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Great review Joel. I have not read this one. I did read the biography of Franklin written by Walter Isaacson which was excellent and I found Franklin to be a fascinating individual. He certainly did not conform to the mold or expectations of his era.

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Thanks, Matthew! Franklin is definitely one of the most interesting and captivating of the Founders.

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Jan 15Liked by Joel J Miller

I found it interesting to read what you wrote of Franklin‘s account of leaving Boston by virtue of a loophole in his contract with his brother. I had heard that his brother resented Franklin’s success with his Silence Dogood letters, and so his brother began mistreating him. Franklin fled and lied to a ship boat captain that he had gotten a girl pregnant and needed to flee the city. Maybe all of this harmonizes, I had just never heard about the loophole. Wonderful summary of this book, Joel. It’s amazing how rationalism took such deep root that it led greater support to the error of deism. Such misdirection by such brilliant men makes me often wonder where we are off today.

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Re the loophole, what happened was that his brother got in legal trouble with his newspaper. Barred from publishing it, he decided to let Ben “publish” the paper instead—if only in name—to skirt the restriction. But apprentices couldn’t legally publish newspapers, so James publicly canceled Ben’s indenture and secretly drew up a new contract. That kept Ben obligated to him and gave him the cover he needed to keep the paper going. But Ben realized he could skip out whenever he wanted because his brother couldn’t sue him for breaching a secret contract—one that, if made public, would reveal James wasn’t abiding by terms of the court vis-a-vis the newspaper. So Ben was free to go, though he kept it secret because he didn’t want his family to try to stop him and keep him in Boston.

Re deism, yes. Very true. The sociologist Christian Smith says many American Christians are functionally deists adhering to a scheme he labels moralistic therapeutic deism. I find the argument pretty convincing. When you survey Christians on their theological knowledge it’s pretty poor—that’s just another way of saying they don’t understand, appreciate, or adhere to to the creedal distinctives that mark traditional Christianity. Couple that with fact that many approach belief through primarily moralistic and therapeutic avenues, and you’re left with something that sometimes sounds Christian but really isn’t.

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Jan 14Liked by Joel J Miller

What a nice tribute to a fascinating man. My favorite story about Franklin illustrates how he was optimistic about the future, while wanting to help others after his death. He established a couple of trusts that were designed to provide microloans to young men trying to start small businesses. They were supposed to last 200 years, and by 1989 they were worth millions. Philadelphia and Boston benefited quite a bit from his foresight.

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Really astonishing. He was a remarkable figure.

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He was one of the most versatile and significant figures in the history of the United States- and the world.

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Agreed. A phenomenon.

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A super idea - a famous biography per month. I’m going to add biographies to my TBR stack.

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That’s excellent. I’m pretty excited about the project myself. I’ve enjoy reading memoir and biography; this just gives me an excuse to be more intentional about it—and read even more!

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Fascinating. Given how closely he studied his habits, it sounds like he was a highly reflective thinker who enjoyed a good meta-analysis!

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