First Principles - What America's Founders Learned from the Greeks and Romans and How That Shaped Our Country -- A Comprehensive Summary
It took more than a millennium before Europe’s centuries of learning and creativity produced the Renaissance, that golden era when human intellect shone a bright light that cast out the shadows of the Dark Ages. The pace was a little faster in the New World. Less than two hundred years after the first English settlers set foot on the continent of North America, the United States had produced a Renaissance man, a man of humble beginnings who boldly left his mark in politics, science, education, philosophy, diplomacy, and innovation. That he was able to be so versatile is both a tribute to his natural intelligence and character and a testament to his homeland's inventiveness. All subsequent civilizations indeed build upon what went before. Still, Europe's legacy was so rigid that, to rise to a position of status, a man needed either his august lineage or wealthy and influential patrons.
There was no religious institute of education for Benjamin Franklin to provide him with learning; there was no vast store of wealth to bankroll him. He was, in fact, deliberately and enthusiastically, a member of the middle class, a man who had pulled himself up by his bootstraps and then figured out a way, metaphorically, to make a better bootstrap. He was thrifty, patriotic, intelligent, and virtuous; he had a common-law wife, an illegitimate son, and a reputation as a flirt among the ladies of France, who adored him when he was well past the age for such dalliances. He was a pragmatist, a writer, a statesman, a scientist, an inventor, a philanthropist, a citizen; Benjamin Franklin was so many things that it took eighty-four years for him to bring them all to fruition.
Benjamin Franklin, an American, is a legend. He is also endearingly, unmistakably human. Meet the man who was his nation’s first celebrity and discover how Franklin, who has been called “The First American,” remains a fascinating man whose personality has not been dimmed by the passage of time. View him in his ordinary, eighteenth-century garb and posture, but don’t be fooled: Benjamin Franklin is part of every American entrepreneur, innovator, and crusader who has ever lived because his virtues came not from his time, but from the timelessness of his talents and the boundless rejuvenation of his native soil.
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