Disraeli, Benjamin, 1st earl of Beaconsfield, 1804-81, British statesman and author. He is regarded as the founder of the modern Conservative party.

Early Career

Disraeli was of Jewish ancestry, but his father, the literary critic Isaac D'Israeli, had him baptized (1817). In 1826 Disraeli published his first novel, Vivian Grey. It was the beginning of a prolific literary career, and his political essays and numerous novels earned him a permanent place in English literature. After a period of foreign travel (1830-31), Disraeli returned to London, where he soon became prominent in society. Standing four times for Parliament without success, he was finally elected in 1837 and rapidly developed into an outstanding, realistic, and caustically witty politician.

He was a follower of Sir Robert Peel until 1843, but he then became spokesman for the Young England group of Tories, espousing a sort of romantic and aristocratic Toryism. He expressed these themes in the political novels Coningsby (1844) and Sybil (1846). He criticized Peel's free-trade legislation, particularly repeal of the corn laws (1846). After repeal went through (1846), he helped bring down Peel's ministry.

At the death of Lord George Bentinck (1848), Disraeli became leader of the Tory protectionists. He was chancellor of the exchequer in the brief governments of the earl of Derby in 1852 and 1858-59, and after continuing opposition during the Liberal governments of Palmerston and Russell, he became chancellor under Derby again in 1866. With consummate political skill, he piloted through Parliament the Reform Bill of 1867 (see under Reform Acts), which enfranchised some two million men, largely of the working classes, and greatly benefited his party.

Prime Minister

Disraeli succeeded the earl of Derby as prime minister in 1868 but lost the office to Gladstone in the same year. Disraeli's second ministry (1874-80) enacted many domestic reforms in housing, public health, and factory legislation, but it was more notable for its aggressive foreign policy. The annexation of the Fiji islands (1874) and of the Transvaal (1877), the war against the Afghans (1878-79), and the Zulu War of 1879 proclaimed England a world imperial power more clearly than before. So did Queen Victoria's assumption (1876) of the title of empress of India; Disraeli was a great favorite of the queen.

The government's purchase (1875) of the controlling share of Suez Canal stock from the bankrupt khedive of Egypt strengthened British Mediterranean interests, which were jealously guarded in the diplomacy during and after the Russo-Turkish War (1877-78). During the war Disraeli supported Turkey diplomatically and by threat of intervention in order to combat Russian influence in the eastern Mediterranean, and he induced Turkey to cede Cyprus to Great Britain. He forced Russia to submit the Treaty of San Stefano to the Congress of Berlin (1878) and there secured the treaty revisions that greatly reduced Russian power in the Balkans (see Berlin, Congress of) and helped preserve peace in Europe. Disraeli was created earl of Beaconsfield in 1876. He was defeated by Gladstone in 1880.


See biographies by W. F. Monypenny and G. E. Buckle (6 vol, 1910-20, rev. ed. 1968), R. W. Davis (1976), R. Blake (1966, repr. 1987), S. Bradford (1982), J. Ridley (1995), W. Kuhn (2005), C. Hibbert (2006), and A. Kirsch (2009); study by M. Swartz (1985).

Wilson, Benjamin, 1721-88, English portrait painter and electrician who opposed Benjamin Franklin's theory of positive and negative electricity. Instead, Wilson supported Newton's gravitational-optical ether, which he supposed to differ in density around bodies in accordance with their degrees of electrification. Wilson also opposed Franklin's theory of lightning rods, holding that blunt conductors performed better than pointed ones. His best experimental work was on the electrical properties of the tourmaline. He was elected fellow of the Royal Society in 1751 and received its gold medal in 1760 for his electrical experiments.
Hoadly, Benjamin, 1676-1761, English prelate, center of the Bangorian Controversy within the Church of England. He was a leader in the Low Church group. In 1715 he was appointed bishop of Bangor, Wales, and chaplain to George I. His pamphlet, A Preservative against the Principles and Practices of the Non-Jurors (1716), and especially his sermon (1717) before the king on the text "My kingdom is not of this world," in which he maintained that Jesus had not delegated authority to ecclesiastics, started the Bangorian Controversy. The ablest replies to Hoadly were those of William Law. Hoadly was transferred to Hereford (1721), to Salisbury (1723), and to Winchester (1734).
Champney, Benjamin, 1817-1907, American painter, b. New Ipswich, N.H. Champney studied drawing and was apprenticed to a lithographer in Boston. He traveled to Europe in 1846, painting panoramic vistas of the Rhine and scenes of the Revolution of 1848.
Harrison, Benjamin, 1726?-1791, political leader in the American Revolution, signer of the Declaration of Independence, b. Charles City co., Va. As a member (1749-75) of the house of burgesses, he protested against the Stamp Act (1765). He was a delegate (1774-78) to the Continental Congress and later governor of Virginia (1781-84). His son William Henry Harrison and his great-grandson Benjamin Harrison were U.S. Presidents.
Harrison, Benjamin, 1833-1901, 23d President of the United States (1889-93), b. North Bend, Ohio, grad. Miami Univ. (Ohio), 1852; grandson of William Henry Harrison. After reading law in Cincinnati, he moved (1854) to Indianapolis, where he was a lawyer and politician. He served in the Civil War as commander of an Indiana volunteer regiment and in 1865 was brevetted brigadier general of volunteers. A well-established corporation lawyer, he was (1881-87) a member of the U.S. Senate as a Republican but was defeated for reelection. The Republicans chose him (1888) as presidential candidate against Grover Cleveland, and he was elected in the electoral college, though Cleveland had the larger popular vote. Harrison as President approved all regular Republican measures, including the highly protective McKinley Tariff Act. His equivocal stand on civil service reform displeased both reformers and spoilsmen. The first Pan-American Conference was held (1889) in his administration. Defeated for reelection in 1892 by Cleveland, Harrison returned to his Indianapolis law practice. He later represented Venezuela in the Venezuela Boundary Dispute. Harrison wrote This Country of Ours (1897) and Views of an Ex-President (1901).

