World Ben Franklin – The Fortress

Half an hour later in Ken Burns’ new documentary about Benjamin Franklin, we see the page of advertisements in his newspaper by entrepreneur Polymath. Philadelphia GazetteIn the mid 1730s. Franklin, though at one time his own, is said to have directed advertisements for rewards for runaway contract employees. He also paid for advertisements that offered rewards to runaway slaves, and also ran advertisements offering slaves for sale. It’s amazing to see these ads, because Franklin – hailed as a founder, a heroic diplomat during the Revolutionary War, a leading abolitionist – is generally not remembered as the owner, seller and advertiser of slaves. .

Burns’ four-hour, two-part documentary about Franklin is being screened on PBS this week, airing across the country at different times and streaming via PBS.org. The wealthy filmmaker is best known for his long Civil War and Vietnam War documentaries, among others he has made major American discoveries (baseball, jazz, national parks) and figures (Mark Twain, Hui Long, Jackie Robinson). Burns tries to portray American history in a way that is accessible to audiences of different backgrounds and ages, and at times he is criticized for being too formulaic — his films have a recognizable and often imitated look and feel — and so much soccer, and so on. Burns plans have become cultural touches.

Close-ups of voiceovers and documentary art and texts taken from the historical writings of professional commentators and actors, with Burns’ usual storytelling mix. Benjamin Franklin It chronologically follows the life of his subject from his birth in Boston in 1706 until his death as an old man in Philadelphia in 1790.

‘Young Franklin at the Press,’ Enoch Wood Perry, 1876

The documentary points out the most important milestones through his early life. Young Ben was contracted to his older brother James, i.e. Ben worked for him on a contract basis and was the printer’s coach in this matter. Burns shows us some of the tools Franklin used in the print shop. Historian Joyce e. Chaplin says, “They set the categories upside down and backward, and you really have to be super-intelligent to understand how language works.” Apparently Ben learned a large sum from his brother’s shop, but James, who was nine years older than him, sometimes beat him. So Ben broke his contract and fled to Philadelphia, where he eventually established himself as a pillar of society, an inventor, a successful publisher, and a leader in the civic and political life of the city.

Burns and his commentators explain how Franklin became internationally famous for his experiments with electricity and eventually traveled to England to represent Pennsylvania as a colonial agent. He spent most of the years from 1757 to 1774 in England. Towards the end of that period, as tensions grew between England and its North American colonies, Franklin represented three other colonies in England as well – and found that his goal was to create a state colony that would remove Pennsylvania from its occupiers. , Tax-cheating Ben family. Stuck between wanting to keep the colonies part of the British Empire and wanting to support them against the growing restrictions imposed on them by Parliament, Franklin does a good job of showing how Burns overcame the crisis – the climax in a portrait. , At the end of the first episode, is the incident in which Franklin is dressed by a British officer before the Privy Council in the Whitehall Cockpit. Forced to choose, Franklin sided with the Americans.

The Revolutionary War begins in the second chapter of Burns. “It’s hard to understand why [Franklin] Even joined the revolution, “says historian Gordon Wood – after all, Franklin is already a successful old man:” Many of the other 62 delegates [to the Continental Congress] He was not born when he first entered politics forty years ago, ”the narrator tells us. However, it is not difficult to understand why Franklin joined this cause because the shame of his Privy Council broke his last relations with the Empire. However, this was not easily humane: Franklin’s failure to reconcile family ties between England and the colonies was reflected in Franklin’s deteriorating relationship with his son William, governor and confidant of New Jersey. Combining politics and paternity in that sense is a powerful storytelling tool that enlivens the difficult choices Franklin faced.

In 1776, after Franklin’s assistance in amending the Declaration of Independence, he traveled across the Atlantic to France to represent the newly independent nation and to seek a secret alliance. The years in France give Burns a lot of work to do — in a moment about this — and make up the most entertaining part of the documentary. Franklin arrived in France, the most famous American in the world; By the time he left almost a decade later, he had surpassed war veteran George Washington and was the second most famous American.

As Franklin grows older – we see Franklin’s voice actor Mandy Patinkin, fluent and shy – continue to shape the country at the 1787 Constitutional Conference and he forced his fellow Americans to solve the problem. Slavery was first introduced in Congress in the early 1790s with petitions against it. The petitions failed, and a few weeks later Franklin died at the age of 84.


BThe urns documentary features the voices of experts from a variety of backgrounds, including famous biographers such as Walter Isaacson and academic historians such as the late Bernard Bailey. The contributions of Erica Armstrong Dunner, in particular, his screen contributions and HW brands, Joyce e. Along with Chaplin has substantially shaped the overall narrative of the documentary based on his appearance among the film’s consultants. , Ellen R. Cohn, William Lustenberg, Jean M. O’Brien, Page Talbot and Karin A. Wolf.

While the first episode touches on how Franklin developed loving friendships with women, the second episode takes the subject very deeply, and it should come as no surprise to viewers who are well aware that the party was popularly portrayed as animal and feminist while Franklin was in France. . But they may be surprised by the film’s subtle discussion of the Franklin era among the French elite, which helps to shed light on how friendship between men and women can never be the same across cultural boundaries.

Surrounded by members of the French court in 1778 during Benjamin Franklin’s tenure as ambassador. Mary-Antoinette and King Louis XVI are on the right. (Congress Library)

Unfortunately, while Stacy Schiff aptly describes Franklin’s stay in France, the documentary outlines how these close friendships helped Franklin succeed diplomatically. Surprisingly, Madame Brillon de Joy is only briefly mentioned, although she was one of the most valuable contacts she made in Paris, and contributed to the split between Franklin and the thorny John Adams (voiced by Paul Chiamatti, who gladly revisited Adams’ role in HO 2008). Some historians who wrote about Franklin’s personal life and women did not, like Claude-on-Lopez, die or appear in the documentary. Sheila Schempin’s expertise on Franklin’s wife Deborah and son William is mainly included. Nevertheless, it is refreshing to see the portrayal of Franklin’s life, which is not dominated by such things as sex and feminism.

The way the documentary illustrates the importance of slavery in Franklin’s daily life exceeds expectations. In the past, Franklin’s biographies and related histories did not pay enough attention to how Franklin profited from slavery, which was rooted in all of the original thirteen colonies. Burns shows how the Quakers, who had long and complicated relationships with Franklin in Philadelphia, regarded slavery as a moral corruption and sin. As mentioned above, one of the most powerful moments of the documentary comes when watching Franklin’s advertisements for printed slaves. An advertisement for “recently imported” “a selection parcel” for young men and women, bred for the plantation business. Another presents the slave girl as “a young breeder” with the words “Inquire of the Printer”, explaining that Franklin was not only profitable by printing advertisements, but also more active.

While participating in Franklin’s slavery, he directed anti – slavery articles with printed advertisements and supported the education of enslaved black children in Pennsylvania.

This feature of Burns’ documentary will help viewers to gain a deeper and more balanced appreciation of how Franklin became an abolitionist in an era dominated by human slavery. The documentary does not fail to teach the audience about Franklin’s enormous contribution to science and technology, politics and countless civic projects – but reminds him of Franklin’s flaws, and helps him better understand Franklin’s confusion over humanity. The brilliant, ambitious life and example are still relevant today.

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