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The Loyal Son: The War in Ben Franklin's…

The Loyal Son: The War in Ben Franklin's House

by Daniel Mark Epstein

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15052129,861 (4.08)21
Ben Franklin is the most lovable of America's founding fathers. His wit, his charm, his inventiveness--even his grandfatherly appearance--are legendary. But this image obscures the scandals that dogged him throughout his life. In The Loyal Son, award-winning historian Daniel Mark Epstein throws the spotlight on one of the more enigmatic aspects of Franklin's biography: his complex and confounding relationship with his illegitimate son William. When he was twenty-four, Franklin fathered a child with a woman who was not his wife. He adopted the boy, raised him, and educated him to be his aide. Ben and William became inseparable. After the famous kite-in-a-thunderstorm experiment, it was William who proved that the electrical charge in a lightning bolt travels from the ground up, not from the clouds down. On a diplomatic mission to London, it was William who charmed London society. He was invited to walk in the procession of the coronation of George III; Ben was not. The outbreak of the American Revolution caused a devastating split between father and son. By then, William was royal governor of New Jersey, while Ben was one of the foremost champions of American independence. In 1776, the Continental Congress imprisoned William for treason. George Washington made efforts to win William's release, while his father, to the world's astonishment, appeared to have abandoned him to his fate. A fresh take on the combustible politics of the age of independence, The Loyal Son is a gripping account of how the agony of the American Revolution devastated one of America's most distinguished families. Like Nathaniel Philbrick and David McCullough, Epstein is a storyteller first and foremost, a historian who weaves together fascinating incidents discovered in long-neglected documents to draw us into the private world of the men and women who made America.… (more)
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Very interesting and very entertaining biography (make no mistake: that is what the book is about). William Franklin deserves to be remembered and his life to be known. ( )
  AntoBr | May 11, 2020 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This biography of William Franklin is subtitled "The War in Benjamin Franklin's House", which is very apt, as it refers to both The War (for American Independence) and how it affected the Franklin family, and the war between Ben and his son William, a Royal Governor of New Jersey who never wavered from his staunch Loyalist views, despite the hardships and tragedies that descended on him and his family as a result. It is much more than William's life story; the insights into our country's origins revealed here are eye-opening, and often unsettling. You think you know your American History when you've gone over the high points from sixth grade on, but The Loyal Son is full of real-life drama, nitty-gritty politics and detail we never learned in school. The existence of Dr. Franklin's illegitimate son by a woman whose identity we can't be sure of was something I only became aware of in the last 20 years or so. The terror in which Tory families found themselves living once the Sons of Liberty and other patriots began to get the upper hand; the utter bloody stupidity of the Crown; the difficulty of communicating and traveling between Europe and North America; the incredible fortitude of Ben Franklin; it's all so thoroughly illuminated here. Epstein is not quite in the same class as an author of narrative non-fiction as David McCullough or Tony Horwitz, but this in-depth look, from opposite perspectives, at the wheeling-dealing, scheming and personal sacrifice of participants in the events leading up to and following the American Revolution is one of the most fascinating historical accounts I've read in some time. This would make grand mini-series fodder, if done along the lines of PBS's John Adams, for instance.
Review written December 2017 ( )
  laytonwoman3rd | Apr 9, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This work by Daniel Epstein is very well researched and written, and the historical content is presented in sweeping narrative form that engages the reader from the moment the first page is turned. The contrasts and interplay between the members of Benjamin Franklin's family are intriguing, as is their interactions with other historical figures of the age. Highly recommended!
  mrsandersonut | Dec 22, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Daniel Epstein's 'The Loyal Son', is a well written story of Benjamin Franklin and his complicated relationship with his illegitimate son William, who was the Royal Governor of New Jersey during the Revolutionary War and a loyalist to the English. ( )
  cweller | Dec 13, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Mr. Epstein offers readers a most interesting take on the complicated relationship between Benjamin Franklin and his son William. The father served the colony of Pennsylvania in various military and political leadership roles, then went on to become a central figure in the fight for independence and the formative years of the new American government. The son, who completed his education in England while his father was representing Pennsylvania's interests before the British government, maintained his steady loyalty to the crown. William necessarily was conflicted between his admiration of his father and his Tory convictions that put him on the opposite side of the American Revolution from his famous father.

The book is well-written and holds the readers interest. It does have some minor flaws such a failing to follow a careful timeline, leaving the reader uncertain at times about the proper order of events being recounted.

There are more detailed biographies on the life of Benjamin Franklin, but this serves its niche well in highlighting William Franklin's role. ( )
  johnfgaines | Nov 27, 2018 |
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