See his public papers and addresses (1893, repr. 1969); biography by H. J. Sievers (3 vol., 1952-68).

Peirce, Benjamin, 1809-80, American mathematician and astronomer, b. Salem, Mass., grad. Harvard, 1829. From 1833 he was a professor at Harvard; he helped establish the Harvard Observatory and was an organizer of the Dudley Observatory, Albany, N.Y. In the field of mechanics he made studies of the forms of elastic sacs containing fluids. From 1867 to 1874 he was superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey. He was the father of Charles Sanders Peirce. His fundamental contributions to mathematics were collected as Linear Associative Algebra (1870). He also wrote A System of Analytic Mechanics (1855).
Fitzpatrick, Benjamin, 1802-69, governor of Alabama (1841-45), b. Greene co., Ga. As a youth, he moved to Alabama (then still part of Mississippi Territory), where after two terms as governor, he served in the U.S. Senate (1848-49, 1853-61). A conservative, Fitzpatrick opposed secession but later supported the Confederacy. He was prominent in the early days of the Reconstruction period in Alabama and presided over the constitutional convention of 1865, but was soon afterward disfranchised.
Silliman, Benjamin, 1779-1864, American chemist, geologist, and physicist, b. Trumbull, Conn., grad. Yale, 1796. In 1802 he was appointed first professor of chemistry and natural history at Yale; he traveled abroad and then returned to teach at Yale until 1853. He was noted as a teacher, as a popular lecturer on scientific subjects, and as a founder and editor (1818-46) of the American Journal of Science and Arts. He was the first president of the Association of American Geologists, which became (1848) the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a founding member of the National Academy of Sciences, and he helped to establish the medical school at Yale. His son, Benjamin Silliman, 1816-85, American chemist, b. New Haven, Conn., grad. Yale, 1837, was professor at Yale (1846-49) and then at the Univ. of Louisville (1849-54). In 1854 he returned to Yale, succeeding his father. The school of chemistry which he had established there (1847) later developed into the Sheffield Scientific School.
Tallmadge, Benjamin, 1754-1835, American Revolutionary soldier, b. Brookhaven, N.Y. Joining a Connecticut regiment, he served throughout the Revolution, fighting at Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth. In 1780 he commanded in the successful attack against Fort St. George and in the destruction of British supplies on Long Island. A confidential agent (1778-83), he corresponded with George Washington and had custody of Major John André until André's execution. After the war Tallmadge retired to Litchfield, Conn., became a merchant, and sat (1801-17) in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Federalist.

See Memoir of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge, Prepared by Himself (1858; repr. and ed. by H. P. Johnston, 1904); biography by C. S. Hall (1943).

