web site hit counter A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America

Availability: Ready to download

In this dazzling work of history, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author follows Benjamin Franklin to France for the crowning achievement of his career "In December of 1776, a small boat delivered an old man to France." So begins an enthralling narrative account of how Benjamin Franklin--seventy years old, without any diplomatic training, and possessed of the most rudimentary Fren In this dazzling work of history, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author follows Benjamin Franklin to France for the crowning achievement of his career "In December of 1776, a small boat delivered an old man to France." So begins an enthralling narrative account of how Benjamin Franklin--seventy years old, without any diplomatic training, and possessed of the most rudimentary French--convinced France, an absolute monarchy, to underwrite America's experiment in democracy. When Franklin stepped onto French soil, he well understood he was embarking on the greatest gamble of his career. By virtue of fame, charisma, and ingenuity, Franklin outmaneuvered British spies, French informers, and hostile colleagues; engineered the Franco-American alliance of 1778; and helped to negotiate the peace of 1783. The eight-year French mission stands not only as Franklin's most vital service to his country but as the most revealing of the man. In A Great Improvisation, Stacy Schiff draws from new and little-known sources to illuminate the least-explored part of Franklin's life. Here is an unfamiliar, unforgettable chapter of the Revolution, a rousing tale of American infighting, and the treacherous backroom dealings at Versailles that would propel George Washington from near decimation at Valley Forge to victory at Yorktown. From these pages emerges a particularly human and yet fiercely determined Founding Father, as well as a profound sense of how fragile, improvisational, and international was our country's bid for independence.


Compare

In this dazzling work of history, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author follows Benjamin Franklin to France for the crowning achievement of his career "In December of 1776, a small boat delivered an old man to France." So begins an enthralling narrative account of how Benjamin Franklin--seventy years old, without any diplomatic training, and possessed of the most rudimentary Fren In this dazzling work of history, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author follows Benjamin Franklin to France for the crowning achievement of his career "In December of 1776, a small boat delivered an old man to France." So begins an enthralling narrative account of how Benjamin Franklin--seventy years old, without any diplomatic training, and possessed of the most rudimentary French--convinced France, an absolute monarchy, to underwrite America's experiment in democracy. When Franklin stepped onto French soil, he well understood he was embarking on the greatest gamble of his career. By virtue of fame, charisma, and ingenuity, Franklin outmaneuvered British spies, French informers, and hostile colleagues; engineered the Franco-American alliance of 1778; and helped to negotiate the peace of 1783. The eight-year French mission stands not only as Franklin's most vital service to his country but as the most revealing of the man. In A Great Improvisation, Stacy Schiff draws from new and little-known sources to illuminate the least-explored part of Franklin's life. Here is an unfamiliar, unforgettable chapter of the Revolution, a rousing tale of American infighting, and the treacherous backroom dealings at Versailles that would propel George Washington from near decimation at Valley Forge to victory at Yorktown. From these pages emerges a particularly human and yet fiercely determined Founding Father, as well as a profound sense of how fragile, improvisational, and international was our country's bid for independence.

30 review for A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Shepherd

    I first became aware of Stacy Schiff in 2013 when she was one of the featured commencement speakers at my son's college graduation.  I was so impressed with her that I rushed out and bought 'Cleopatra' - a historical biography that read like an exquisite work of fiction. I was expecting more of the same with 'A Great Improvisation' ...ummm, yes and no.  Whereas Cleopatra is enchanting and rather romantic, AGI is much more academic and intense.  If your interest in American History is casual, I ca I first became aware of Stacy Schiff in 2013 when she was one of the featured commencement speakers at my son's college graduation.  I was so impressed with her that I rushed out and bought 'Cleopatra' - a historical biography that read like an exquisite work of fiction. I was expecting more of the same with 'A Great Improvisation' ...ummm, yes and no.  Whereas Cleopatra is enchanting and rather romantic, AGI is much more academic and intense.  If your interest in American History is casual, I can only predict one of two outcomes: either (A) you won't finish it, or (B) your affinity for colonial history will exponentially increase. So, if you're quite sure you are in the mood for a excruciatingly detailed piece about Benjamin Franklin, his cohorts, and their contributions to the American Revolution, then sit down, saddle-up and strap in. You will not be disappointed.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

