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

by Daniel Mark Epstein

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a thoroughly engaging and meticulously researched history of the familial estrangement of Benjamin Franklin, and his son William. Epstein provides an in depth vision to give the reader an illusion that they are in colonial times. ( )
  mrmapcase | Jun 23, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Most people think of Benjamin Franklin's son William, when they think of him at all, as the young boy depicted in artistic renditions as having assisted his father in his kite experiment to determine the electrical nature of lightning—an experiment that may not even have happened, and in any case, William would have been a grown man at the time. In fact, William was an accomplished figure in his own right: a captain in King George's War, a London-trained lawyer, and the last colonial governor of New Jersey. This is the story of how a close, loving relationship strained and ultimately broke as father and son ended up on opposite sides during the American Revolution. Epstein doesn't spend much time on William's childhood, as not much is known about it; he was born illegitimate, his mother's name erased from history. The story opens with Ben and William attending the coronation of King George III; despite his father's celebrity, William was the only American invited to walk in the procession. William owed his position and status to the British government, so by the opening of hostilities between England and the colonies, he could not turn his back to the Loyalist cause. His stance led to a harrowing eight-month stint in prison, exile in England, and a lifelong estrangement from his father. Epstein draws on sources not available to previous historians. Recommended for anyone interested in histories of the American Revolution and the Franklin family.
  boodgieman | Jun 21, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The author of this book uses a style which assumes that he is physically present at the exact moments described in this book. This technique makes for an excellent "reporting style" and for a quick engaging technique.
I therefore thoroughly enjoyed this book. Yet his use of this style left me wondering whether some inconsequential "facts" were simply assumed rather than real in order to make for a more readable narrative. In any case
he leaves no doubt that the basic reported events were real and accurate
as they played out. ( )
  octafoil40 | Jun 18, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I am not a student of colonial America, and what I know of Benjamin Franklin is as a writer of Poor Richard's Almanac, as a scientist of electricity and as a diplomat in Europe during the Revolutionary War. Oh yes, and as a bon vivant who appears happy and pleased with himself on the $100 bill.

All this is true. But I learned other things from Daniel Mark Epstein. The book primarily chronicles the relations between Franklin and his illegitimate son William, whose divergent political paths preceding, during and after America's War for Independence are minutely examined. In short, Franklin was a preeminent founding father, contributing to the Continental Congress and the Declaration of Independence as well as to the new nation's role in the world. His son William was for twelve years the Royal Governor of New Jersey, and during the War for Independence sided with, and worked for, the British. He was treated as a traitor by the revolting Americans and was imprisoned in solitary confinement for almost a year. After the war he lived in England and worked constantly to secure benefits and reparations for the Loyalists, many of whom had fled America. He received a $75,000 (in today's dollars) annual pension from Britain.

Father and son, incommunicado during the war years, barely reconciled afterward, and William was not treated well in Franklin's will. Franklin did love William's illegitimate son Temple, who was not formally educated and who never had a career or a stable family life. In Franklin's later years most of his sparse communication with William was through Temple.

Why tell this father-son story? Well, it is interesting and, according to the author, has not been well told before: "[In earlier histories] Franklin's personal and family life was, if not neglected, underexamined. . . . His relationship with his son, in particular, has been passed over as an inconvenience, an embarrassment - an unseemly feature - that does not fit the profile that has long served our beloved founding father."

In telling the filial story the author elides much of Franklin's achievements, only mentioning his scientific experiments in a few sentences, stating that he was the first colonial Postmaster but not how that position was secured, referring to the success of Poor Richard's Almanac but not explaining it, and mentioning Franklin's founding of the University of Pennsylvania but not how that came about. These omissions tantalize, but Franklin's life and accomplishments have been well described elsewhere. Accepting the narrow focus of this book, it is a job well done. ( )
  bbrad | Jun 17, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Epstein has written an absorbing account of the complicated relationship between Benjamin Franklin and his son, William. Epstein explains in detail how political events of the time shaped the relationship between father and son. The book illustrates how the American Revolution impacted family relationships and friendships. Epstein’s portrayals of the two Franklins counter many of the stereotypes we have of Benjamin Franklin as a Founding Father. We see the historical figures of the time in a more human and realistic light. This makes for a revealing and fascinating read. ( )
  mitchellray | Jun 14, 2017 |
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