Benjamin [Heb.,=son of fortune], younger son of Jacob and Rachel, eponymous ancestor of one of the 12 tribes of Israel. His mother, dying, named him Benoni [Heb.,=son of my sorrow]. According to the Book of Joshua, the tribe of Benjamin was allotted the plateau of E central Palestine lying W of the Jordan between Jerusalem and Bethel. The tribespeople were famous archers. It has been argued that the account in Joshua relates the conquest of Canaan from the point of view of the Benjamite clans. This tradition was later expanded to present a pan-Israelite conquest account. The name survived in the High Gate of Benjamin of the Temple at Jerusalem. The Bible attests that Saul and Paul were of the tribe of Benjamin.
Benjamin, Asher, 1773-1845, American architect, b. Greenfield, Mass. His Country Builder's Assistant was published in 1797 and The American Builder's Companion, with Daniel Reynard, in 1806. Benjamin designed houses and churches in many New England towns, but his greater influence was through his pattern books, which popularized the details of the late colonial style. His later books, The Rudiments of Architecture (1814) and The Practical House Carpenter (1830), show more Greek design.
Benjamin, Judah Philip, 1811-84, Confederate statesman and British barrister, b. Christiansted, St. Croix, Virgin Islands, of Jewish parents. His family moved (c.1813) to Wilmington, N.C., and finally settled (1822) in Charleston, S.C. A precocious youth, Benjamin entered Yale at the age of 14 but left (1827) early in his junior year. He went to New Orleans in 1828, worked for a notary, taught English, and studied French and the law in his spare time. Admitted to the bar in Dec., 1832, he published (1834), with his friend Thomas Slidell, a digest of Louisiana appeal cases that enhanced his reputation as a rising young lawyer. His practice soon made him rich enough to become a sugar planter as well. Benjamin, a prominent Whig, served in both branches of the state legislature, was a delegate to two state constitutional conventions, and in 1852 was elected to the U.S. Senate. On the dissolution of the Whig party because of the slavery issue, he publicly proclaimed himself a Democrat (May 2, 1856), and two years later he was reelected Senator. One of the ablest defenses of Southern policy was presented in the Senate by Benjamin on Dec. 31, 1860. On Feb. 4, 1861, after Louisiana's secession, he resigned his seat. In the new Southern government, Benjamin first served as attorney general, was appointed secretary of war in Nov., 1861 (he had been acting secretary since September), and from Mar., 1862, to the end of the Civil War was secretary of state. Though not popular with the public, he was an intimate friend of Jefferson Davis and was known in the North as "the brains of the Confederacy." As secretary of war he was an able administrator, but was severely criticized—for the most part unjustly—for Confederate defeats early in 1862, particularly the loss of Roanoke Island, N.C. After Davis promoted him to head the state department, Benjamin worked unceasingly but unsuccessfully to secure European recognition of the Confederacy. In Feb., 1865, he proposed that slaves who willingly joined the Confederate ranks be freed. Upon the collapse of the Confederacy, Benjamin escaped by way of Florida and the West Indies to England and there established a new career in the law. He was called to the bar in 1866 and won immediate recognition with A Treatise on the Law of Sale of Personal Property (1868). On his retirement early in 1883 he was universally acknowledged to have been in the front rank of his profession. He died and was buried in Paris, where his wife, who was a Louisiana Creole, and his daughter had made their home since the 1840s.

See biographies by P. Butler (1981) and E. Evans (1989).

Benjamin, Park, 1809-64, American journalist, b. British Guiana (now Guyana). As owner and editor of the New England Magazine, he merged it (1835) with the American Monthly Magazine of New York and became associate editor with C. F. Hoffman. A prominent journalist of his day, he is best known as the founder (1839) of the New World, a weekly periodical that ran until 1845.

See biography by M. M. Hoover (1948).

Benjamin, Walter, 1892-1940, German essayist and critic. He is known for his synthesis of eccentric Marxist theory and Jewish messianism. In particular, his essays on Charles Baudelaire and Franz Kafka as well as his speculation on symbolism, allegory, and the function of art in a mechanical age have profoundly affected contemporary criticism. Benjamin was influenced by his close friendship with the historian of Jewish mysticism Gershom Gerhard Scholem. In 1933, he moved to France because of the rise of the Nazis. When the Nazis invaded France, he fled to Spain, was denied entry, and committed suicide.


See collections of his essays edited by H. Arendt (1968, 1978); his Moscow Diary (1986); The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin, 1910-1940 (1966, tr. 1994) edited by Manfred R. and Evelyn M. Jacobson; Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship (1981) by G. Scholem; studies by R. Wolin (1982), S. Handelman (1991), and B. Witte (1991); essays by G. Scholem (1965, 1981).

Jowett, Benjamin, 1817-93, English educator and Greek scholar, b. London. Jowett was a Church of England clergyman, master of Balliol College, Oxford (1870-93), and vice chancellor of Oxford. His influence on his pupils was profound. Jowett's translation of the dialogues of Plato (1871) is an outstanding work both of English literature and of classical scholarship.

See biography by G. C. Faber (1957).

Franklin, Benjamin, 1706-90, American statesman, printer, scientist, and writer, b. Boston. The only American of the colonial period to earn a European reputation as a natural philosopher, he is best remembered in the United States as a patriot and diplomat.

Printer and Writer

The son of a tallow chandler and soapmaker, Franklin left school at 10 years of age to help his father. He then was apprenticed to his half brother James, a printer and publisher of the New England Courant, to which young Ben secretly contributed. After much disagreement he left his brother's employment and went (1723) to Philadelphia to work as a printer. Industry and thrift—qualities he was to praise later—helped him to better himself.

After a sojourn in London (1724-26), he returned and in 1729 acquired an interest in the Pennsylvania Gazette. As owner and editor after 1730, he made the periodical popular. His common sense philosophy and his neatly turned phrases won public attention in the Gazette, in the later General Magazine, and especially in his Poor Richard's Almanack, which he published from 1732 to 1757. Many sayings of Poor Richard, praising prudence, common sense, and honesty, became standard American proverbs.