    Despite our own self-serving myths about our war for independence, the American revolution did not reflect the action of a single country coming of age. Rather, the revolution marked the debut of the United States onto the global stage where France and the rest of Europe had already been players. The revolution was not so much as “won” by the colonies as by the aid of the French and the blunders by the British. The foreign aid provided by France during the revolution was essential to the outcome Despite our own self-serving myths about our war for independence, the American revolution did not reflect the action of a single country coming of age. Rather, the revolution marked the debut of the United States onto the global stage where France and the rest of Europe had already been players. The revolution was not so much as “won” by the colonies as by the aid of the French and the blunders by the British. The foreign aid provided by France during the revolution was essential to the outcome of the uprising. Critical to getting these funds from the French monarchy was Benjamin Franklin. The story of the eight years he spent in Paris, persuading the French to support the fledgling American army in ways both concrete and symbolic, is the subject of Schiff's book. The story of how it was obtained is fascinating and messy, as diplomacy often is. And in that age, diplomacy and intrigue were separated only by the thinnest of lines. As the title implies, he was open to spontaneous inventiveness when it came to pursuing his goals. Schiff attributes Franklin's success to his laissez-faire attitude, an ability to be logical without being pedantic, and a single-minded approach that both genial and ruthless. There probably was no one else better suited to the posting. George Washington wanted to win the war without French assistance, and John Adams wanted to win without owing anything to France. Franklin, however, simply wanted to win. Franklin and his mission (which he actually opposed at first) are at the center of events in the book, but Schiff's in-depth research and great writing makes us intimate with the labyrinth of colossal personalities and complex issues involved. She effectively shows how Franklin (whose diplomatic credentials were dubious at best given that America was far from a sovereign nation in a technical sense) forged a rocky trans-Atlantic alliance with France. Even after the alliance was fromalized by treaty in 1778, it was unclear whether France would enter the war. And when they did, joint efforts between France and America were far from coordinated. During those years, Franklin lived in houses teeming with both French and British spies, having no secretary except his own adept grandson, and receiving from Congress new emissaries and contradictory or unnecessary directions. We also see how Franklin attempted to adapt to the culture. The French of that day placed a great emphasis on high-minded ideals (conscience, honor, faith, etc.) that, contrary to the heroic and noble mythology that we would like to believe, simply were not widespread in America. Adding to the challenge was the colorful cast of Frenchmen that he had to deal with each day. They ranged from Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, the flamboyant secret agent who provided the colonies with many of their weapons; to the young Marquis de Lafayette, who received the weapons and sailed recklessly to America against the king's orders; to the stubborn British ambassador to Versailles, the Viscount Stormont. The American cast of characters was no less of a challenge to Franklin. His American colleagues in Paris ( some of whom were also supposed to be representing America in France, and some of whom stayed on the congressional payroll but simply never went to their postings in other countries) were full of complaints about Franklin. Schiff paints a vivid picture of the infighting among John Adams (who hated Franklin), John Jay, Richard Izard, Arthur and William Lee, Silas Deane (who hated the French while Franklin still loved Britain), and the various others. Some of Franklin’s colleagues made utter fools of themselves as he attempted to reach his objective. The British launched an aggressive operation to spy on Franklin. The British ran a very effective network of spies in paris that kept Stormont well informed of most of Franklin’s “clandestine” activities. The British spy Edward Edwards was particularly ingenious. Edwards was actually trusted by the Americans and distrusted by his superiors, who spied on him in turn. Through all the back-biting treachery, Franklin (who once satirized Machiavelli) managed to persuade the French government to support the war with its navy, gunpowder, thousands of soldiers, and provide contributions which would amount to something like thirteen billion in today's dollars. Franklin never directly asked for help from the French. Instead he tried to manipulate events in such a way that France would see intervention in the war to be in her own interest.And, when the English finally admitted defeat, Franklin, along with John Jay and John Adams, negotiated a most beneficent peace. This is a fascinating story providing yet another dimension to this supposedly familiar figure. Schiff has written a lively story with a cast of colorful characters and plot twists that could easily compare to a work of historical fiction. An interesting part of the narrative was how the French mission brought out Franklin’s best and worst traits. Franklin was personally averse to intrigue, but there was plenty of it to be had during his time in Paris. During his posting, Franklin displayed the wit, charisma, ingenuity and silkiness that he was known for. At the same time, he could be negligent, manipulative, inconsistent, unmethodical, uncommunicative, and vindictive. “We are commanded to forgive our enemies,” Franklin noted, “but we are nowhere commanded to forgive our friends.” Franklin was like a lightning rod for people with the wildest ideas, not just in America, but in France as well. “I don’t know what it is about our home, “ Franklin’s wife once said, “but not one madman sets foot on the American continent without preceding directly to our front door.” Jean-Paul Marat was but one of the many colorful characters that Franklin attracted. Ms. Schiff masterfully weaves a thousand and more strands and bits of human folly and achievement into a delightful, humorous tale of one man's often erring, sometimes stumbling but ultimate success in helping the colonies become a nation, and gives us a unique view of a man and the difficult birth of his nation. The writing is flowery to the point of exaggeration: "The slippery stew which was a Paris thoroughfare accounted for the city's most singular danger. No man who had the means walked through the filth of the streets, and no man who had the means hired a driver with any respect for the individual who did." But in all, an excellent and thoroughly enjoyable book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    A Great Improvisation provides a focus on the time Benjamin Franklin spent as the American envoy to France negotiating treaties with all the European powers and providing American representation in Versailles. From the intrigues of the court, to the social life of Paris, to the intricate negotiations with not only France but peace with Great Britain and commercial treaties with almost everyother power in Europe. The drawback to this book is the heavy prose that drags on with high amounts of deta A Great Improvisation provides a focus on the time Benjamin Franklin spent as the American envoy to France negotiating treaties with all the European powers and providing American representation in Versailles. From the intrigues of the court, to the social life of Paris, to the intricate negotiations with not only France but peace with Great Britain and commercial treaties with almost everyother power in Europe. The drawback to this book is the heavy prose that drags on with high amounts of detail that includes superfluous words without coming to a quick point. Often times the description is so much that you have to skim just to find the point of the paragraph. The book focuses quite a bit on the relationship between Franklin and many of the French he interacted with and is based on quite a bit of speculation and accounts from those hostile to Franklin. I think this is a book with a lot in it for those willing to take the time to decipher the prose and I did find many great additions to the Franklin myth and legend while also getting a rehash of some of the tried and true Franklin stories. For those who want something only on the time in France this is a great book to take a look at if you have a reference point for what was occurring back home. It is not a great book for those just starting out on this time period in US history. If you want a great primer for Franklin use Issacsson's book for a view of his whole life. Overall though worth the time if you are willing to work through the language.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This one is densely packed with a lot of information. If I were rating it solely on the meticulous quality of the research, I'd probably give it a 5. I'm used to McCullough and Isaacson though, and styles similar to theirs. I'm sure Ms. Schiff is very bright, but she apparently needs to prove it to her readers, resulting in a densely written book, at least for the first half. Once the war was won, it became much more readable and I really enjoyed the second half of the book. Regarding the audio This one is densely packed with a lot of information. If I were rating it solely on the meticulous quality of the research, I'd probably give it a 5. I'm used to McCullough and Isaacson though, and styles similar to theirs. I'm sure Ms. Schiff is very bright, but she apparently needs to prove it to her readers, resulting in a densely written book, at least for the first half. Once the war was won, it became much more readable and I really enjoyed the second half of the book. Regarding the audio performance, I'd say it was well done. Most of the action takes place in France, and I'd say the narrator's pronunciations are absolutely fine. She reads a little slowly, but that's required for this book, at least for the first couple hundred pages. Anyone with a real interest in the Revolutionary period should make time to read this one. There's a lot here to learn, and it's obvious Schiff did her homework. ETA: There's a long cast of characters at the beginning of the book. Very important listing. There are tons of people here. Maybe that's part of the reason I read slower at the beginning also, in addition to getting used to her writing style.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Eschargot

