Temple's Diary Temple's Diary
Episode 1. Who Am I?

The Electric Franklin

April 24, 1775

Slowly and painfully, I'm beginning to make a little headway in that complicated Journal of Negotiations. The basic point of disagreement, I guess, is that grandfather and those restless colonies maintain that our Parliament does not have authority to legislate in their internal affairs or to alter their Charters. London feels that this is nonsense. What an idea! Those overseas people wanting to curtail the powers of Parliament!

I'm beginning to understand that grandfather is thinking the unthinkable. Since he needs me and loves me so much, I must at least try to follow his trend of thought.

Let's take the tea story, for instance. At least I know a little about the dumping of tea in the Boston Harbor. Grandfather argues that Britain had a choice: either a right to reparation — and he initially offered to pay for the damage out of his own pocket — or a right to return an equal injury, but not both. The injury Britain inflicted in response — blocking up the port of Boston — was not equal to, but ten or twenty times worse, financially speaking, than the offense.

The Boston Tea Party. Engraving by W.D. Cooper

Maybe Grandfather has a point there, but he doesn't stop at that. He wants the Tea Act, that is the imposition of duties on the importation of tea, to be repealed because the Americans, as they now call themselves, consider it unconstitutional.

They consider that the money levied on tea has been wrongfully extorted from them, and they want it given back. Out of that money they would reimburse Britain for the tea they dumped into the harbor.

I should add here that my grandfather was not planning to discuss those demands himself with the British Government, but was acting through two close friends of his, both well connected with important people. These friends are Quakers who are trying to avoid war, since the Quakers prize peace above all. Grandfather's own name was to be kept out of the negotiation at all times.

But of course his intermediaries discussed his proposals with him, one by one. In the case of the tea, they agreed that the repeal of the Tea Act might be obtained, but not the refunding he wants. They advised him to strike it out of the proposal, but grandfather would not hear of that. Not an easy man to budge, my grandfather.

Every night, now, before going to bed, I practice ten times saying "grandfather" because it does not yet roll off my tongue and he looks pained when I forget and call him "Sir." Enough for today. I'm sleepy.