Franklin also interested himself in selling books, established a circulating library, organized a debating club that developed into the American Philosophical Society, helped to establish (1751) an academy that eventually became the Univ. of Pennsylvania, and brought about civic reforms. His writings are still widely known today, especially his autobiography (covering only his early years), which is generally considered one of the finest autobiographies in any language and has appeared in innumerable editions.


Franklin had steadily extended his own knowledge by study of foreign languages, philosophy, and science. He repeated the experiments of other scientists and showed his usual practical bent by inventing such diverse things as the Franklin stove, bifocal eyeglasses, and a glass harmonica (which he called an armonica; see harmonica 2). The phenomenon of electricity interested him deeply, and in 1748 he turned his printing business over to his foreman, intending to devote his life to science. His experiment of flying a kite in a thunderstorm, which showed that lightning is an electrical discharge (but which he may not have personally performed), and his invention of the lightning rod were among a series of investigations that won him recognition from the leading scientists in England and on the Continent.


Diplomat from Pennsylvania

Franklin held local public offices and served long (1753-74) as deputy postmaster general of the colonies. As such he reorganized the postal system, making it both efficient and profitable. His status as a public figure grew steadily. A Pennsylvania delegate to the Albany Congress (1754), he proposed there a plan of union for the colonies, which was accepted by the delegates but later rejected by both the provincial assemblies and the British government. He worked for the British cause in the French and Indian War, especially by providing transportation for the ill-fated expedition led by Edward Braddock against Fort Duquesne. Franklin was a leader of the popular party in Pennsylvania against the Penn family, who were the proprietors, and in 1757 he was sent to England to present the case against the Penns. He won (1760) for the colony the right to tax the Penn estates but advised moderation in applying the right.

He returned to America for two years (1762-64) but was in England when the Stamp Act caused a furor. Again he showed prudent moderation; he protested the act but asked the colonists to obey the law, thus losing some popularity in the colonies until he stoutly defended American rights at the time of the debates on repeal of the act. He was made agent for Georgia (1768), New Jersey (1769), and Massachusetts (1770) and seriously considered making his home in England, where his scientific attainments, his brilliant mind, and his social gifts of wit and urbanity had gained him a high place.

Revolutionary Leader

As trouble between the British government and the colonies grew with the approach of the American Revolution, Franklin's deep love for his native land and his devotion to individual freedom brought (1775) him back to America. There, while his illegitimate son, William Franklin, was becoming a leader of the Loyalists, Benjamin Franklin became one of the greatest statesmen of the American Revolution and of the newborn nation. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress, was appointed postmaster general, and was sent to Canada with Samuel Chase and Charles Carroll of Carrollton to persuade the people of Canada to join the patriot cause. He was appointed (1776) to the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence, which he signed.

Late in 1776 he sailed to France to join Arthur Lee and Silas Deane in their diplomatic efforts for the new republic. Franklin, with a high reputation in France well supported by his winning presence, did much to gain French recognition of the new republic in 1778. Franklin helped to direct U.S. naval operations and was a successful agent for the United States in Europe—the sole one after suspicions and quarrels caused Congress to annul the powers of the other American commissioners.

He was chosen (1781) as one of the American diplomats to negotiate peace with Great Britain and laid the groundwork for the treaty before John Jay and John Adams arrived. British naval victory in the West Indies made the final treaty less advantageous to the United States than Franklin's original draft. The Treaty of Paris was, in contradiction of the orders of Congress, concluded in 1783 without the concurrence of France, because Jay and Adams distrusted the French.

Constitutional Convention Delegate

Franklin returned in 1785 to the United States and was made president of the Pennsylvania executive council. The last great service rendered to his country by this "wisest American," as he is sometimes called, was his part in the Federal Constitutional Convention of 1787. Although his proposals for a single-chamber congress and a weak executive council were rejected, he helped to direct the compromise that brought the Constitution of the United States into being. Though not completely satisfied with the finished product, he worked earnestly for its ratification.


See the definitive edition of Franklin's works, ed. by L. W. Labaree et al. (37 vol. so far, 1959-2003) See biographies by J. Parton (1864, repr. 1971), S. G. Fisher (1899), P. L. Ford (1899, repr. 1972), B. Faÿ (1933, repr. 1969), C. Van Doren (1938, repr. 1973), P. W. Conner (1965), A. O. Aldridge (1965), T. J. Fleming (1971), H. W. Brands (2000), E. S. Morgan (2002), W. Isaacson (2003), and J. A. L. Lemay (2 vol. so far, 2005-); I. B. Cohen, Benjamin Franklin's Science (1990); T. Tucker, Bolt of Fate (2003); G. S. Wood, The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin (2004); S. Schiff, A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France and the Birth of America (2005); P. Dray, Stealing God's Thunder (2005); J. Weinberger, Benjamin Franklin Unmasked: On the Unity of His Moral, Religious, and Political Thought (2005).

