Ben Franklin's 'Compleated Aubiography': A Book for the Ages

Once in a generation an author makes a truly great contribution to the learning of his fellow citizens. Such is the case with Dr. Mark Skousen’s recently published, The Compleated Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin. (Compiled and edited by Mark Skousen, Ph.D., Regnery Publishing, a HUMAN EVENTS sister company.)

On the flyleaf of the book the publishers explain: “Benjamin Franklin’s celebrated Autobiography, published after his death, is one of the greatest autobiographies of all time???but it was incomplete. Franklin ended his life story in 1757, when he was only fifty-one. He planned to write more-a lot more, but never did. He lived another thirty-three full, eventful and dramatic years???.”

Mark Skousen finished the job for him. I recall how years ago, Mark told me one of things he wanted to do in his life was to undertake the project of compiling and gathering the Franklin papers and letters and finish the job undone by his famous ancestor (Mark is a direct descendant of Franklin on his mother’s side). I never thought he would do it???but he did, and his work deserves a Pulitzer, or one of the other annual book awards usually reserved for liberal writers.

Mark, aided by the brilliant editing of his wife JoAnn, took the reams of papers, letters and written history of the time, and wove it together in such a way as to make it impossible to detect when Franklin himself had quill in hand or Mark and JoAnn were at their word processor. This is even the case when Old Ben was penning lusty letters to Madame Brillon the wife of a French diplomat, or as he/they describes his nagging maladies.

Reading this distinctive and brilliant volume left me with a profound sense of awe for the subject. Franklin was the prime example of an 18th century Renaissance Man; inventor, entrepreneur, philosopher, diplomat, raconteur and a Founder of the most successful political union in all of history. But, what impressed me most was his attitude in times of trouble and severe peril. He was never embittered even when his trust was betrayed and he never once indulged in self-pity. Franklin was a leader within the most historically unique band of men on human record and his weight and wisdom is felt to this day. Thanks to Dr. Mark Skousen, we now know much more about him than we did before, especially his character and strength of purpose. To my friend Mark and his lovely wife and editor, Jo Ann, I can say, “This work makes me proud to call you friends.”

Reprinted from Inside Report.