The work of video documentarian, Ken Burns, is a national treasure. His most recent contribution, Benjamin Franklin: A Film by Ken Burns, comes in two episodes, each about two hours long. Both episodes are currently available to stream on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) with a donation to your local PBS affiliate (for Spokane it is KSPS). No matter how much you know about the life of Benjamin Franklin, the century in which he lived, and the Revolutionary period of U.S./European history you are guaranteed to find something new and insightful in this documentary, including insights relevant to current events. Here is the link:
Each viewer will be struck by different insights from the film based on the viewer’s background. Here are just a few of mine:
- Benjamin Franklin’s life (1706-1790) spanned most of the 18th century, overlapping with the rigid Boston Puritan Clergyman Cotton Mather (1663-1728) and extending to the writing of the U.S. Constitution.
- Franklin was the only man from the British Colonies in American who was widely known and revered in France, and much of Europe, for his scientific achievements.
- Franklin’s proof that lightning was an electrical phenomenon and therefore not simply the judgement of God relieved 18th century Christians of the need to explain why God’s wrath should be so frequently visited on church steeples and church bellringers.
- Franklin was by far the most worldly of our “Founding Fathers” after years spent in London and in Paris and, before that, years spent traveling the colonies as deputy postmaster-general.
- At age 81 Franklin was by far the oldest of the prominent influencers the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787. At the time Jefferson was 34, Hamilton was either 30 or 32, James Madison 36, and John Adams was 52.
- The Revolutionary War might in many ways be considered the First Civil War. It pitted neighbors against neighbors, brothers against brothers, and, in Franklin’s case, fathers against sons.
Watch Ken Burns’ Benjamin Franklin. You’ll not regret the experience.
Keep to the high ground,