Benjamin Franklin Book Summary By Walter Isaacson

*This post contains affiliate links, and we may earn an affiliate commission without it ever affecting the price you pay.

In Benjamin Franklin (2004), you're invited to explore the life of one of America's most iconic figures.

You'll discover how he developed from a young essay writer to a budding scientist, and then eventually transitioned to become one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Written by renowned author Walter Isaacson, this book offers an in-depth look at Franklin's personality, passions and legacy - providing invaluable insight into the founding principles which shaped the USA.

With detailed descriptions of his early career along with fascinating facts and anecdotes, it's no wonder that this book is so well-regarded - an essential must-read for anyone wishing to learn more about this inspiring statesman.

Benjamin Franklin

Book Name: Benjamin Franklin (An American Life)

Author(s): Walter Isaacson

Rating: 4.5/5

Reading Time: 23 Minutes

Categories: Book Summaries

Author Bio

"Benjamin Franklin: An American Life" is a book written by renowned author Walter Isaacson.

With previous bestselling books under his belt, including Einstein: His Life and Universe; Kissinger: A Biography; and Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different, Waler Isaacson has made a name for himself as an incredibly successful author.

He is currently the president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, an educational organization.

His skillful writing style combined with his focus on accurate historical facts make him the perfect candidate for such a biography about Benjamin Franklin.

The book will give readers insight into Benjamin Franklin's life from his childhood to his influence on future generations through both science and politics.

A must-read for any history enthusiast!

Learn The Fascinating Story Of American Legend Benjamin Franklin: How He Revolutionized Science, Industry, And Politics

Benjamin Franklin

Whether you’re looking for inspiration, a good read, or just want to learn more about one of America’s most influential figures, this Benjamin Franklin Book Summary is the perfect place to start.

Get ready to dive into the fascinating, pivotal life of a true American hero.

Benjamin Franklin was a man who revolutionized many different fields and disciplines from science to media and he paved the way for others in his formidable career.

We explore why he is so revered in this book summary by walking you through his amazing life as a restless but sharp child up until he becomes America’s most influential diplomat.

In this collection, you can also find out how wearing of a “leather apron” became a sign that one was smartly ahead of their time and the iconic story behind Franklin and the kite.

Most importantly though we look at who Mrs.

Silence Dogood really was; her sharp-tongued letters played an integral part in Franklin’s career too!

From Mischievous Boy To Self-Made Man: The Enduring Spirit Of Benjamin Franklin

At a young age, Benjamin Franklin was already proving himself to be independent and inventive.

Evident in in how he wanted to find ways to swim faster – fashioning paddles for his hands and flippers for his feet!

Though his parents intended him towards a career in the church, it quickly became apparent that Benjamin Franklin was not fit for the clergy.

Accustomed to making mischief, such as asking his father to recite grace over a barrel of stored salted meat in order to save time, it is clear that Franklin had very little interest or patience when it came to religious affairs.

Despite only receiving two years of formal education where he was taught writing and arithmetic, at just 10 years old Franklin began working as an apprentice.

He worked under his father and then with his older brother James who founded the New England Courant – eventually taking over managing the newspaper on his own due to James’ leave for England.

As an apprentice, however, this did not suit young Benjamin’s ambitions – leading him instead to pursue opportunity elsewhere.

Young Benjamin Franklin was certainly highly intelligent yet rebellious despite having had very little formal schooling.

Clearly showing inventiveness through swimming contraptions and ambition through pursuing opportunity independently at such a young age, there’s no doubt that he would have contributed greatly even without any further schooling!

Benjamin Franklin Learned The Power Of Self-Improvement Through Reading And Rewriting

Reading And Rewriting

When Benjamin Franklin was just 17, he made his way to Philadelphia and embarked on the path of self-improvement by taking a job with a printer.

There, he enjoyed long conversations about philosophy and cultivated his debating skills.

Fortuitously, this led him to Sir William Keith, Governor of Pennsylvania.

Through Keith’s influence, Benjamin had the opportunity to travel to London where he assumed the position of printer’s assistant.

Upon returning to Philadelphia and rising in the business world, however, Benjamin decided that writing was truly his passion.

Benjamin drew much of his inspiration from books such as Daniel Defoe’s An Essay Upon Projects which argued for gender equality in terms of education and rights.

Additionally, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress gave him motivation to seek out progress and self-improvement.

Finally, he found solace in reading The Spectator – a British daily paper – and would later use it as practice material for honing his writing skills.