    Had bought this book almost a decade ago. Finally set it free. It covers Franklin's years in France in great detail. The book showcases his ability to deal with the French court with great aplomb and yet struggle in dealing with his own team and Congress. His constant nudging of Vergennes for funding was the bonanza that financed the war of independence and which eventually (and unintentionally) led to the bankruptcy of Louis XVI's France. His taciturnity to the constant distrust, complaining an Had bought this book almost a decade ago. Finally set it free. It covers Franklin's years in France in great detail. The book showcases his ability to deal with the French court with great aplomb and yet struggle in dealing with his own team and Congress. His constant nudging of Vergennes for funding was the bonanza that financed the war of independence and which eventually (and unintentionally) led to the bankruptcy of Louis XVI's France. His taciturnity to the constant distrust, complaining and back biting that his co-commissioners (Arthur/William Lee and John Adams) had with and about him pushed some of them to the point of being unhinged. Adams was, in particular, very scathing when writing about Franklin. In the end I'll just quote the author about Franklin: "He was no less the revolutionary for being a congenial and cool-headed late bloomer. He never allowed himself to be constrained by accepted practice or prevailing ethos; he was always prepared to throw piety out of the window. He preferred dialogue to dogma. To that extent the charges of heresy were in order. The supreme gift was his flexibility. He was the opportunistic envoy from the land of opportunity, that pluralistic singularity that is the United States."

