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

The Electric Franklin

April 29, 1775

Our conversation went off very well! Before I could say anything, Grandfather told me that he understood my pro-English feelings. How could it be otherwise, since I was born and raised in London? He too, he said, had fallen in love with England during his visit there with my father some fifteen years ago. He loved the people, the beauty of the towns, the literature, the music. In those days he was a fervent admirer of the British Empire. Every province of the British Empire at that time was well governed because it was trusted, in a large measure, with governing itself.

I asked, "what do you think has gone wrong now?" "Now," he said, "the Empire, which I used to compare to a beautiful China vase, is governed by a set of blundering ministers open to bribes and corruption. The King has fallen totally under their influence. We gladly accepted to be the King's subjects, but why, I ask you, should we be the subjects of other subjects? Why should we accept the dictates of a Parliament that does not understand our problems, does not even pay attention to the petitions we send, but insists on treating us as rebels who have to be punished — which is the best way to turn us into real rebels. Believe me, Temple, I have worked extremely hard this past year to keep the Empire from breaking up, but now I am convinced that it is beyond saving."

He then listened to my comments without interrupting me, paying great attention, and that pleased me so much that I decided to end my little speech in a friendly manner, by quoting from his own writing. He had answered, in what I thought was a witty way, a question put to him by an English nobleman: "What would it take to satisfy the Americans?"

Using only words beginning with "RE — ," he put it this way:

RE

call your forces,

store Castle William,

pair the Damage done to Boston,

peal your unconstitutional Acts,

nounce your pretensions to tax us,

fund the duties you have extorted; after this

quire, and

ceive payment for the destroyed Tea, with the voluntary grants of the colonies, And then

joice in a happy

conciliation.

To which I added: "RE-ward poor Temple who has struggled through this Journal. He burst out laughing. "Billy," he said, "you have the makings of a lawyer. I have thought about it for quite some time. I even wrote so to your father last summer. And here, right in my pocket, is his answer, sent the day before Christmas. "Do you want to read it?"

I could hardly believe my ears. There I had been, feeling sorry that nobody in the world was thinking about me, just as those two busy, important men were discussing my future. For the first time in my life I saw my father's writing and read: "I am anxious to have Temple bred to the law, and wish to have him sent for a year or two to the New York College."

Bred to the law ... what a funny expression. I guess it just means to study law. I have heard about breeding dogs or horses, but breeding me? Am I a dog to be sent across the ocean in order to be bred? What if I don't care for the law?

As Grandfather excused himself for a minute, I quickly had a look at the rest of my father's letter. It was troubling. After telling Grandfather about Deborah's funeral, he practically accused him of having neglected his wife in her final illness and ignored her pleas to come home. He informed Grandfather in no uncertain terms that he, Doctor Franklin, is "looked upon with an evil eye" in England and that there is no point in tarrying there any longer at a time when his return is ardently wished for in America. My father also wrote that, whatever the madness of the English ministry, there is equal madness in America, or "On this side of the water," as he put it.

All of this, however, was expressed in such a polite way that it did not sound insulting. But I have the feeling, and I don't like this feeling, that Father really disapproves of Grandfather's conduct.