Benjamin Franklin’S Revolutionary Vision: Using The Leather Apron Club To Advance His Political And Scientific Ideas

After founding the Leather Apron Club, otherwise known as the Junto in 1727, Benjamin Franklin’s ideas on community and government flourished.

This group was made up of young tradesmen and artisans who met to discuss current events.

With input from members of the Junto, Franklin was able to implement several projects that helped to improve his local community.

These included a subscription library, a tax for constables, a volunteer fire department, and an academy which later became the University of Pennsylvania.

Franklin’s thoughts and guidance also lead him to conceive an idea for a voluntary military outside of Pennsylvania’s colonial government back in 1747.

The plan struck such a chord with many people that nearly 10,000 signed up to join Franklin’s concept—even though he refused the position of Colonel.

Although skeptical at the time due to Franklin’s idea being radical, it wasn’t until twenty years later that the true power struggle began—something which preoccupied most of Franklin’s attention in between times focused on nature instead.

The Enlightening Experiments Of Benjamin Franklin: How One Man’S Curiosity Led To A New Understanding Of Electricity


Benjamin Franklin’s insatiable curiosity led him to make some important scientific discoveries.

Most notably, he was the first to prove that lightning was actually a form of electricity, and that metal objects could draw an electrical charge.

He shared his groundbreaking idea in a letter to the Royal Society in London, paving the way for future inventions like lightning rods.

Franklin also became renowned for his further explorations into electricity; “battery” is one notable term attributable to him.

His discovery was met with both praise and condemnation – Abbé Nollet went as far as condemning Franklin’s work as an offense against God while German philosopher Immanuel Kant called him a “new Prometheus” who stole fire from the gods.

Either way, Benjamin Franklin’s curiosity not only changed the world of science but also challenged people’s ideas about what is possible.

Benjamin Franklin Seeks Unity Through Federalism In His Albany Plan Of 1754

Back in 1753, Benjamin Franklin recognized that the British colonies in America needed to unite in order to protect themselves from the French and Native Americans.

He crafted an initial plan to unify the American colonies, but unfortunately, at that time it wasn’t fully accepted by all.

Franklin first envisioned a union of colonies which he planned to present at a conference called for by members of the British colonial authorities who wanted delegates from each colony represented in Albany, New York.

His plan included details on a national congress made up of representatives selected by each colony, as well as an appointed “President General.” This was his notion of federalism–that a “general government” would handle matters such as national defense and westward expansion while each local governing power could keep their own laws and regulations in place.

Despite his plans thoughtful thematic ambitions, they were still not ripe enough for acceptance by all 13 colonies at that time.

In one letter sent to his friend James Parker, Franklin even called out how strange it seemed that six nations of “savages” –in other words, the Iroquois tribes -could come together better than a group of English colonies could!

Franklin’S Hopes Of Unifying The Colonies In America Were Dashed By The Inflexibility Of Proprietary Rights

Colonies In America

When the Pennsylvania Assembly raised another unification issue in 1757, they asked Benjamin Franklin to take their case to the British families that had been granted proprietary rights over the colonies.

However, after five years of negotiations, it was clear that Franklin wasn’t going to be able to get them to bend.

His efforts were met with Thomas Penn’s angry refusal and a pointed reminder of his family’s right as proprietors to veto any decision made by the assembly.

In addition, the power struggle between Penn and the Pennsylvania Assembly over political control further hindered Franklin’s efforts at resolution.

Despite all this, even with these insurmountable odds against him, Franklin refused to give up and pressed on in trying to negotiate some form of agreement.

He even managed to make acquaintances of influential British thinkers such as David Hume while he was there.

Unfortunately though, when he returned home in 1762 it was evident that nothing had changed and his efforts had ultimately been unsuccessful.

The Stamp Act Of 1765 Pushes Benjamin Franklin To Embrace Colonial Independence

The Stamp Act was the turning point for colonial attitudes, and Benjamin Franklin was right in the middle of it.

It pried open the minds of many colonists who were already disgruntled about British rule, and pushed them to take action.

With a tax that affected even a bookseller like him, it became obvious to Franklin that something had to be done – he had to go back to London.

Upon his returns ten years later in 1765, he faced an even more difficult situation – a proposed tax on stamps meant to finance fighting against the French and their Native Indian allies.

For many leaders in the colonies this was a tipping point; it spurred Thomas Jefferson and others into action to finally remove the British.

Meanwhile, Franklin initially supported this new direction but then realized just how much colonial attitudes had changed against him.

His house in Philadelphia was even stormed by an angry mob!

While he still held on to his idea of colonial independence, he also saw that there was no room for compromise anymore.

