A Promising Beginning
The most famous father son duo of the American Revolution would be the Franklins: famed scientist, publisher, philosopher and diplomat Benjamin Franklin and his son, William Franklin. As with everything Franklin, this tale is complex and twisted and somehow evokes the tragedy of a war that was as much a civil conflict as a revolution. William lived under the shadow of his father, who was arguably the most celebrated and famous man of his age - a true international celebrity. William played a pivotal role in some of Franklin's most famous exploits (the electricity experiment for one) but received little to no credit or mention. Living under the shadow of a famous father had both pros and cons. The often parsimonious Ben Franklin paid for William to attend the prestigious Inns at Court where he read the law. This launched him in a career that, had the British won the war, would have marked him as one of the premier men of the Empire.
The Bastard Prodigy
Franklin was angry with the choice. He had another bride in mind for William. Disagreement over William’s marriage worsened and already troubled relationship. Before the rebellion turned into a revolution, the two Franklins were partners in politics, publishing, grand real estate schemes in the Illinois country, and fighting Indians on the Pennsylvania frontier. But William was very much the junior partner, dependent on his father for income even after his appointment as governor. William’s salary was often delayed for as much as three years.
The King's Servants?
A Loyal Prisoner
|Major Moses Seymour's House|
ended up in imprisoned in
|The Proprietary House, Perth Amboy|
last Royal Governor's Mansion
in New Jersey
Family Feud outlives Political Peace
After the war, the Franklins' relationship remained strained and they never reconciled. Like so many Loyalists, perhaps 100,000 or so, William went into exile. In 1785, just before Benjamin’s final return to America, William attempted reconciliation during a meeting in France. Benjamin, 79, obese and suffering from paralyzing gout and kidney stones, rebuffed his son. Franklin bequeathed the bulk of his fortune to his grandson William Temple Franklin, while demanding payment for loans his son had repaid years earlier. William suppressed his anger and signed over all of his extensive property in America, including his mansion in New Jersey. After his release in 1778, the ex-governor moved to London, where he rented a modest home. He died in 1813.