Electric ...
Ben Franklin

Life of Benjamin Franklin by Jared Sparks


This volume contains the Autobiography of Dr. FRANKLIN [found elsewhere in The Electric Franklin] as far as he wrote it, with a continuation to the end of his life. There is a curious circumstance connected with the first publication of the Autobiography. He began to write it in England as early as the year 1771, and from time to time he made such additions as his leisure would permit. While he was in France, as Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States, he showed a copy of it to some of his friends there, and one of them M. Le Veillard, translated it into French. Not long after Dr. Franklin's death, this French translation appeared from the Paris press. It was then retranslated, by some unknown but skilful hand, into English, and published in London ; and this retranslation is the Life of Franklin, which has usually been circulated in Great Britain and the United States, and of which numerous editions have been printed. And even to this day it continues to be read, and to be quoted by respectable writers, as if it were the author's original work; although the of its being a translation is expressly stated in the Preface to the first edition, and although twenty-five years have elapsed since the Autobiography was published from the original manuscript, by Franklin's grandson. In the present volume it is printed from the genuine copy. Notes have been added to illustrate some parts, and the whole is divided into chapters, of suitable length, for the convenience of readers.

In writing the Continuation, it has been the author's aim to follow out the plan of the Autobiography, by confining himself strictly to a narrative of the principal events and incidents in Franklin's life, as far as these could be ascertained from his writings, his public acts, and the testimony of his contemporaries. In executing this task, he has bad access to a large mass of papers left by Franklin, including his correspondence with many persons in various parts of the world, and also to copious materials, of much value, procured in England, France, and the United States, all of which were for several years in his possession, while he was preparing for the press a new and complete edition of 'Franklin's Works. As he has spared no pains in his researches, or in his endeavours to make their results useful to the public, be trusts that his efforts have no! been wholly without success, and that they will be regarded as having added something to the tribute justly due to the memory of the philosopher, statesman, and philanthropist, whose fame is an honor not more, to the land of his birth, than to the age in which he lived.

—November, 1843.