Chew, Benjamin, 1722-1810, American public official and judge, b. Anne Arundel co., Md. He read law in Philadelphia under Andrew Hamilton and was admitted (1746) to the bar. After practicing law at New Castle and Dover, Del., Chew returned to Philadelphia, where he held several public offices and was attorney general (1755-69). He was chief justice of the Pennsylvania supreme court from 1774 until the outbreak of the American Revolution, when he was suspected of Loyalist sympathies. He was arrested but was discharged soon afterward. He later served (1791-1808) as president of the high court of errors and appeals of Pennsylvania.

See biography by B. A. Konkle (1932).

Tillett, Benjamin, 1860-1943, English labor organizer, b. Bristol, England. With Tom Mann and John Burns, he led the dock strike of 1889, the first big step toward industrial unionism in Great Britain. Tillett helped found several labor organizations, including the Dockers' Union and the General Federation of Trade Unions. He was a Labour party member of Parliament (1917-24, 1929-31). He wrote Trade Unions and Socialism (1894) and Memories and Reflections (1931).
Lundy, Benjamin, 1789-1839, American abolitionist, b. Sussex co., N.J., of Quaker parentage. A pioneer in the antislavery movement, Lundy founded (1815) the Union Humane Society while operating a saddlery in Ohio. He soon began to devote his efforts full time to the abolitionist cause by founding (1819) the antislavery periodical Philanthropist. In 1821 he began publishing the better-known Genius of Universal Emancipation. William Lloyd Garrison became associate editor of the Genius in 1829, but Lundy's belief in forming colonies abroad for freed slaves led the two to part. The Genius ceased publication in 1835, and in 1836, at Philadelphia, Lundy founded the National Enquirer, edited after 1838 by John Greenleaf Whittier as the Pennsylvania Freeman.

See T. Earle, ed., The Life, Travels and Opinions of Benjamin Lundy (1847, repr. 1971).

Rush, Benjamin, 1745?-1813, American physician, signer of the Declaration of Independence, b. Byberry (now part of Philadelphia), Pa., grad. College of New Jersey (now Princeton), 1760, M.D. Univ. of Edinburgh, 1768. On his return to America (1769) he became professor of chemistry, the first in the colonies, at the College of Philadelphia. A member of the Continental Congress (1776-77), he served for a time in the Continental Army. In 1786 he established in Philadelphia the first free dispensary in the United States. He was a member of the Pennsylvania convention that ratified the U.S. Constitution. In 1792 he became professor of the institutes of medicine and clinical practice at the Univ. of Pennsylvania (which had absorbed the College of Philadelphia), later becoming professor of theory and practice. His reliance upon the bleeding and purging of patients, particularly in the yellow-fever epidemic of 1793 (in which he worked heroically), aroused a bitter controversy. Popular as a teacher, he made notable contributions to psychiatry, was a founder of the first American antislavery society, and was the driving force in the founding of Dickinson College. From 1797 to his death he was treasurer of the U.S. mint at Philadelphia. Rush Medical College, Chicago, now part of Rush Univ., was named for him. His principal writings were Medical Inquiries and Observations (5 vol., 1794-98), Essays, Literary, Moral, and Philosophical (1798), and Medical Inquiries and Observations upon the Diseases of the Mind (1812).

See his letters (ed. by L. H. Butterfield, 1951); autobiography (ed. by G. W. Corner, 1948); biography by D. F. Hawke (1971).

Vicuña Mackenna, Benjamin, 1831-86, Chilean historian and journalist. A vigorous opponent of the conservative government of Manuel Montt, he was sentenced to death for his part in the revolution of 1851-52, but escaped and spent some years in exile. He returned to Chile in 1856 and remained active in politics, running unsuccessfully for the presidency in 1875. He visited Mexico, the United States, and Europe and became a collector of manuscripts on early Chilean history. His historical works, based on immense knowledge and scholarship, number more than 100 volumes and include biographies of Antonio José de Sucre, Bernardo O'Higgins, and Diego Portales and a detailed chronicle of the War of the Pacific.
Day, Benjamin, 1838-1916, American printer; son of Benjamin Henry Day. While working in New York City, Day invented a process, utilizing celluloid sheets, for shading plates in the color printing of maps and illustrations. It is known as the Ben Day, or Benday, process. The term "Ben Day" is used as a noun, verb, and adjective.
Constant, Benjamin (Henri Benjamin Constant de Rebecque), 1767-1830, French-Swiss political writer and novelist, b. Lausanne. His affair (1794-1811) with Germaine de Staël turned him to political interests. He accompanied her to Paris in 1795 and served (1799-1801) as a tribune under the first consul, Napoleon. When Mme de Stäel was expelled (1802), however, he went into exile with her, spending the following 12 years in Switzerland and Germany. In 1813 he published a pamphlet attacking Napoleon and urging constitutional government and civil liberties. On Napoleon's return from Elba, however, Constant accepted office under him. After Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo and the restoration of the Bourbons, Constant continued his political pamphleteering, calling for a constitutional monarchy. He served (1819-22, 1824-30) in the chamber of deputies. Constant gained a great reputation as a liberal publicist, and his funeral (shortly after the July Revolution, 1830, which he had supported) was the occasion for great demonstrations. His most important work, the introspective and semiautobiographical novel, Adolphe (1816, tr. 1959), is highly regarded for its style. Parts of his correspondence and journals have been published, the latter as Le Journal intime (1887-89) and Le Cahier rouge [the red notebook] (1907). The discovery of an unfinished novel, Cécile (1951; tr. 1953), has contributed to a new appreciation of Constant's literary merit.