In order for all laws to apply equally and fairly across the colonies, they needed full independence from British rule – this sentiment only strengthened as time went on until Franklin returned with new perspective in 1775, greeted as a patriot with his newfound understanding of what was necessary for real liberty.

How Franklin And Thomas Paine Helped The Colonies To Achieve Independence


Benjamin Franklin was the driving force behind getting the conversation about independence for the colonies started.

In 1775, he laid out his ideas for a Continental Congress to the men representing each colony’s interests against Britain.

His proposal detailed a single-chamber congress, with membership allocated proportionally depending on population size.

He also suggested appointing an executive council of 12 members instead of having just one president as well as proposing that if Britain were to concede to the colonists’ demands and make monetary reparations, then the confederation would be dissolved.

Franklin’s idea laid the foundation for Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense which argued vehemently and eloquently for full independence from Britain through recognizing that there were no natural or religious grounds for classifying people into kings or subjects.

This sold 120,000 copies in no time and spurred support of a revolution against colonial powers.

His subsequent edits to Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence not only made it even simpler and powerful but also observed equality in human rights without attributing it to divine intervention – something which characterizes Franklin’s beliefs as a humanist thinker.

Franklin Helps Secure French Alliance, Giving America A Chance At Victory

Benjamin Franklin played a crucial role in securing France as an ally of the United States in the fight against Britain.

As the 13 colonies declared their independence from Britain, they desperately needed an ally and no one was better suited than Franklin to persuade the French to join the cause.

He travelled to Paris to meet with Comte de Vergennes, then France’s foreign minister, and made his case by highlighting how both countries would benefit greatly if France supported America’s cause.

Under Franklin’s guidance, he managed to convince Vergennes that aiding America could mean an enormous defeat for Britain – a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Just two months later in March 1778, Louis XVI of France officially announced his support of America.

This was met with enormous excitement from people across Paris who cheered and chanted ‘Vive Franklin’ as he left the palace!

Benjamin Franklin had done it – securing what would eventually become a huge victory for his country.

Franklin’S Tactful Diplomacy Paved The Way For America’S Independence

After the revolutionary war, Benjamin Franklin showed his unwavering talent in diplomacy which helped the infant United States of America significantly.

He was responsible for patching up relationships with Britain and forged a strong relationship between America and France, who provided invaluable support through loans and military aid.

Franklin first positioned himself as an isolationist; however, he soon changed his stance and advocated for respecting the French for their assistance during the war.

This led to a rift between him and John Adams; however, due to America’s need for additional funds and resources, he convinced Britain to surrender control of Canada.

When it was time to sign the peace treaty, Franklin stated that America was “free, sovereign and independent” – an opinion that enraged France but fortunately did not break any agreement made prior.

With his diplomatic skills, Franklin successfully managed to reduce tension with France while also letting everyone know that America had broken free from British rule.

He truly played a pivotal role in establishing a victorious end to the American Revolution – one where it could stand independent and strong.

Benjamin Franklin’S Lasting Legacy Of Liberty And Equality

Benjamin Franklin is known throughout the world as one of the greatest statesmen that ever lived.

As a coauthor of the American Constitution and a national hero, Franklin made an indelible mark on history.

He was instrumental in ending the America Revolution by brokering peace with Britain and leading the Constitutional Convention.

At the Convention, Franklin proposed a key compromise on representation to Congress, advising to split the difference between proportional representation and equal voting power for each state –i.e.

creating both a lower house, in which representatives would be elected on a proportional basis, and an upper house in which each state would appoint an equal number of senators.

This became enshrined in our current constitution and has been crucial to ensuring a balance between national unity and states’ rights ever since.

Franklin also devoted his last years of life to abolishing slavery; he became president of Pennsylvania Society for Promoting Abolition of Slavery, and authored a petition publicly stating that liberty should never be denied based on skin colour.

Although this noble plea failed at first, his work set the stage for further emancipatory measures later down the line—literally changing history forever!

Wrap Up

This book is a final summary of the life of Benjamin Franklin and what he achieved throughout his life.

It shows how Benjamin Franklin used his curiosity, compassion for humanity and desire for liberty in order to shape history.

He was an innovator, a leader, a thinker and most importantly, someone who cared desperately about the future of mankind.

His work gave us so many freedoms we take for granted today, such as freedom of the press, free education and fair trade laws.

Not only that but this book highlights how his inventions changed the industrial revolution and impacted on everyday life in spectacular ways – from bifocals to lightning rods, he gave us so much knowledge that we now use every day!

So if you are looking for inspiration or want to understand why Ben Franklin is considered one of America’s Founding Fathers then this is the perfect book to read!

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.