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Blueprint for a Revolution: The Spies at Carpenters' Hall by Charles and Nancy Cook
Tis easy to see, hard to foresee.
–Poor Richard's Almanack, by Benjamin Franklin
In the days that followed there was a great deal of preparation throughout the colonies. Most of the people in America were preparing to celebrate Christmas. A few were preparing for something else, something very frightening. They were preparing for a war with England.
Christmas in the colonies was not as commercial a time as we know it today, but still it was a special time of fellowship and good will.
Children in the colonies no doubt were quite excited. Presents were left by Kris Kringle in their stockings, which they traditionally hung on the fireplace mantle on Christmas Eve. These would be opened in the morning as well as other presents to mark the joyous occasion. Such presents were usually useful ones, such as food or clothing, and they were always appreciated, because in the years before the American Revolution people could not afford luxuries. Much of what they owned were the necessities of their lives. Then the colonists would gather for morning services in the several churches throughout the city.
After church, everyone would return home or to the homes of family and friends for a large, delicious Christmas feast, which would include several meats, vegetables, potatoes, breads, and desserts, including mince pies and plum pudding, fruits, nuts, and candies.
Benjamin Franklin was a wonderful host at Christmas time. As many as two or three dozen guests would join him for Christmas dinner. There were refreshments and songs for the season, some were even composed by Franklin and played on the glass harmonica. This was a musical instrument he had invented, made of drinking glasses and played by running a wet finger around the rim of each glass.
But Benjamin Franklin's mood was mixed. He was happy for the joy of the Christmas season, but he was quite worried about the events that would surely take place in the New Year and especially those that would happen even sooner-the dangerous meetings he had arranged for Carpenters' Hall.
He did not dare to talk about the danger to anyone. He would like to have shared his worries with his wife, but she had died the year before, and he missed her very much.
He knew if his wife were still alive she would make him promise to be careful, so he thought to himself, again, that he would be very careful.
Benjamin Franklin knew that the colonies did not have much hope of ever winning their independence, but if they were to have any chance at all, he would have to succeed in finding an ally. He would need Francis Daymon. He truly hated involving others. He was putting Francis Daymon in great danger, but Benjamin Franklin could think of no other way.
"Noel, Noel!" he had heard the carolers sing, and his heart beat faster as he anticipated his future actions.
For all the joy and good will this season should bring, there was no "peace on earth" in America this Christmas. Colonists in Massachusetts had already fought with English troops.
With all that was happening, Benjamin Franklin's thoughts were not on the Christmas porridge. He was thinking about all the danger that lay ahead-the tragedy and horrors of the war he knew could not be avoided. He thought of the lives of young Americans that would be lost-and then he also thought of Francis Daymon.
In the past few days Francis Daymon had become indispensable to the success of the American Revolution. In fact, the opportunity to secure an ally for the American cause was not only made possible by Daymon, but the entire preparation for and communication during the meeting would be made through Francis Daymon.
In a way it made sense. There was some safety if they were caught together late at night. Francis Daymon and the Frenchman were friends, both having lived in France. Franklin was merely at the library doing some late night research. If they were caught, it was possible if they all told the same story they could escape punishment.
It was also possible they would all hang for treason. Benjamin Franklin worried about how he had involved Francis Daymon deeply in this intrigue and espionage, but Franklin realized he had no choice.
Francis Daymon was needed for a far more important reason than just arranging the meeting. Julien de Bonvouloir did not speak English, and Benjamin Franklin did not speak French. If any communication was to take place between the two, it would have to be with an interpreter, and Francis Daymon was, indeed, the only one in all Philadelphia whom Franklin could trust with this responsibility.
Francis Daymon now knew how dangerous this mission was. He kept the embers in the fireplaces of Carpenters' Hall banked to provide as much heat as possible without giving out a flame to alert British soldiers or agents that someone was in the Hall past closing. The cold December night made Francis Daymon shiver-or maybe it was his own nervousness. He worried what would happen if, as interpreter, he used the wrong word in his translation. Someone might misunderstand, get angry, or leave because he had made a mistake.
Francis Daymon was also nervous because he knew how crucial Dr. Franklin now believed these meetings were.
"The entire hope for our future rests on our success," he had told Francis Daymon.
The success of the American Revolution for independence would be determined by what took place in these conversations. It was hard for Francis Daymon to understand, but Dr. Franklin had said so; and he knew Benjamin Franklin was a great man who could see how things would turn out in the future in ways Francis Daymon could not yet imagine.
Francis Daymon was now involved in international intrigue. That was the danger he was in-the "consequences" Dr. Franklin had spoken about. If he was caught, he could be tried, convicted, and executed as a spy. British agents were everywhere. Soldiers could come and arrest him at any time. They could be walking up to the front steps of Carpenters' Hall at any moment.
Francis Daymon was very nervous for several good reasons. He wanted to stoke the coals and warm the room with a fire, but he could not. Instead, he huddled closer to the embers and tried to warm himself while he waited.
He tried not to think about the danger. He did not want to imagine what the British soldiers would do to him.
Then he heard footsteps outside the door.
Copyright by Charles and Nancy Cook. Used by kind permission
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