See R. Weingarten, Germaine de Staël and Benjamin Constant: A Dual Biography (2008); studies by H. Nicolson (1949), W. W. Holdheim (1961), and D. Wood (1987).

Kidd, Benjamin, 1858-1916, English social philosopher. His most noted work, Social Evolution (1894), sets forth his doctrine of the constant strife between individual and public interest.
Thompson, Benjamin: see Rumford, Benjamin Thompson, Count.
Church, Benjamin, 1639-1718, New England colonial soldier in King Philip's War, b. Plymouth, Mass. He took a leading part in the Great Swamp Fight (Dec., 1675), W of Kingston, R.I., and finally hunted down and killed Philip in Aug., 1676.
Britten, Benjamin, Baron Britten of Aldeburgh, 1913-76, English composer. Britten is widely considered the most significant British composer since Purcell. Britten's most characteristic expression is found in his vocal music. His many song cycles and choral works include A Boy Was Born (1933) and A Ceremony of Carols (1942). Britten's great War Requiem (1962), based on the bitter war poems of Wilfred Owen, was sung at the dedication in England of the reconstructed Coventry Cathedral, destroyed during World War II. In his operas, which include Paul Bunyan (1941), Peter Grimes (1945), The Rape of Lucretia (1946), The Beggar's Opera (1948), The Turn of the Screw (1954), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1960), and Death in Venice (1973), he displayed a sensitivity to text and a fondness for variation techniques, dynamic dissonance, and the use of ground basses. Britten's instrumental works, some composed when he was a youth, display considerable technical brilliance and colorful orchestration. A notable and popular example, The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1946), written for a film, is based on a theme by Purcell. In 1976 Queen Elizabeth II named him a life peer.

See biographies by I. Holst (2d ed. 1970), E. W. White (new ed. 1970), and H. Carpenter (1992); study by P. Evans (1979).

Lincoln, Benjamin, 1733-1810, American Revolutionary soldier, b. Hingham, Mass. He served under Horatio Gates in the Saratoga campaign before becoming (1778) commander in the South. In 1779 he failed, in conjunction with a French fleet under Admiral d'Estaing, to take Savannah and was beaten back to Charleston, where he surrendered (1780) to an overwhelming force commanded by Sir Henry Clinton. Lincoln was exchanged in time for the Yorktown campaign and received General Cornwallis's sword at the surrender. From 1781 to 1783 he was Secretary of War. In 1787 he commanded the Massachusetts state militia that helped suppress Shays's Rebellion.
West, Benjamin, 1738-1820, American historical painter who worked in England. He was born in Springfield, Pa., in a house that is now a memorial museum at Swarthmore College. After some instruction from a local artist named William Williams, he set up as a portrait painter in Philadelphia at 18, subsequently moving to New York City. In 1760 he went to Europe, where he remained for the rest of his life. For three years he studied in Italy. Working under the tutelage of Anton Mengs, he was also inspired by the classical research of Johann Winckelmann. He then settled in London, becoming a leader of the neoclassical movement. Under the patronage of George III, commissions came to him in great numbers, and in 1772 he was appointed historical painter to the king. A founder of the Royal Academy, he succeeded Sir Joshua Reynolds as its president in 1792. West executed more than 400 canvases, chiefly historical, mythological, and religious subjects painted on a heroic scale. He had many pupils and was a generous friend and adviser to younger artists, particularly American painters studying in England, among whom were Washington Allston, Samuel Morse, Charles Willson Peale, Gilbert Stuart, and John Singleton Copley. His influence on American painting of the period was predominant. Among West's best-known works are Death of General Wolfe (Grosvenor Gall., London) and Penn's Treaty with the Indians (Pa. Acad. of the Fine Arts). In these paintings he created a new departure in historical painting by clothing his figures in the costume of their period instead of the traditional classical garb. At the same time, he maintained the balanced compositional elements of the neoclassical painters. Sometimes his paintings were more turbulent and colorful and indeed prefigured romanticism, such as Death on a Pale Horse (Pa. Acad. of the Fine Arts).

See study by H. Von Erffa and A. Staley (1986).

