Penned between 1771 and 1790 and published after his death, TheAutobiography of Benjamin Franklin is one of the most acclaimed and widely read personal histories ever written. From his youth as a printer’s assistant working for his brother’s Boston newspaper through his own publishing, writing, and military careers, his scientific experiments and worldwide travels, his grand triumphs and heartbreaking tragedies, Franklin tells his story with aplomb, bringing to life the flesh-and-blood man behind the American icon.
Completed just days before his death, Ulysses S. Grant’s Personal Memoirs is a clear and compelling account of his military career, focusing on two great conflicts: the Mexican–American War and the Civil War. Lauded for its crisp and direct prose, Grant’s autobiography offers frank insight into everything from the merits of the war with Mexico to the strategies and tactics employed by Union forces against the Confederacy to the poignancy of Grant’s meeting with General Lee at Appomattox Court House.
Documenting a world of tariffs, insider deals, and Wall Street sharks as well as his stunning rise from bobbin boy to steel baron, The Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie opens a window into the great industrialist’s decision-making process. His insights on education, business, and the necessity of giving back for the common good set an inspirational example for aspiring executives and provide a fitting testament to the power of the American dream.
The Education of Henry Adams is the Pulitzer Prize–winning memoir of a brilliant man reckoning with an era of profound change. The great-grandson of President John Adams and the grandson of President John Quincy Adams, Henry Adams possessed one of the most remarkable minds of his generation. Yet he believed himself fundamentally unsuited to the era in which he lived—the tumultuous period between the Civil War and World War I. Written in third person, this uniquely unclassifiable autobiography is the Modern Library’s number-one nonfiction book of the twentieth century.
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About the Author
Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885) was the eighteenth president of the United States and commanded the Union Army to victory in the Civil War. Published posthumously, his autobiography has long been recognized as one of the finest and most revealing personal accounts of the Civil War.
Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919) was a Scottish-American industrialist, railroad man, and steel magnate whose charitable giving and life philosophies (“The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced”) made him one of the most captivating figures in American history. After selling his Pittsburgh-based steel company to J. P. Morgan, Carnegie spent the remaining years of his life giving away roughly $350 million (the equivalent of almost $5 trillion today) to universities and charities around the world. A self-proclaimed positivist, his influence and beneficence are reflected in the names of institutions such as Carnegie Hall, Carnegie Mellon University, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Henry Adams (1838–1918) was a noted American intellectual, historian, and man of letters. Born in Boston into one of the nation’s most prominent political families, he attended Harvard University, graduating in 1858. From 1861 to 1868 Adams served as private secretary to his father, Charles Francis Adams Sr., whom President Abraham Lincoln had appointed minister to England. Following his return to America, Adams became a journalist in Washington, DC, frequently calling for reform and the ousting of political scoundrels. Ultimately disillusioned with the world of politics, he took a position as professor of medieval history at Harvard. His writings include two novels and numerous biographies and histories, including his nine-volume The History of the United States of America (1801 to 1817). His memoir, The Education of Henry Adams (1907), is widely considered to be among the finest autobiographies ever written in the English language. Adams died at the age of eighty in Washington, DC.
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Great American Lives
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie, and The Education of Henry Adams
By Benjamin Franklin
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2016 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ANCESTRY AND EARLY YOUTH IN BOSTON
Twyford, at the Bishop of St. Asaph's, 1771.
DEAR SON: I HAVE EVER had pleasure in obtaining any little anecdotes of my ancestors. You may remember the inquiries I made among the remains of my relations when you were with me in England, and the journey I undertook for that purpose. Imagining it may be equally agreeable to you to know the circumstances of my life, many of which you are yet unacquainted with, and expecting the enjoyment of a week's uninterrupted leisure in my present country retirement, I sit down to write them for you. To which I have besides some other inducements. Having emerged from the poverty and obscurity in which I was born and bred, to a state of affluence and some degree of reputation in the world, and having gone so far through life with a considerable share of felicity, the conducing means I made use of, which with the blessing of God so well succeeded, my posterity may like to know, as they may find some of them suitable to their own situations, and therefore fit to be imitated.
