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Daniel Mark Epstein
The Loyal Son: The War in Ben Franklin's House

The dramatic story of a founding father, his illegitimate son, and the tragedy of their conflict during the American Revolution—from the acclaimed author of The Lincolns.

Ben Franklin is the most lovable of America’s founding fathers. His wit, his charm, his inventiveness—even his grandfatherly appearance—are legendary. But this image obscures the scandals that dogged him throughout his life. In The Loyal Son, award-winning historian Daniel Mark Epstein throws the spotlight on one of the more enigmatic aspects of Franklin’s biography: his complex and confounding relationship with his illegitimate son William.

A fresh take on the combustible politics of the age of independence, The Loyal Son is a gripping account of how the agony of the American Revolution devastated one of America’s most distinguished families. Like Nathaniel Philbrick and David McCullough, Epstein is a storyteller first and foremost, a historian who weaves together fascinating incidents discovered in long-neglected documents to draw us into the private world of the men and women who made America.


Epstein . . . skillfully shows how the American Revolution divided communities and households, as would happen more famously during the Civil War. . . . Where the book succeeds splendidly is in rescuing William Franklin from obscurity. He was a loving son, an intelligent and honorable man, and a skilled (and final) royal governor of New Jersey who paid dearly by losing everything for his principled, agonizing fidelity to Britain. . . . Yet while never exculpating William for his choices, Epstein makes him thoroughly sympathetic. Epstein’s portrayals result in a thoroughly enjoyable and well-informed . . . work of history.
Publishers Weekly
“Epstein, an acclaimed poet, playwright, and biographer, portrays these two strong and powerful men with balance and compassion. This is a well-done account of one of the many personal tragedies engendered by the 'Glorious Cause.'”
Jay Freeman, Booklist
“The flow of Epstein's writing allows for a fully immersive experience and illuminates the tangled family relationships of one of the pillars of the American Revolution. VERDICT: for all readers interested in biographies and those who want to learn more about this underexplored part of Franklin's life.”
Library Journal