Netanyahu, Benjamin or Binyamin, 1949-, Israeli diplomat and politician, prime minister of Israel (1996-99, 2009-), b. Tel Aviv. A member of the conservative Likud party, the self-assured Netanyahu, known universally in Israel as "BiBi," attended high school in the United States, where his father was a history professor. He was an officer in an elite Israeli commando unit from 1967 to 1972 and later studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (B.Sc. 1974, M.Sc. 1976). Returning to Israel in 1978, he became active in politics and served as Israel's UN representative (1984-88). First elected to Israel's parliament in 1988, he became deputy foreign minister (1988-91) and deputy prime minister (1991-92). During this period he earned a reputation for American-style media savvy.

As leader (1993-99) of the Likud party, Netanyahu was largely responsible for engineering its return to political power after its 1992 electoral defeat. An opponent of the peace policies espoused by Israel's Labor government, he was criticized for cultivating Jewish extremist support after the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Narrowly elected in May, 1996, he became Israel's youngest prime minister, promising a tough stance on terrorism. His tenure was marked by difficult peace talks with the Palestinians. Corruption scandals in his cabinet and strong reactions to his personality contributed to his May, 1999, loss to One Israel (Labor) party leader Ehud Barak. More recently, Netanyahu served under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as foreign minister (2002-3) and as finance minister (2003-5), but resigned and unsuccessfully challenged (2005) Sharon for the Likud leadership when Israel withdrew its settlers and forces from the Gaza Strip. When Sharon subsequently left Likud, Netanyahu became party leader; the party did poorly in the 2006 elections. A better showing in the 2009 elections enabled him to become prime minister of a largely right-wing coalition government in Apr., 2009.

Waterhouse, Benjamin, 1754-1846, American physician, b. Newport, R.I. He studied at the universities of Edinburgh and Leiden. In 1783 he became professor on the first faculty of the Harvard medical school. In 1800 he inoculated members of his household with vaccine obtained from England, thus introducing the method of Edward Jenner into America. Inoculation had been used by Zahdiel Boylston and others, but Waterhouse was the first American physician to establish it as a general practice.
Kennicott, Benjamin, 1718-83, English clergyman and biblical scholar. His long career at Oxford was one of devotion to learning. He was rector of Culham, Oxfordshire, from 1753 to 1783. With the aim of preparing an improved Hebrew text of the Old Testament, he secured the assistance of other scholars in the study of Hebrew manuscripts. Besides the many printed editions, 615 Hebrew manuscripts and 16 manuscripts of the Samaritan Pentateuch were collated to produce his edition, the Vetus testamentum Hebraicum cum variis lectionibus (1776-80).

Benjamin in the Book of Genesis, is a son of Jacob, the second (and last) son of Rachel, and the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Benjamin; in the Biblical account, unlike Rachel's first son - Joseph, the father of Ephraim and Manasseh - Benjamin was born after Jacob and Rachel arrived in Canaan. However some view these details as postdiction, an eponymous metaphor providing an etiology of the connectedness of the tribe to others in the Israelite confederation.

Biblical scholars regard it as obvious, from their geographic overlap and their treatment in older passages, that originally Ephraim and Manasseh were considered one tribe, that of Joseph. ; According to several biblical scholars, Benjamin was also originally part of this single tribe, but the biblical account of Joseph as his father became lost. The description of Benjamin being born after the arrival in Canaan is thought by some scholars to refer to the tribe of Benjamin coming into existence by branching from the Joseph group after the tribe had settled in Canaan. A number of biblical scholars suspect that the distinction of the Joseph tribes (including Benjamin) is that they were the only Israelites which went to Egypt and returned, while the main Israelite tribes simply emerged as a subculture from the Canaanites and had remained in Canaan throughout. According to this view, the story of Jacob's visit to Laban to obtain a wife originated as a metaphor for this migration, with the property and family which were gained from Laban representing the gains of the Joseph tribes by the time they returned from Egypt; according to textual scholars, the Jahwist version of the Laban narrative only mentions the Joseph tribes, and Rachel, and does not mention the other tribal matriarchs whatsoever.

The Torah argues that Benjamin's name arose when Jacob deliberately corrupted the name Benoni, the original name of Benjamin, since Benoni was an allusion to Rachel dying just after she had given birth, as it means son of my pain. Textual scholars regard these two names as fragments of naming narratives coming from different sources - one being the Jahwist and the other being the Elohist. The true etymology of the name Benjamin is a matter of dispute, though most agree that it is composed of two parts - ben and jamin - the former meaning son of. The literal translation of Benjamin is son of right (as opposed to left), generally interpreted as meaning son of my right hand, though sometimes interpreted as son of the right [hand] side; being associated with the right hand side was traditionally a reference to strength and virtue (cf sinister, which derives from the latin for left). This is, however, not the only literal translation, as the root for right is identical to that for south, hence Benjamin also literally translates as son of the south; this meaning is advocated by several classical rabbinical sources, which argue that it refers to the birth of Benjamin in Canaan, as compared with the birth of all the other sons of Jacob in Aram. Modern scholars have instead proposed that, with the eponymous Benjamin being just a metaphor, son of the south/son of the right are references to the tribe coming into existence in a geographic situation to the south of Ephraim, the more dominant tribe. In the Samaritan Pentateuch, the name is consistently written as בן ימים - with a terminal mem - making it Benjamim, and would literally translate as son of days; some classical rabbinical literature argues that this was the original form of the name and was a reference to the old age of Jacob when Benjamin was born.