That felicity, when I reflected on it, has induced me sometimes to say, that were it offered to my choice, I should have no objection to a repetition of the same life from its beginning, only asking the advantages authors have in a second edition to correct some faults of the first. So I might, besides correcting the faults, change some sinister accidents and events of it for others more favourable. But though this were denied, I should still accept the offer. Since such a repetition is not to be expected, the next thing most like living one's life over again seems to be a recollection of that life, and to make that recollection as durable as possible by putting it down in writing.
Hereby, too, I shall indulge the inclination so natural in old men, to be talking of themselves and their own past actions; and I shall indulge it without being tiresome to others, who, through respect to age, might conceive themselves obliged to give me a hearing, since this may be read or not as anyone pleases. And, lastly (I may as well confess it, since my denial of it will be believed by nobody), perhaps I shall a good deal gratify my own vanity. Indeed, I scarce ever heard or saw the introductory words, "Without vanity I may say," etc., but some vain thing immediately followed. Most people dislike vanity in others, whatever share they have of it themselves; but I give it fair quarter wherever I meet with it, being persuaded that it is often productive of good to the possessor, and to others that are within his sphere of action; and therefore, in many cases, it would not be altogether absurd if a man were to thank God for his vanity among the other comforts of life.
And now I speak of thanking God, I desire with all humility to acknowledge that I owe the mentioned happiness of my past life to His kind providence, which lead me to the means I used and gave them success. My belief of this induces me to hope, though I must not presume, that the same goodness will still be exercised toward me, in continuing that happiness, or enabling me to bear a fatal reverse, which I may experience as others have done; the complexion of my future fortune being known to Him only in whose power it is to bless to us even our afflictions.
The notes one of my uncles (who had the same kind of curiosity in collecting family anecdotes) once put into my hands, furnished me with several particulars relating to our ancestors. From these notes I learned that the family had lived in the same village, Ecton, in Northamptonshire, for three hundred years, and how much longer he knew not (perhaps from the time when the name of Franklin, that before was the name of an order of people, was assumed by them as a surname when others took surnames all over the kingdom), on a freehold of about thirty acres, aided by the smith's business, which had continued in the family till his time, the eldest son being always bred to that business; a custom which he and my father followed as to their eldest sons. When I searched the registers at Ecton, I found an account of their births, marriages and burials from the year 1555 only, there being no registers kept in that parish at any time preceding. By that register I perceived that I was the youngest son of the youngest son for five generations back. My grandfather Thomas, who was born in 1598, lived at Ecton till he grew too old to follow business longer, when he went to live with his son John, a dyer at Banbury, in Oxfordshire, with whom my father served an apprenticeship. There my grandfather died and lies buried. We saw his gravestone in 1758. His eldest son Thomas lived in the house at Ecton, and left it with the land to his only child, a daughter, who, with her husband, one Fisher, of Wellingborough, sold it to Mr. Isted, now lord of the manor there. My grandfather had four sons that grew up, viz.: Thomas, John, Benjamin and Josiah. I will give you what account I can of them at this distance from my papers, and if these are not lost in my absence, you will among them find many more particulars.
Thomas was bred a smith under his father; but, being ingenious, and encouraged in learning (as all my brothers were) by an Esquire Palmer, then the principal gentleman in that parish, he qualified himself for the business of scrivener; became a considerable man in the county; was a chief mover of all public-spirited undertakings for the county or town of Northampton, and his own village, of which many instances were related of him; and much taken notice of and patronized by the then Lord Halifax. He died in 1702, January 6, old style, just four years to a day before I was born. The account we received of his life and character from some old people at Ecton, I remember, struck you as something extraordinary, from its similarity to what you knew of mine. "Had he died on the same day," you said, "one might have supposed a transmigration."
