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The First American:
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

By the time Benjamin Franklin set out to write his Autobiography, he was a renowned scientist, inventor, man of letters, politician, diplomat, and philosopher—the most famous American in the world, by far. But what exactly was an American in 1784? America had only just won its independence from Britain, and the project of building both the nation and its identity was just beginning. We will examine the Autobiography as the first conscious statement of a distinctly American identity and political philosophy—illustrated through Franklin’s own eventful life—and try to understand the nature of the democratic promise Franklin saw in it.