According to classical rabbinical sources, Benjamin was only born after Rachel had fasted for a long time, as a religious devotion with the hope of a new child as a reward, and by then Jacob had become over 100 years old. Benjamin is treated as a young child in most of the Biblical narrative, but at one point is abruptly described as the father of ten sons; textual scholars believe that this is caused by the genealogical passage, in which his children are named, being from a much later source than the Jahwist and Elohist narratives, which make up most of the Joseph narrative, and which consistently describe Benjamin as a child..

Benjamin sons

The genealogical passage names each of the sons, which classical rabbinical tradition adds to with the argument that the sons were each named in honour of Joseph:

  • Belah (meaning swallow), in reference to Joseph disappearing (being swallowed up)
  • Becher (meaning first born), in reference to Joseph being the first child of Rachel
  • Ashbel (meaning capture), in reference to Joseph having suffered captivity
  • Gera (meaning grain), in reference to Joseph living in a foreign land (Egypt)
  • Naaman (meaning grace), in reference to Joseph having graceful speech
  • Ehi (meaning my brother), in reference to Joseph being Benjamin's only full-brother (as opposed to half-brothers)
  • Rosh (meaning elder), in reference to Joseph being older than Benjamin
  • Muppim (meaning double mouth), in reference to Joseph passing on what he had been taught by Jacob
  • Huppim (meaning marriage canopies), in reference to Joseph being married in Egypt, while Benjamin was not there
  • Ard (meaning wanderer/fugitive), in reference to Joseph being like a rose

The Torah's Joseph narrative, at a stage when Joseph is unrecognised by his brothers, describes Joseph as testing whether his brothers have reformed, by secretly planting a silver cup in Benjamin's bag, then publicly searching the bags for it, and after finding it in Benjamin's possession, demanding that Benjamin become his slave as a punishment; the narrative goes on to state that when Judah (on behalf of the other brothers) begged Joseph not to enslave Benjamin and instead enslave him, since enslavement of Benjamin would break Jacob's heart, this caused Joseph to recant and reveal his identity. The midrashic book of Jasher argues that prior to revealing his identity, Joseph asked Benjamin to find his missing brother (ie. Joseph) via astrology, using an astrolabe-like tool; it continues by stating that Benjamin divined that the man on the throne was Joseph, so Joseph identified himself to Benjamin (but not the other brothers), and revealed his scheme (as in the Torah) to test how fraternal the other brothers were. However, some classical rabbinical sources argue that Joseph identified himself for other reasons. In these sources, Benjamin swore an oath, on the memory of Joseph, that he was innocent of theft, and, when challenged about how believable the oath would be, explained that remembering Joseph was so important to him that he had named his sons in Joseph's honour; these sources go on to state that Benjamin's oath touched Joseph so deeply that Joseph was no longer able to pretend to be a stranger.

In the narrative, just prior to this test, when Joseph had first met all of his brothers (but not identified himself to them), he had held a feast for them; the narrative heavily implies that Benjamin was Joseph's favorite brother, since he is overcome with tears when he first meets Benjamin in particular, and he gives Benjamin five times as much food as he apportions to the others. According to textual scholars, this is really the Jahwist's account of the reunion after Joseph identifies himself, and the account of the threat to enslave Benjamin is just the Elohist's version of the same event, with the Elohist being more terse about Joseph's emotions towards Benjamin, merely mentioning that Benjamin was given five times as many gifts as the others. A version of the Joseph narrative appears in the Qu'ran, which also mentions Benjamin (though it does so without naming him), describing him as having been regarded particularly highly by Joseph, and by Jacob; Baidawi, the quintessential mediaeval commentator on the Qu'ran, records that there was a tradition that the brothers had been made to sit in pairs at the feast, so that Benjamin had to sit on his own, which resulted in Benjamin weeping over the loss of Joseph. Not only is Benjamin treated as the favourite brother of Joseph, and a favourite of Jacob, but classical rabbinical sources also stress the fact that Benjamin is referred to as the beloved of Yahweh in Deuteronomy; these rabbinical sources concluded that Benjamin died without ever committing sin - one of only four men to have done so (the other three being Amram, Jesse, and Kileab.

See also



External links

  • The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1908: Benjamin. Material on the tribe, its territory, Rabbinical tradition and Islam, where Benjamin is not specifically mentioned in the Qur'an.

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