John was bred a dyer, I believe of woollens, Benjamin was bred a silk dyer, serving an apprenticeship at London. He was an ingenious man. I remember him well, for when I was a boy he came over to my father in Boston, and lived in the house with us some years. He lived to a great age. His grandson, Samuel Franklin, now lives in Boston. He left behind him two quarto volumes, MS., of his own poetry, consisting of little occasional pieces addressed to his friends and relations, of which the following, sent to me, is a specimen. He had formed a short-hand of his own, which he taught me, but, never practising it, I have now forgot it. I was named after this uncle, there being a particular affection between him and my father. He was very pious, a great attender of sermons of the best preachers, which he took down in his short-hand, and had with him many volumes of them. He was also much of a politician; too much, perhaps, for his station. There fell lately into my hands, in London, a collection he had made of all the principal pamphlets relating to public affairs, from 1641 to 1717; many of the volumes are wanting as appears by the numbering, but there still remain eight volumes in folio, and twenty-four in quarto and in octavo. A dealer in old books met with them, and knowing me by my sometimes buying of him, he brought them to me. It seems my uncle must have left them here when he went to America, which was about fifty years since. There are many of his notes in the margins.
This obscure family of ours was early in the Reformation, and continued Protestants through the reign of Queen Mary, when they were sometimes in danger of trouble on account of their zeal against popery. They had got an English Bible, and to conceal and secure it, it was fastened open with tapes under and within the cover of a joint-stool. When my great-great-grandfather read it to his family, he turned up the joint-stool upon his knees, turning over the leaves then under the tapes. One of the children stood at the door to give notice if he saw the apparitor coming, who was an officer of the spiritual court. In that case the stool was turned down again upon its feet, when the Bible remained concealed under it as before. This anecdote I had from my uncle Benjamin. The family continued all of the Church of England till about the end of Charles the Second's reign, when some of the ministers that had been outed for non-conformity, holding conventicles in Northamptonshire, Benjamin and Josiah adhered to them, and so continued all their lives: the rest of the family remained with the Episcopal Church.
Josiah, my father, married young, and carried his wife with three children into New England, about 1682. The conventicles having been forbidden by law, and frequently disturbed, induced some considerable men of his acquaintance to remove to that country, and he was prevailed with to accompany them thither, where they expected to enjoy their mode of religion with freedom. By the same wife he had four children more born there, and by a second wife ten more, in all seventeen; of which I remember thirteen sitting at one time at his table, who all grew up to be men and women, and married; I was the youngest son, and the youngest child but two, and was born in Boston, New England. My mother, the second wife, was Abiah Folger, daughter of Peter Folger, one of the first settlers of New England, of whom honorable mention is made by Cotton Mather, in his church history of that country, entitled Magnalia Christi Americana, as "a godly, learned Englishman," if I remember the words rightly. I have heard that he wrote sundry small occasional pieces, but only one of them was printed, which I saw now many years since. It was written in 1675, in the home-spun verse of that time and people, and addressed to those then concerned in the government there. It was in favour of liberty of conscience, and in behalf of the Baptists, Quakers, and other sectaries that had been under persecution, ascribing the Indian wars, and other distresses that had befallen the country, to that persecution, as so many judgments of God to punish so heinous an offense, and exhorting a repeal of those uncharitable laws. The whole appeared to me as written with a good deal of decent plainness and manly freedom. The six concluding lines I remember, though I have forgotten the two first of the stanza; but the purport of them was, that his censures proceeded from good-will, and, therefore, he would be known to be the author.
"Because to be a libeller (says he)
I hate it with my heart;
From Sherburne town, where now I dwell
My name I do put here;
Without offense your real friend,
It is Peter Folgier."
