HOW ONE DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY EXILED 100,000 LOYALISTS.
After Franklin was posted to Paris to hammer out a treaty, he stunned his fellow-delegates by continually obstructing progress on the last point he had reluctantly agreed to negotiate: Article V of the Treaty of Paris, the one about being nice to Loyalists.
It is agreed that Congress shall earnestly recommend it to the legislatures of the respective states to provide for the restitution of all estates, rights, and properties, which have been confiscated belonging to real British subjects; and also of the estates, rights, and properties of persons resident in districts in the possession of his Majesties' arms and who have not borne arms against the said United States.
If you imagine that Article V was interpreted by the Loyalists and by British as the fulfillment of the promise from King George III to protect his supporters in America, you're right. If you imagine that Franklin had any intention of actually helping the Loyalists, you're wrong. Franklin's successful effort to block the good intentions of the Crown by subterfuge, deception, and betting on the darker angels of his fellow-citizens' need for revenge, is why your ancestors moved to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and all the other places.
Even fellow-delegate and first Supreme Court Justice, John Jay, was shocked at Franklin's obstinacy, that only grew as the Founding Father came under increasing pressure from the British delegates as well as his fellow-American representatives to soften his rock hard animus toward the 100,000 Loyalists and bring America's First Civil War to an honorable end. Toward the conclusion of negotiations, even the expected Hardest Liner of All, General George Washington, had had enough of Franklin's pettifogging, and urged him to include more accommodating language, which Franklin finally did.
But Franklin got the word back to Congress that any serious attempt to normalize relations with the Loyalists, would force him to insist on British reparations to the Americans, that he knew would be rejected by the British, and that that rejection would necessitate him recommending to Congress a return to open war.
Franklin produced the warm and fuzzy Article V, but included two important deal breakers. First, by turning "forgiveness" over to the individual states, Franklin knew that any "earnestly recommended" recommendations from his peace commission would be Dead On Arrival in those legislatures. Second, he was certain that the phrase "real British subjects" would be, and was, interpreted by the Congress as meaning only the Rebels, and not the Loyalists.
Rather than being relieved, the Loyalists' problems were aggravated, but this did not bother Franklin at all. In fact, he was happy about it. Similarly, Franklin knew that there would be large numbers of Loyalists asking for assistance from the British, and that any attempts to achieve full restitution, re-assimilation, or normalization would be doomed to failure because it would cost too much, and this made him even happier.
Why was Franklin so vengeful?
The First American International Polymath was, by definition, a lot of things, including a libertine. There are erotic period sketches easily found on the Internet of Franklin getting lap danced by the wandering wives of French diplomats. Even in his younger days, Franklin was quite the rounder. One of his escapades, with his chambermaid, produced an illegitimate son, William (1730-1815), who was raised by Franklin and his common-law wife, Deborah Read. To his credit, Franklin openly "acknowledged" William as his only son. Franklin and Deborah later had a daughter, Sarah. Franklin cared enough about the political optics and his son, to include him in his kite-flying experiments. In return, William set out to make himself a "legitimate" son in every way, but the legal one he couldn't change and, to make his father proud of him, which he did, for a time, by becoming the Royal Governor of New Jersey, with a little pull of some strings by his Founding Father.
But when Ben changed his views about his loyalty to the Empire, son William didn't, and when Ben crossed the Rubicon into sedition, William refused to follow. Old Ben considered this a "stab in the back" rather than simply a difference of opinion, and thus began the open and permanent break in their relationship. This was the reason Franklin decided to hate all Loyalists (psychologists have a name for this), and probably explains why Franklin delayed any final agreement on Article V until he had worked out the wording to neuter it.
Who suffered more from father and son's disgust with each other: Ben, William, or the thousands of Loyalists? It certainly wasn't Ben, who died six years later, beloved of his countrymen, a for-publication "widower," rich, fat, and famous, and full of his years (age 84). He had written Will out of his will, except for the land that Franklin owned in Nova Scotia, which he left: to his disloyal Loyalist illegitimate son. You can insert the old man's vindictive laughter here. Before this, William had been arrested by the Americans and had spent two years in the Old Litchfield Gaol, "a long log structure that was the second worst in Connecticut", for having organized some British military units. Friends of William had appealed to both Franklin and Washington to pardon the lad, but Franklin and Washington chose to ignore them (more laughter). William was finally exiled to England, where he died. His final return to America was in a coffin.
In one last letter to his disobedient son, the 84-year-old Franklin wrote to him:
"Nothing has ever hurt me so much and affected me with such keen Sensations as to find myself deserted in my old Age by my only Son, and not only deserted, but to find him taking up arms against me, in a Cause wherein my good Fame, Fortune, and Life were all at stake."
In other words, it was Franklin, according to Franklin, not William nor even the Loyalists, who had suffered!
William's death in 1813, twenty-three years after his famous father's passing, didn't signal the end of the House of Franklin, however. By the time of the Revolution, William had had his own illegitimate son, William Temple Franklin (1762-1823), so named because William conceived him of an unknown female, another chamber maid has been suggested, while he was a law student at the Middle Temple. Naming your firstborn after a building did not bode well for either father or son. William immediately put Temple into foster care and went off to Barbados to marry an heiress, a legitimate one, legitimately.
But on his way to work out the Treaty, the elder Franklin found Temple in London and took the 16-year-old with him to witness negotiations. Franklin raised him as the Patriot son he never had (more laughter). William Temple grew up to sire his own illegitimate children, of course: first Theodore Joseph (died age 1), and later a daughter Ellen Hanbury (d. 1875), and then embarked on a series of business failures, dying in Paris in poverty. With Ellen's daughter, Maria, the Loyalist branch of the House of Franklin apparently ends, although the American branch continues to live out its clouded ancestry among the descendants of Sarah Franklin Bache, Ben's daughter with Barbara Read, in the country her father founded.
* Much of the insight in this article comes from the marvelous research done by Maya Jasanoff, whose Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary War Vintage Books. New York, 2012, is a fantastic read.
BY ROBERT LIFTIG, EdD
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|Title Annotation:||THOSE FEUDIN' FRANKLINS:|
|Publication:||The Loyalist Gazette|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2019|
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