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A Founding Father's Failure of Faith

Written By: Mike Braun  |  Posted: Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

When I read from the pages of Benjamin Franklin's autobiography, I am overtaken by a certain sense of sadness. I realize Franklin was the consummate self-made man and the chief product of his labors was a rustic reasonable public persona. This well crafted image now quietly smiles upon us from the historic portraits hanging in our nation's hallowed halls and classrooms. Perhaps I have fallen under his spell eager to embrace him as a man of kindly reason and general good will. I wouldn't be the first to succumb to this affable model of bon homme. Norman Cousins, one of America's men of letters, described Franklin thus:

He was rounded in interests without being polished; aristocratic in intellect without being undemocratic in thought; daring in ideas without being impractical in their execution; perennially youthful in outlook but consistently mature in approach.
(The Republic of Reason, New York: Harper & Row, 1958, p. 16)

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