  6. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    In this book, Stacy Schiff covers the trip Benjamin Franklin took to France in order to help America gain its independence from Great Britain. The story is interesting in itself, and needs little for its improvement. However, Schiff is able to use analysis to describe not only what Franklin is doing, but what he is thinking while it is being done. It is an opportunity to meet the man who was so revered in colonial America. As a writer, I was able to learn from Schiff that it is not so much what In this book, Stacy Schiff covers the trip Benjamin Franklin took to France in order to help America gain its independence from Great Britain. The story is interesting in itself, and needs little for its improvement. However, Schiff is able to use analysis to describe not only what Franklin is doing, but what he is thinking while it is being done. It is an opportunity to meet the man who was so revered in colonial America. As a writer, I was able to learn from Schiff that it is not so much what the person is doing, but what they understand those actions to mean. Franklin had his finger on the pulse of posterity, which is made clear in Schiff's depiction. Schiff also showed me that it is possible to take a historical situation and spice it up to make it interesting. Sometimes, however, one must dig deeper to find the hints of interest. This book, while geared toward those who enjoy American history, would also be a great read for people who want to know how America was formed. It shows that there was much more to starting America than simply penning the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    An account of Franklins stay in Paris during and after the Revolutionary War. It is common knowledge that he was there, that he worked for American interests with the French court - but the extent of his influence and how much his actions actually effected the outcome of the war is extraordinary. Franklin himself comes alive in this account, and my thanks to Schiff for keeping him human (and not some infallible hero). Franklin's petulance, love of luxury and 'the good life', his indecision and h An account of Franklins stay in Paris during and after the Revolutionary War. It is common knowledge that he was there, that he worked for American interests with the French court - but the extent of his influence and how much his actions actually effected the outcome of the war is extraordinary. Franklin himself comes alive in this account, and my thanks to Schiff for keeping him human (and not some infallible hero). Franklin's petulance, love of luxury and 'the good life', his indecision and his infamous appetites are a nice juxtaposition to his dedication, drive and immense intelligence, not to mention his limitless love for his country and the American dream.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Diane Wachter

    Did not finish...truly tried to read it alllll the way through! At first I thought maybe I wasn't in the mood for so much history, so I put it down and picked up something light and fun. Picked it up again, but was again put off by how many times I had to check the meaning of the words Ms. Schiff used. Seemed she was trying to impress with difficult words when a common one would have suited much better. Very rarely do I not finish a book I've started. I did struggle to read a quarter of this boo Did not finish...truly tried to read it alllll the way through! At first I thought maybe I wasn't in the mood for so much history, so I put it down and picked up something light and fun. Picked it up again, but was again put off by how many times I had to check the meaning of the words Ms. Schiff used. Seemed she was trying to impress with difficult words when a common one would have suited much better. Very rarely do I not finish a book I've started. I did struggle to read a quarter of this book, but when I found myself looking for other things to do rather then read it, I knew it was time to give up the ghost! 0 Stars - confusing, boring, flowery and definitely not for me!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Enjoyable read about Franklin's peace treaty work with the French. It's not a rosy picture read, Franklin is definitely presented warts and all, but he was apparently the best man for the job, by a large margin. John Adams is usually my favorite founding father, but he shows to bad advantage as a diplomat to a Monarchy. :) It's amazing that the French to give us as much support as they did. Enjoyable read about Franklin's peace treaty work with the French. It's not a rosy picture read, Franklin is definitely presented warts and all, but he was apparently the best man for the job, by a large margin. John Adams is usually my favorite founding father, but he shows to bad advantage as a diplomat to a Monarchy. :) It's amazing that the French to give us as much support as they did.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Good book covering the Revolutionary period in France and how the US got French support.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Pandel

