Temple's Diary Temple's Diary
Episode 3. A Summer in New Jersey

The Electric Franklin

June 5, 1775

A letter from Grandfather! He is glad to learn, he says, that I am happy in my new situation. I'm not sure he is all that glad. I believe he is quite worried that my father is going to gain influence over me and maybe bring me around to his Loyalist way of thinking. Or worse, give me a taste for luxury and easy living. Don't fret about politics, Grandfather, your son never discusses any of it with me. But the easy living is another story. I love the comfort of this house, the good food, the good clothes, the good horse, the good books, the time for myself.

So what does my grandfather write about?

Ben Franklin's letter to Temple

"You are now in that time of life which is the properest to store your mind with such knowledge as is hereafter to be ornamental and useful to you. I confide that you have too much sense to let the season slip. The ancients painted Opportunity as an old man with wings to his feet and shoulders, a great lock of hair on the fore part of his head, but bald behind; whence comes our old saying, Take Time by the Forelock as much as to say, when it is past, there is no means of pulling it back again, as there is no lock behind to take hold of for that purpose."

What I would like to tell him — but of course I won't — is something like this: Don't preach to me, please, Grandfather. I know one should not waste one's opportunity, but I am having such a good time with my father. We go out riding almost every day. We both love drawing and we sit and sketch the landscape, side by side, then we compare our handiwork. He tells me stories about his youth and they are all centered on you. What great companions you were and how much you indulged him. How he, Father, stepped into your shoes every time you left a given position for a better one, both at the post office and at the Pennsylvania Assembly. And how you two served side by side during the French and Indian War. How you traveled together when in England, looking up ancestors' tombstones or receiving honorary degrees — a big one for you, a smaller one for my father — at St. Andrews University in Scotland.

Still, all those stories leave me sad. When I hear how warm the relationship has been between my father and his father, I realize how much I have missed and I feel envious. I wonder why Father, so intent on telling me about that closeness, often looks so melancholy at the end of his story. I would be happy, in his place, if I had such memories.

But then, I tell myself, all that is in the past. What counts is that we have made a good beginning, the governor and I. He even seems proud of me — who would have believed it? Grandfather may well be right to worry, I am slipping deliciously into this new life. I must take care in my next letter to him to make it sound a little less pleasant than it is. And I don't want to sound ungrateful for my time with Aunt Sally. In fact, her pies are infinitely better than any I've had in New Jersey.