In a candid report to William Legge, 2nd earl of Dartmouth and the British secretary of state for the colonies, on this day in 1775, Benjamin Franklin’s illegitimate son, New Jersey Royal Governor William Franklin, writes that the violence at Lexington and Concord greatly diminishes the chances of reconciliation between Britain and her North American colonies.
Reconciliation between Britain and America was not the only relationship at stake for Franklin. He would never repair the damage done to his relationship with his father, famed Patriot Benjamin Franklin, when he decided to remain loyal to the crown.
William and Benjamin Franklin enjoyed a close relationship until the War for Independence drove a permanent wedge between them. The younger Franklin was his father’s aide during his famed kite experiments and the elder Franklin made every effort to assist his son in garnering the highest social and professional station possible for the colonial elite in the British empire. Father and son traveled to London together in 1757, where until 1762, William studied law, and Franklin studied social climbing. They had remarkable success for a candle-maker’s son and his illegitimate progeny. By the end of their sojourn, William had ascended to the Bar and received an honorary Master of Arts from Oxford University, while his father reveled in honorary doctorates from Oxford and the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. The elder Franklin’s plans for his son’s advancement succeeded, and his son won the choicest of appointments, a royal governorship, in 1762.
However, when Benjamin Franklin reluctantly decided to join the movement for independence, his son continued to believe that the best place for Americans was within the empire that had treated two generations of Franklins so well despite their low births.