    Fantastic the whole way through!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    It took me a long time to get through this because it was such a fascinating book full of historical facts that the author carefully researched, I didn't want to miss a thing! It's great if you're into American history and want to know what was going on with the American delegates (Franklin, John Jay, John Adams, etc) who were in France trying to get assistance from the French king (Louis XVI) for the American Revolution, while pretending to simply be there on personal vacations (after all, Fran It took me a long time to get through this because it was such a fascinating book full of historical facts that the author carefully researched, I didn't want to miss a thing! It's great if you're into American history and want to know what was going on with the American delegates (Franklin, John Jay, John Adams, etc) who were in France trying to get assistance from the French king (Louis XVI) for the American Revolution, while pretending to simply be there on personal vacations (after all, France was neutral in the beginning so the British Ambassador would have objected to the delegates' presence...which he did often anyway!). The saddest part was reading how it all ended, with Franklin's debts accrued during those eight years never compensated by Congress, the French loans to the American revolutionaries never repaid, and the promised trade agreements between France and the new United States almost immediately broken once America was free of British rule. The irony kills me...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kendra

    A gossipy, fun book to read about America's diplomatic outreach to France during the American Revolution. The author reveals the appealing aspects of Benjamin Franklin's character, but also provides evidence of the contradictions in his life and personality. John Adams doesn't appear to be a very appealing man, but you get a sense of his frustration in playing second fiddle to Franklin. You won't learn much about the battles of the Revolution, but will be treated to the development of the U.S. r A gossipy, fun book to read about America's diplomatic outreach to France during the American Revolution. The author reveals the appealing aspects of Benjamin Franklin's character, but also provides evidence of the contradictions in his life and personality. John Adams doesn't appear to be a very appealing man, but you get a sense of his frustration in playing second fiddle to Franklin. You won't learn much about the battles of the Revolution, but will be treated to the development of the U.S. relationship with France's monarchy, the lifestyle of the French upper class, a bit of the scientifc discoveries of the time (including ballooning) and the immediate ramifications for France and Louis XVI in extending help to the former British colonies in their quest to become independent.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Vicky Hunt

    A detailed political account of Franklin's diplomatic voyage to France that reveals much about the man himself that was never taught in grade school history classes. A very enjoyable telling of history that could have been condensed perhaps by a third less material, and have yet been very thoroughly covered. This has its advantages though, in that the source materials are vetted extensively. Franklin has always been an extremely likeable American, and is even the more so once he is revealed from A detailed political account of Franklin's diplomatic voyage to France that reveals much about the man himself that was never taught in grade school history classes. A very enjoyable telling of history that could have been condensed perhaps by a third less material, and have yet been very thoroughly covered. This has its advantages though, in that the source materials are vetted extensively. Franklin has always been an extremely likeable American, and is even the more so once he is revealed from such a human perspective as that of Stacy Schiff's. I don't really need to say that the reader will likewise learn a great deal about the birth of the United States of America in this book, as well as the people of France.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Richard Subber

    A Great Improvisation has been around for a while, so I’m catching up to another nonstop example of Stacy Schiff’s luscious, lavish, and literate prose. She offers, as usual, stunningly detailed research, and the master’s touch in illuminating the characters of the people whose lives are captured by her pen. Franklin didn’t do it all by himself, of course, but his hand was in much of the good, bad, and sometimes ugly diplomacy of getting the French to help America get started. Once you get started A Great Improvisation has been around for a while, so I’m catching up to another nonstop example of Stacy Schiff’s luscious, lavish, and literate prose. She offers, as usual, stunningly detailed research, and the master’s touch in illuminating the characters of the people whose lives are captured by her pen. Franklin didn’t do it all by himself, of course, but his hand was in much of the good, bad, and sometimes ugly diplomacy of getting the French to help America get started. Once you get started on this historically contextual biography of Benjamin Franklin, you won’t be able to stop. Yes, 489 pages is a bit too long. You can live with it. Read more of my book reviews and poems here: www.richardsubber.com

