Temple's Diary Temple's Diary
Episode 4. Back to a Changed Philadelphia

The Electric Franklin

September 8, 1775

As he was leaving the house, Grandfather pulled a sheet of paper out of his pocket and handed it to me: "Look at this, Temple, since you remember meeting Tom Paine in London."

"This" turns out to be a letter sent by Paine to Grandfather on March 4 of this year, from Philadelphia. Let's see, when was that? Just a couple of weeks before we left England (I should say "fled" from England), Grandfather and myself, so fast and so mysteriously. And what kind of crossing did the fascinating Mr. Paine have? A dreadful crossing.

"A putrid fever broke out among the servants, of which we had 120 on board," I read. By servants, he must have in mind the poor who emigrate from England as indentured servants. In order to obtain their freedom they must work seven years for the person who pays for their passage to the Colonies. "We buried five," he goes on, "and not more than five escaped the disease. Two cabin passengers escaped the illness owing, I believe, to their being almost constantly seasick for the first three weeks. I had no seasickness but suffered dreadfully with the fever. I had very little hope that I would live to see America."

At this point, Paine mentions a name that gives me a start: "Dr. Kearsley, of Philadelphia, attended the ship on her arrival, and when he understood that I was traveling on your recommendation, he provided a lodging for me and sent two of his men with a chaise to bring me on shore, for I could not at that time turn in my bed without help."

Dr. Kearsley! The very one who was almost tarred and feathered! The Loyalist! For six weeks, as I see by the following paragraph, he nursed the anti-royalist, anti-English, the revolutionary Tom Paine! He did not know Paine's character, of course. He only knew that Paine had come under Grandfather's sponsorship, and he also knew that when a doctor sees a very sick person, he tries to help that person, no matter what. Does he know at present that Grandfather is a leader among the Patriots? Of course he must. All of Philadelphia is watching Dr. Franklin. Which means that the Dr. Kearsley, whose fate moved me so much, surely dislikes and despises us. Father against son, friend against friend. Where are we going?