My elder brothers were all put apprentices to different trades. I was put to the grammar-school at eight years of age, my father intending to devote me, as the tithe of his sons, to the service of the Church. My early readiness in learning to read (which must have been very early, as I do not remember when I could not read), and the opinion of all his friends, that I should certainly make a good scholar, encouraged him in this purpose of his. My uncle Benjamin, too, approved of it, and proposed to give me all his short-hand volumes of sermons, I suppose as a stock to set up with, if I would learn his character. I continued, however, at the grammar-school not quite one year, though in that time I had risen gradually from the middle of the class of that year to be the head of it, and farther was removed into the next class above it, in order to go with that into the third at the end of the year. But my father, in the meantime, from a view of the expense of a college education, which having so large a family he could not well afford, and the mean living many so educated were afterwards able to obtain — reasons that he gave to his friends in my hearing — altered his first intention, took me from the grammar-school, and sent me to a school for writing and arithmetic, kept by a then famous man, Mr. George Brownell, very successful in his profession generally, and that by mild, encouraging methods. Under him I acquired fair writing pretty soon, but I failed in the arithmetic, and made no progress in it. At ten years old I was taken home to assist my father in his business, which was that of a tallow-chandler and sope-boiler; a business he was not bred to, but had assumed on his arrival in New England, and on finding his dyeing trade would not maintain his family, being in little request. Accordingly, I was employed in cutting wick for the candles, filling the dipping mould and the moulds for cast candles, attending the shop, going of errands, etc.
I disliked the trade, and had a strong inclination for the sea, but my father declared against it; however, living near the water, I was much in and about it, learnt early to swim well, and to manage boats; and when in a boat or canoe with other boys, I was commonly allowed to govern, especially in any case of difficulty; and upon other occasions I was generally a leader among the boys, and sometimes led them into scrapes, of which I will mention one instance, as it shows an early projecting public spirit, tho' not then justly conducted.
There was a salt-marsh that bounded part of the mill-pond, on the edge of which, at high water, we used to stand to fish for minnows. By much trampling, we had made it a mere quagmire. My proposal was to build a wharf there fit for us to stand upon, and I showed my comrades a large heap of stones, which were intended for a new house near the marsh, and which would very well suit our purpose. Accordingly, in the evening, when the workmen were gone, I assembled a number of my playfellows, and working with them diligently like so many emmets, sometimes two or three to a stone, we brought them all away and built our little wharf. The next morning the workmen were surprised at missing the stones, which were found in our wharf. Inquiry was made after the removers; we were discovered and complained of; several of us were corrected by our fathers; and, though I pleaded the usefulness of the work, mine convinced me that nothing was useful which was not honest.
I think you may like to know something of his person and character. He had an excellent constitution of body, was of middle stature, but well set, and very strong; he was ingenious, could draw prettily, was skilled a little in music, and had a clear, pleasing voice, so that when he played psalm tunes on his violin and sung withal, as he sometimes did in an evening after the business of the day was over, it was extremely agreeable to hear. He had a mechanical genius too, and, on occasion, was very handy in the use of other tradesmen's tools; but his great excellence lay in a sound understanding and solid judgment in prudential matters, both in private and publick affairs. In the latter, indeed, he was never employed, the numerous family he had to educate and the straitness of his circumstances keeping him close to his trade; but I remember well his being frequently visited by leading people, who consulted him for his opinion in affairs of the town or of the church he belonged to, and showed a good deal of respect for his judgment and advice: he was also much consulted by private persons about their affairs when any difficulty occurred, and frequently chosen an arbitrator between contending parties. At his table he liked to have, as often as he could, some sensible friend or neighbor to converse with, and always took care to start some ingenious or useful topic for discourse, which might tend to improve the minds of his children. By this means he turned our attention to what was good, just, and prudent in the conduct of life; and little or no notice was ever taken of what related to the victuals on the table, whether it was well or ill dressed, in or out of season, of good or bad flavor, preferable or inferior to this or that other thing of the kind, so that I was bro't up in such a perfect inattention to those matters as to be quite indifferent what kind of food was set before me, and so unobservant of it, that to this day if I am asked I can scarce tell a few hours after dinner what I dined upon. This has been a convenience to me in traveling, where my companions have been sometimes very unhappy for want of a suitable gratification of their more delicate, because better instructed, tastes and appetites.
My mother had likewise an excellent constitution: she suckled all her ten children. I never knew either my father or mother to have any sickness but that of which they dy'd, he at 89, and she at 85 years of age. They lie buried together at Boston, where I some years since placed a marble over their grave, with this inscription:
ABIAH his wife,
lie here interred.