  16. 5 out of 5

    LemontreeLime

    This is a phenomenal book, covering a part of American history that is downright fascinating and at the same time embarrassing. I am disheartened to know that politics has been as irresponsible from the very beginning as it ever has been. But if nothing else, I am very glad Ben Franklin was who he was, when he was, and where he was. I feel incredibly indebted to the old rascal, and wish I were a little more like him in all the best ways. He wasn't perfect, but he was exactly what was needed. This is a phenomenal book, covering a part of American history that is downright fascinating and at the same time embarrassing. I am disheartened to know that politics has been as irresponsible from the very beginning as it ever has been. But if nothing else, I am very glad Ben Franklin was who he was, when he was, and where he was. I feel incredibly indebted to the old rascal, and wish I were a little more like him in all the best ways. He wasn't perfect, but he was exactly what was needed.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    I found this book a delight to read, rich in detail of personalities especially the French. Schiff does a fine job of setting up in juxtaposition the personalities especially of Adams and Franklin (a legacy with which we continue to struggle) as well as the European monarchies and intrigue with America as newcomer and democracy. Recommended for all interested in the history and founding of the USA as well as America's place in the global political arena. I found this book a delight to read, rich in detail of personalities especially the French. Schiff does a fine job of setting up in juxtaposition the personalities especially of Adams and Franklin (a legacy with which we continue to struggle) as well as the European monarchies and intrigue with America as newcomer and democracy. Recommended for all interested in the history and founding of the USA as well as America's place in the global political arena.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mary Alice

    Here you have absolutely everything little detail of Benjamin Franklin's years as a minister plenipotentiary in France. I must admit I was fascinated, even as Franklin himself was fascinated with every small detail of life, love and science. This is a book for people who are interested in Franklin, his contemporaries in France and Franco-American relations. John Adams comes through as a boor (perhaps unfairly). Here you have absolutely everything little detail of Benjamin Franklin's years as a minister plenipotentiary in France. I must admit I was fascinated, even as Franklin himself was fascinated with every small detail of life, love and science. This is a book for people who are interested in Franklin, his contemporaries in France and Franco-American relations. John Adams comes through as a boor (perhaps unfairly).

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sally

    I read this book long after I finished writing Benjamin Franklin's Bastard, because this book started where mine left off, but as always, I learned something new. There is no end to the depth of this man. I read this book long after I finished writing Benjamin Franklin's Bastard, because this book started where mine left off, but as always, I learned something new. There is no end to the depth of this man.

  20. 5 out of 5

    D

    Magnificent Sparkling, humorous, wonderful prose. Dr. Franklin would approve. One of the best books of its kind I have ever read. Worthy of its marvelous subject.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Treasure I. Moore, Author

