The Franklins: Father and Son By the Sword Divided

William Franklin, eldest son of Benjamin Franklin, is one of the forgotten men of American history.

Born illegitimate to Benjamin Franklin in 1731, he was raised by Franklin and Franklin’s remarkably tolerant wife.  He joined the American Regiment during King George’s War, 1744-48, and rose to the rank of Captain.  He went to London to study law, and while there followed in his father’s footsteps by fathering an illegitimate son, who was raised by his grandfather Benjamin Franklin.  While in England William also married Elizabeth Downes.

Thanks to his father’s efforts, William was appointed royal governor of New Jersey in 1763.   William remained an ardent Loyalist while his father embraced the Patriot cause.  This caused a breach between the two men that was never repaired.  William remained governor until 1776 when he was arrested by order of the provincial congress of New Jersey.  He remained incarcerated for two years until he was exchanged for a captured American officer in 1778.   He quickly became one of the most prominent Loyalists.   He attempted to start a guerilla war against the Patriots but was thwarted in his efforts by General Clinton, who commanded the British forces in New York where William took up his residence, who did not wish to wage an unconventional war.

In 1782, with Patriot victory assured, William went into exile to England.   He had one cold reunion with his father in 1785 when Benjamin Franklin briefly stopped in England on his way back to America from France.  In his will Benjamin left only some land in Nova Scotia to William, remarking that if the British who William had supported had won the war, he would have had no wealth to bequeath in any case.  William Franklin died in 1813, forgotten both in America and in England.

Published in: on May 27, 2010 at 5:42 am  Comments Off on The Franklins: Father and Son By the Sword Divided  
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