Benjamin Franklin Calls for
Peace by Jeff Provine
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in the St. James Chronicle, English
citizen Benjamin Franklin, originally from Pennsylvania, published his
"Letter to the English Speaking Peoples on Account of Unity".
Three years before, he had written a satirical essay entitled "Rules By
Which A Great Empire May Be Reduced To A Small One," ridiculing the heavy
(and seemingly inept) hand of government between England and her colonies.
While the Americans had been on a track toward revolution from unfair
taxation without representation, Franklin had been in England, climbing
social ladders, even to the point of securing his son the position as
governor of the colony of New Jersey.
In 1773, a series of letters from Governor Thomas Hutchinson of
Massachusetts were given to Franklin anonymously as he was representative
from the colonies. The letters depicted a draconian call to order by
stripping colonists of their rights "by degrees" and an "abridgement" of
liberties. Franklin sent the letters to Boston to inform them of their
governor's thoughts, and they were published in the Boston Gazette. Uproar
broke out in Boston, and Hutchison was sent back to England. The
government began an investigation to find the source of the leak,
eventually discovering Franklin as he stepped forward to protect
innocents. In January 1774, he would be reprimanded and humiliated before
the Privy Council, quashing many of Franklin's ambitions.
By 1775, Franklin was prepared to leave London forever, returning to
his beloved home and participating in the coming of a new age there.
However, as spring came, he suffered a vicious attack of his gout, and
Franklin was forced to spend the summer in the English countryside rather
than risking a painful voyage. He rested with his aged friend Lord
Chatham, William Pitt the Elder, and read the news from the colonies,
where war broke out at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts Colony.
Franklin knew that there would be no return to America with war, and so he
determined to help his people whatever way he found. Discussing the war
with the Whigs, especially Pitt's son, Franklin determined that the war
must end and the British Empire be reunited as well as reformed.
Hope for peace grew dim as the Crown sent increasing numbers of troops and
the Colonists returned with small victories, but the signing of the
Declaration of Independence affirmed the Americans' will to fight no
matter concessions. Franklin imagined that, if he had been there, he might
have signed it himself, but several key wordings would have been changed.
Instead, in England, he encouraged William the Younger and routinely
addressed the English to begin diplomacy, as he wrote in the St. James
Despite his cries, the war would drag on. While the Americans would find
allies with the Dutch, finances could not take the place of warships,
which they hoped to derive from a French Alliance. Unfortunately for the
colonies, no American ambassador, even the acclaimed Thomas Jefferson,
seemed able to intrigue the French Court into more than loans and guns.
The British controlled the seas, but the American colonial forces
gradually chased them off land. With the flexibility of the navy, however,
the British army could be spirited away from one point and set upon a new
invasion elsewhere, as seen at the disastrous Siege of Yorktown in 1781.
By the mid-1780s, broke and facing counter-revolution, the Continental
Congress began to give up.
Feeling victory, George III and like-minded Parliamentarians pressed for a
scourging of the colonies in retribution, but Franklin called for a
peaceful reuniting. Appealing to the tale of the Prodigal Son, Franklin
showed that the colonies needed to be met with love. Reform would change
the hearts of the colonists, though there were several bad apples to be
taken from the barrel, such as Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who would
live out their days imprisoned in England. George Washington would remain
in house arrest at his much-reduced plantation, while Thomas Jefferson led
expatriates to France, finding sanctuary there.
In the 1790s, a wave of revolution would wash across Europe; many would
blame it on Jeffersonian influence. While France turned to a republic,
most nations underwent softer reforms, especially Britain under the
leadership of William Pitt the Younger. During the Napoleonic Wars,
England and her colonies would be reaffirmed as a new generation of
colonists fought against French troops along the Mississippi frontier.
Franklin himself would remain in Britain the rest of his life, though his
preserved body would be sent back to Philadelphia in 1790. There was some
discussion of burying him in Westminster for his work preserving the
Empire, but his will stated that he was to return home "now that the house
is in order".
says in reality the fallout from the Hutchison Letters drove Franklin
back to America. On November 14, 1776, the St. James Chronicle wrote, "The
very identical Dr. Franklyn, whom Lord Chatham so much caressed, and used to
say he was proud in calling his friend, is now at the head of the rebellion
in North America", confirming Franklin?s position as a leader among the
Americans. Franklin would be instrumental in discerning and navigating the
French Court to establish relations ultimately giving the United States its
most important alliance. To view guest historian's comments on this post
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Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit
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