They lived lovingly together in wedlock
Without an estate, or any gainful employment,
By constant labor and industry,
with God's blessing,
They maintained a large family
and brought up thirteen children
and seven grandchildren
From this instance, reader,
Be encouraged to diligence in thy calling,
And distrust not Providence.
He was a pious and prudent man;
She, a discreet and virtuous woman.
Their youngest son,
In filial regard to their memory,
Places this stone.
J. F. born 1655, died 1744, Ætat 89.
A. F. born 1667, died 1752, — — 85.
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Table of Contents
- The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
- Title Page
- I Ancestry And Early Youth In Boston
- II Beginning Life As A Printer
- III Arrival In Philadelphia
- IV First Visit To Boston
- V Early Friends In Philadelphia
- VI First Visit To London
- VII Beginning Business In Philadelphia
- VIII Business Success And First Public Service
- IX Plan For Attaining Moral Perfection
- X Poor Richard’S Almanac And Other Activities
- XI Interest In Public Affairs
- XII Defense Of The Province
- XIII Public Services And Duties
- XIV Albany Plan Of Union
- XV Quarrels With The Proprietary Governors
- XVI Braddock’s Expedition
- XVII Franklin’s Defense Of The Frontier
- XVIII Scientific Experiments
- XIX Agent Of Pennsylvania In London
- Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant
- Title Page
- VOLUME ONE
- CHAPTER I.
- CHAPTER II.
- CHAPTER III.
- CHAPTER IV.
- CHAPTER V.
- CHAPTER VI.
- CHAPTER VII.
- CHAPTER VIII.
- CHAPTER IX.
- CHAPTER X.
- CHAPTER XI.
- CHAPTER XII.
- CHAPTER XIII.
- CHAPTER XIV.
- CHAPTER XV.
- CHAPTER XVI.
- CHAPTER XVII.
- CHAPTER XVIII.
- CHAPTER XIX.
- CHAPTER XX.
- CHAPTER XXI.
- CHAPTER XXII.
- CHAPTER XXIII.
- CHAPTER XXIV.
- CHAPTER XXV.
- CHAPTER XXVI.
- CHAPTER XXVII.
- CHAPTER XXVIII.
- CHAPTER XXIX.
- CHAPTER XXX.
- CHAPTER XXXI.
- CHAPTER XXXII.
- CHAPTER XXXIII.
- CHAPTER XXXIV.
- CHAPTER XXXV.
- CHAPTER XXXVI.
- CHAPTER XXXVII.
- CHAPTER XXXVIII.
- CHAPTER XXXIX.
- VOLUME TWO
- CHAPTER XL.
- CHAPTER XLI.
- CHAPTER XLII.
- CHAPTER XLIII.
- CHAPTER XLIV.
- CHAPTER XLV.
- CHAPTER XLVI.
- CHAPTER XLVII.
- CHAPTER XLVIII.
- CHAPTER XLIX.
- CHAPTER L.
- CHAPTER LI.
- CHAPTER LII.
- CHAPTER LIII.
- CHAPTER LIV.
- CHAPTER LV.
- CHAPTER LVI.
- CHAPTER LVII.
- CHAPTER LVIII.
- CHAPTER LIX.
- CHAPTER LX.
- CHAPTER LXI.
- CHAPTER LXII.
- CHAPTER LXIII.
- CHAPTER LXIV.
- CHAPTER LXV.
- CHAPTER LXVI.
- CHAPTER LXVII.
- CHAPTER LXVIII.
- CHAPTER LXIX.
- CHAPTER LXX.
- Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie
- Title Page
- EDITOR’S NOTE
- CHAPTER I: PARENTS AND CHILDHOOD
- CHAPTER II: DUNFERMLINE AND AMERICA
- CHAPTER III: PITTSBURGH AND WORK
- CHAPTER IV: COLONEL ANDERSON AND BOOKS
- CHAPTER V: THE TELEGRAPH OFFICE
- CHAPTER VI: RAILROAD SERVICE
- CHAPTER VII: SUPERINTENDENT OF THE PENNSYLVANIA
- CHAPTER VIII: CIVIL WAR PERIOD
- CHAPTER IX: BRIDGE-BUILDING
- CHAPTER X: THE IRON WORKS
- CHAPTER XI: NEW YORK AS HEADQUARTERS
- CHAPTER XII: BUSINESS NEGOTIATIONS
- CHAPTER XIII: THE AGE OF STEEL
- CHAPTER XIV: PARTNERS, BOOKS, AND TRAVEL
- CHAPTER XV: COACHING TRIP AND MARRIAGE
- CHAPTER XVI: MILLS AND THE MEN
- CHAPTER XVII: THE HOMESTEAD STRIKE
- CHAPTER XVIII: PROBLEMS OF LABOR
- CHAPTER XIX: THE “GOSPEL OF WEALTH”
- CHAPTER XX: EDUCATIONAL AND PENSION FUNDS
- CHAPTER XXI: THE PEACE PALACE AND PITTENCRIEFF
- CHAPTER XXII: MATHEW ARNOLD AND OTHERS
- CHAPTER XXIII: BRITISH POLITICAL LEADERS
- CHAPTER XXIV: GLADSTONE AND MORLEY
- CHAPTER XXV: HERBERT SPENCER AND HIS DISCIPLE
- CHAPTER XXVI: BLAINE AND HARRISON
- CHAPTER XXVII: WASHINGTON DIPLOMACY
- CHAPTER XXVIII: HAY AND McKINLEY
- CHAPTER XXIX: MEETING THE GERMAN EMPEROR
- The Education of Henry Adams
- Title Page
- EDITOR’S PREFACE
- CHAPTER I: QUINCY (1838–1848)
- CHAPTER II: BOSTON (1848–1854)
- CHAPTER III: WASHINGTON (1850–1854)
- CHAPTER IV: HARVARD COLLEGE (1854–1858)
- CHAPTER V: BERLIN (1858–1859)
- CHAPTER VI: ROME (1859–1860)
- CHAPTER VII: TREASON (1860–1861)
- CHAPTER VIII: DIPLOMACY (1861)
- CHAPTER IX: FOES OR FRIENDS (1862)
- CHAPTER X: POLITICAL MORALITY (1862)
- CHAPTER XI: THE BATTLE OF THE RAMS (1863)
- CHAPTER XII: ECCENTRICITY (1863)
- CHAPTER XIII: THE PERFECTION OF HUMAN SOCIETY (1864)
- CHAPTER XIV: DILETTANTISM (1865–1866)
- CHAPTER XV: DARWINISM (1867–1868)
- CHAPTER XVI: THE PRESS (1868)
- CHAPTER XVII: PRESIDENT GRANT (1869)
- CHAPTER XVIII: FREE FIGHT (1869–1870)
- CHAPTER XIX: CHAOS (1870)
- CHAPTER XX: FAILURE (1871)
- CHAPTER XXI: TWENTY YEARS AFTER (1892)
- CHAPTER XXII: CHICAGO (1893)
- CHAPTER XXIII: SILENCE (1894–1898)
- CHAPTER XXIV: INDIAN SUMMER (1898–1899)
- CHAPTER XXV: THE DYNAMO AND THE VIRGIN (1900)
- CHAPTER XXVI: TWILIGHT (1901)
- CHAPTER XXVII: TEUFELSDRÖCKH (1901)
- CHAPTER XXVIII: THE HEIGHT OF KNOWLEDGE (1902)
- CHAPTER XXIX: THE ABYSS OF IGNORANCE (1902)
- CHAPTER XXX: VIS INERTIAE (1903)
- CHAPTER XXXI: THE GRAMMAR OF SCIENCE (1903)
- CHAPTER XXXII: VIS NOVA (1903–1904)
- CHAPTER XXXIII: A DYNAMIC THEORY OF HISTORY (1904)
- CHAPTER XXXIV: A LAW OF ACCELERATION (1904)
- CHAPTER XXXV: NUNC AGE (1905)
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