    For my first read of this magnitude vis-a-vis American History, I am encouraged to read additional books of similar context. Such writings are on such an elevated plane of thinking, the privilege to have access to such works is an absolute honor. It's unfortunate that a man who seemingly singled handled helped America loosen the grip of Great Britain's stronghold was not given his due appreciation in his lifetime. To that end, there we're other Biblical undertones that were noteworthy. Particula For my first read of this magnitude vis-a-vis American History, I am encouraged to read additional books of similar context. Such writings are on such an elevated plane of thinking, the privilege to have access to such works is an absolute honor. It's unfortunate that a man who seemingly singled handled helped America loosen the grip of Great Britain's stronghold was not given his due appreciation in his lifetime. To that end, there we're other Biblical undertones that were noteworthy. Particularly, it's brought to our attention that we are required to forgive our enemies, not necessarily our friends. The dissecting of such fundamental Biblical principles I found intriguing. If I make friends with everyone, I can maneuver around the act of being disobedient in not having to forgive any transgressors - Clever. As a chess player, it's uplifting to know I could gracefully sit across the table as a formidable competitor to Mr. Franklin. The read prompted my decision to purchase a book on one of the oldest games as well, which will be my first of the sort despite having been an avid player for more than 15 years. As I eluded earlier, although this book may have been very difficult to comprehend at times (most times, honestly), the sheer influence of such information elevates your conscience thinking. Benjamin Franklin had a pragmatic personality and mastered the art of understanding and getting along with people. It's somewhat unreal that he coined the phrase "moral algebra" (apparently the origins of algebra date much further back) so long along ago, which is the act of assembling all arguments at once, rather than to do what comes natural - favoring the most recent set of events or reasons [p17]. His instruction to never challenge a friend was also practical; always to suppose one's friend maybe right till one finds them wrong, rather to suppose them wrong till one finds them right. [p149] Further, "Franklin prided himself to a cardinal rule of human relations - Never contradict anybody" [~p172 - 176] Also, similar to my own personality, Franklin loved his ease, hated to offend and seldom gives an opinion until obliged. Also, it was his constant policy never to say yes or no decidedlym, but when he could not avoid it [p193] I also found light in the simplicity and what would seem common sense in that "business consists primarily of ceremony and pleasure." [p161] This notion at its forefront is obvious reasoning, however the formulating of the thought and the word selection brings home a resounding principle that is sometimes lost in the hustle and bustle of deadlines, policies and protocols. I found it amazing how long America has had a reputation regarding its habit of imprisoning it citizens. French visitors found the only building of distinction in the provincial city of Philadelphia in the eighteenth century to be that of a prison [p45]. Benjamin Franklin himself, withheld clemency to his own son William, for being granted parole! America, if I'm not mistaken, has the largest prison population per capita in the world. Other noteworthy passages or quoted remarks If you stand well, stand still. [p53] The father of self-reliance...He was never to waver in his conviction that asking for help was the worst way of obtaining it. [p57] While it paid to be sensitive to one's own faults, it's fruitless to be afflicted by those of others. [p181] Live upon terms of civility not intimacy. [p249] If in her travels she was to meet the Holy Father, he hoped she might petition him for a repeal of the Ten Commandments. They [are] miserably inconvenient. [p290] Resentment is a passion implanted by nature for the preservation of the individual..A man may have the faculty of concealing it, but he must and ought to feel it. - John Adams [p291] Great powers never complain, but the feel and remember. [p338] A mind so open it seemed devoid of principles. [p355] Franklin cited pride as an impediment to progress. [p357] A good conscience is a continual Christmas. [p359] He was of the school that doubted the existence of a stupid question. It was the too ready answer that alarmed him. [p370]

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ozella

    For the past week, each night I have anxiously slipped into the pages of Stacy Schiff's A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America (New York: Henry Holt and Son, 2005) and wandered through streets of Paris with Dr. Benjamin Franklin. Spurred by an interest in Franklin in Paris after watching HBO's new mini-series John Adams, Schiff's book on Franklin has allowed me to accompany him as he makes his way through the labyrinthine politics of Versailles, Paris, France and the e For the past week, each night I have anxiously slipped into the pages of Stacy Schiff's A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America (New York: Henry Holt and Son, 2005) and wandered through streets of Paris with Dr. Benjamin Franklin. Spurred by an interest in Franklin in Paris after watching HBO's new mini-series John Adams, Schiff's book on Franklin has allowed me to accompany him as he makes his way through the labyrinthine politics of Versailles, Paris, France and the emergence of a new American Republic. Schiff's book is so well written that I have find myself each night waiting to join all of the players on their journey towards Independence. It manages to walk the fine line between documentary non-fiction and fascinating narrative, enticing readers into the world of international politics and to watch the 18th-century develop into the 19th-century. The story of Franklin and his time in Paris during this important historical period is riveting and represented a remarkable clarity. Schiff manages to make each of her cast of players come alive, and like HBO's portrayl of John Adams in their new series makes "history come alive". Normally I am not a fan of historical dramas, too often they pander to nostaglia or romanticism, indeed, friends have for ages been trying to get me to watch HBO's Rome (I have yet to get past the graffiti-like titles). But HBO's series on John Adams, directed by Tom Hooper, who also directed the amazing series Elizabeth I is sensitive to his historical characters, and portraits. Each of his actors crafts subtle performances which give the characters agency in larger historical events and drama. There has been an attention to detail that makes one "feel" the nature of the world he is trying to represent. My only caveat has been that Hooper has indulged in modern representations of intimacy and affection for John Adams (Paul Giamatti) and his wife Abigail (Laura Linney). Otherwise the series has been exciting to watch. It is exciting when historical dramas, of both the narrative and the televised kind, engage readers and viewers. It helps "flesh" out characters and make each of us understand the past is not that foreign after all, not always L.P. Hartley's foreign country but a place peopled with individuals seeking to navigate their own ways through troubled times.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    Does Benjamin Franklin get enough credit for winning the Revolutinary War? He talked (conned) the French, King Louis XVI, into sending enough money and troops to make it possible to win the war. Without the French we might still be English colonists. Ironically, the amounts lent us were so enormous that the debt incurred was a major factor in the coming French Revolution. It’s delightful to picture the renowned scientist arriving at the opulent court in a coonskin cap. Franklin, according to Sch Does Benjamin Franklin get enough credit for winning the Revolutinary War? He talked (conned) the French, King Louis XVI, into sending enough money and troops to make it possible to win the war. Without the French we might still be English colonists. Ironically, the amounts lent us were so enormous that the debt incurred was a major factor in the coming French Revolution. It’s delightful to picture the renowned scientist arriving at the opulent court in a coonskin cap. Franklin, according to Schiff, was revered much more by the French than by his own countrymen. A amazing book!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Chanover55

