the centuries and this profile does a remarkable job of showing us the true man behind the odd haircut and glasses.

The mention of Franklin’s name usually evokes the image of a man standing in a thunderstorm holding a kite string attached to a kite. Perhaps, if you’ve seen the film or play 1776 you envision a portly little man that worked behind the scenes to ensure the birth of this nation. While both are true they only scratch the surface of his accomplishments. Ben Franklin was the tenth of seventeen children, born to a humble candle maker. As he grew he was apprenticed to his older brother in a printing shop. Franklin was unable to abide by such a situation he ran off, technically making him a fugitive for leaving his indentures, to the city of Philadelphia. It was there he would begin his successful quest to make an indelible mark not only on this new nation but on the world. Franklin began working as a journeyman printer but by the time his mid twenties had arrived he owned and operated one of the most successful printing shops in the city. Franklin was a man of obvious self promotion, often seen pushing is cart of printer’s paper around, letting people know he comes in early to work and stays late. While self promotion is often misused, here Franklin was only stating the facts; he was an industrious young man.

Long before our current trend of self help books Franklin set out on a program to improve his nature. He actually charted his progress in twelve admirable qualities of the human spirit, only to determine that his he was successful he would fail at the 12th quality, humility. It was this realization that his nature could be directed and moderated but not changed that would allow him the balance to achieve a level of greatest few could aspire to.

Benjamin Franklin was not only a man of letter and science but one possessed by a lusty nature. He was without a doubt a ladies man. His penchant for ‘low women’ a politically correct term in the 18th century for prostitutes and ‘easy’ young ladies, Franklin wrote that he was thankful for not contracting a venereal disease. This fear may have manifested Franklin but is did little to deter his enthusiasm for the gentle gender. His unconventional ways manifested often in his person life as evident by his common law marriage to Deborah Read. Here was a man that felt life was for the taking and he grabbed at it with both hands.

Benjamin Franklin was truly a Renaissance man, author, philosopher, scientist, inventor and statesman. His accomplishments ranged from creating the first fire department, the first lending library, the first secular college and forging peace between the youthful nation and countries in Europe. Today Benjamin Franklin would be up there with Henry Kissinger, a man that loved America, life and women. Kissinger once wrote that power is the absolute aphrodisiac; perhaps he had not only himself in mind but Benjamin Franklin as well. Benjamin Franklin recognized the dual nature of man and rather than fighting it he worked with it, directed it and ultimately created a persona known throughout the world and through the ages. This production by the History Channel tells the full story, even the less politically correct aspects of his life. I don’t think Benjamin Franklin would want it any other way. Benjamin Franklin didn’t seem like the type of man that lived with regrets, he was always moving on from one project to another.

The format of the Benjamin Franklin presentation is typical of the History Channel and it works. They make history come alive, entertaining while educating. They present a mixture of talking head experts laying the foundation of the Benjamin Franklin story with re-enactments that are historically accurate and enjoyable to watch. Most American history classes focus only on the later part of Benjamin Franklin’s life, here we see him practically cradle to grave. To know only one portion of his life would be like reading only a chapter or two of a great novel. Sure you can see the genius of the work but only by taking it all in can you have a full appreciation. A&E gives us this full perspective of Benjamin Franklin’s life. If alive today Benjamin Franklin would graced the covers of every tabloid for his more libidinous feats while simultaneously published in scientific journals of almost every discipline.

The production qualities of Benjamin Franklin are excellent. The video is clear, colors vibrant and alive. The sound brings history to life. There is a great sense of pacing here, rivaling many films. You never have to sit through a lot of experts expounding dry facts, the inclusion of the live action gives a feeling of being there watching the events first hand. A few pages in a musty American history textbook can not even begin to tell this biography. Here was a man that helped to build a nation and shape the modern world. At last we have a treatment of this life that Benjamin Franklin would have approved of. Benjamin Franklin would have watched this program with his trademark sly smile, equally fascinated with the presentation of his life and the use of his theories on electricity. All to often such men are underestimated in history classes all over the country. Finally we get the full story. The History Channel is once again to be commended for their choice of subjects and their decision to present his life in his fashion. Turn off so called reality television for an evening and watch something with style and substance for a change.

Movie Review of Benjamin Franklin by Doug MacLean of

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