Monday, November 29, 2010

Reassessing the Method

Never start with a preconception of where your reading and writing will take you, no matter how well-founded your anticipation. This was my mistake and why I haven’t posted in some time. This post was to cover the last facet of Franklin’s self-education: his studied ability to fathom, anticipate, and influence others. From the 800 pages of Carl Van Doren’s biographic eulogy I thought some easily digestible anecdote would emerge, but none did.

In fact, Franklin’s astuteness saturated every episode of his later life in a way hard to vignette. Still, between infilling the Autobiography and cataloging later achievements, Van Doren beautifully depicts one event which marked his subject’s arrival as a master diplomat and also works well for my purposes. At seventeen pages it’s not an anecdote easily digested, but it’s a brilliant read not only for Franklin’s mastery of the occasion, but for its hints of coming revolution—played out at a human scale and in real time, so to speak. On 13 February 1766, with the colonies violently protesting the Stamp Act, Franklin testified to the House of Commons.

To be continued…