Adams, Washington, Franklin

Two books and a miniseries.

Duel in the Wilderness is a historical novel about young George Washington’s mission to bring a message from the English king to the French commander in Ohio. An enormous responsibility for a twenty-one year old man, the trip requires physical stamina, diplomatic savvy, and acumen under pressure. Several more experienced officers declined the job, fearing it would lead to certain death. Washington, though, wanted to make a name for himself. You will find no sword or pistol duel. The duel—full of thrusts, parries, feints—is between two nations over control of the continent.

Poor Richard’s Almanack is a collection of Benjamin Franklin’s proverbs and aphorisms. Thrift, diligence, humility, attention, temperance, cleanliness, and resolve are praised and encouraged; I believe the Almanack is the basis of the stereotypical Yankee thrift. Franklin’s economy of words makes these pithy sayings easy to remember.

Fish and Visitors stink after three days.

Eat few Suppers, and you’ll need few Medicines.

Little strokes fell great Oaks.

Death takes no bribes.

Keep flax from fire, youth from gaming.

Dost thou love Life?
Then do no squander Time;
for that’s the Stuff Life is made of.

I found it curious to read Franklin’s Almanack in light of John and Abigail Adams’ opinions of Franklin.  David McCullough writes:

[John Adams] found Franklin cordial but aloof, easygoing to the point of indolence,
distressingly slipshod about details and about money….Franklin acknowledged that
frugality was a virtue he never acquired. p. 198

John Adams, a 7-part HBO series based on David McCullough’s masterpiece, John Adams, was excellent. Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney shine as John and Abigail Adams. The heart of John Adams’s life story is his marriage with Abigail, a woman both beautiful and brilliant. If you are a bit hazy on the Federalist/Anti-Federalist debate, watching this will help set the stage for this struggle. The best part of this series, though, is the Special Feature: David McCullough, Painting with Words.  Happily, Painting with Words is available to watch on YouTube in four parts.



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