    Although this is a good work several things were very irratating about the book. In my opinion she has way too many footnotes, almost one per page. For me, if the info is that pivotal to the narrative, put it there. Secondly, I hate it when non-English phrases are used with no translation. This is done over and over again. Would I read this again? I'm not sure I would as I felt I was wadding though it to finish the book. Although this is a good work several things were very irratating about the book. In my opinion she has way too many footnotes, almost one per page. For me, if the info is that pivotal to the narrative, put it there. Secondly, I hate it when non-English phrases are used with no translation. This is done over and over again. Would I read this again? I'm not sure I would as I felt I was wadding though it to finish the book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Olivier Lepetit

    Phew. What a book. 7 months to read as I had to get some light reading in the meantime as this is HEAVY. A piece of advice : once you start reading, don’t stop. The book actually tells quite an interesting story in minute details, going through every aspect of Franklin’s life for these 8 capital years. I come out of it exhausted but full of interesting facts. And being French myself, no doubt a few anecdotes to mention to my American friends about the role of France in the independence war.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin

    Couldn't finish. Reads as if someone published their outline notes. I work in finance and when we receive a file of random unorganized data that is virtually useless, we call it "puke on a spreadsheet." This book is the literary equivalent. A bunch of random thoughts and information with little organization and no flow whatsoever. Narrative jumps around from paragraph to paragraph, and often within the same paragraph. I might try again down the road if I have nothing else to read. Couldn't finish. Reads as if someone published their outline notes. I work in finance and when we receive a file of random unorganized data that is virtually useless, we call it "puke on a spreadsheet." This book is the literary equivalent. A bunch of random thoughts and information with little organization and no flow whatsoever. Narrative jumps around from paragraph to paragraph, and often within the same paragraph. I might try again down the road if I have nothing else to read.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Colette

    Schiff presents a balanced view of Franklin and Adams and their rocky relationship. While reading it, it occurred to me that things are not so different now from 250 years ago: people back then lied, spread rumors, and talked smack about each other. It just happened at the pace of a ship crossing the sea with letters in a sack rather than an instantaneous Tweet. Human nature doesn’t change.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Pratt

    A Rambling Mess This is quite likely the worst book I have read in over a decade. The author seems to have a real problem making a coherent narrative, and the poor writing is made worse by a completely unlikeable Franklin. Was I supposed to hate Ben Franklin by the end of the book? That’s exactly what happened.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Samuel Levy

    A forgotten part of history How best describe the making of America than by looking at the darker aspects of it. Franklin and France, you should read all the way through the epilogue

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    This is a really dense book, clearly well researched and full of interesting anecdotes. But I could not get interested in it. My limited time and mental bandwidth made it difficult to get invested in this book. After 8 months, I think I need o admit defeat and move on.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.