Essay on William Franklin: Traitor? Patriot?

Essay on William Franklin: Traitor? Patriot?

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In marked contrast to his famous father, who worked diligently on his autobiography until declining health would no longer allow it , William Franklin spent the years following the Revolutionary War wandering without purpose, the quintessential man without a country. Like many prominent loyalists to the Crown of England, William had suffered the confiscation of his property and the loss of his good name. William Franklin spent the first years of his English exile arguing in front of British Parliament for recompense on behalf of his fellow loyalists, with varying success, and for himself with none whatsoever. This endeavor having proven unfulfilling, William attempted to reconcile with his father and his son, Benjamin Franklin and William Temple Franklin, who had replaced William as Benjamin’s heir. For his efforts, William was rebuffed and made to suffer the indignity of virtual disinheritance. In defending his disownment of William, Benjamin bitterly noted, “the part he acted against me in the late war, which is of public notoriety, will account for my leaving him no more of an estate he endeavoured [sic] to deprive me of.”
The conflict between Benjamin Franklin and his only living son is a microcosm of the little-understood clash between those Americans who strived for independence from British occupation and those that felt the country was either not or never would be ready for self-governance. Benjamin Franklin felt strongly enough about his son’s actions to label them betrayal; William Franklin felt strongly enough about the foolhardiness of the Revolution to suffer his father’s wrath. The actions of the loyalists are understood by Americans to constitute treason, but this is a simplification. Many loyalists felt that r...

... middle of paper ...

...n Franklin, letter to William Franklin dated January 30, 1772, Benjamin
Franklin Papers, American Philosophical Society.

26. Benjamin Franklin, letter to William Franklin dated July 14, 1773, Benjamin Franklin
Papers, American Philosophical Society.

27. Benjamin Franklin, letter to William Franklin dated October 6, 1773, Benjamin
Franklin Papers, American Philosophical Society.

28. Isaacson, Benjamin Franklin, 276-7.

29. BF, Autobiography, 202.

30. Skemp, William Franklin, 147.

31. Ibid., 149, 154.

32. Ibid., 155.

33. Ibid., 162.

34. Isaacson, Benjamin Franklin, 293-4.

35. Skemp, William Franklin, 202-4.

36. Ibid., 232.

37. Ibid., 247.

38. Ibid., 262-5.

39. Joseph Stansbury and Jonathan Odell, The loyal verses of Joseph Stansbury and Jonathan Odell relating to the American Revolution (Albany: J. Munsell, 1860), 23.

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