Temple's Diary Temple's Diary
Episode 5. College!

The Electric Franklin

October 9, 1775

I learned so much yesterday that I did not have time to put it all down. Now I want to record for History (yes, History) what Gramps Fox told me during our intermission for the second round of muffins. He beckoned me to sit beside him. I guessed that he had really wanted to give a more detailed account of the French and Indian War but his grandsons, impatient creatures, would not let him. Now he leaned toward me and asked if I knew that he had taken part in that war right next to my grandfather.

No, I had not heard that.

Well, Gramps in his early years had been both a Quaker and a member of the Assembly. But when the war began in late 1755 with its brutal massacres along the frontier and the threat of seeing Pennsylvania invaded, he felt that the moment had come to take up arms in self-defense, no matter how noble the Quaker principle of not taking part in wars. He lost many friends because of making this decision and was expelled from the Assembly, but he knew in his heart that Benjamin Franklin was right when he called for resistance. And so they found themselves side by side on the road to Gnadenhütten, site of the present Weisport.

With a mischievous smile, Gramps pulled out of his pocket a yellowed piece of paper bearing my grandfather's handwriting. It was dated January 25, 1756 and began with the words "My Dear Child."

Very perplexing. Was that a letter to his son?

— "No, no," he said, "in their correspondence your grandfather and his Deborah always addressed each other that way. I don't know whether they also did it at home. Anyway, he showed me his letter to her and I copied it because I thought it so amusing, written as it was right in the middle of our difficulties. Here is the original, Temple, you may keep it."

And now I'm copying it.

"Dear Child, We all continue well, thanks be to God. We have been hindered with bad weather, yet our fort is in a good defensible condition, and we have every day more convenient living. Two more forts are to be built, one on each side of this, at about fifteen miles distance. I hope both will be done in a week or ten days."

"We have enjoyed your roast beef, and this day began on the roast veal; all agree that they are both the best that ever were of the kind. Your citizens, that have their dinners hot and hot, know nothing of good eating; we find it in much greater perfection when the kitchen is four score miles from the dining room.

"The apples are extremely welcome, and do bravely to eat after our salt pork; the minced pies are not yet come to hand, but I suppose we shall find them among the things expected from Bethlehem on Tuesday.

"As to our lodging, it is much more comfortable than when we lodged at our inn the first night after we left home, for the woman being about to put very damp sheets on the bed we desired her to air them first; half an hour afterwards, she told us the bed was ready, and the sheets well aired. I got into bed but jumped out immediately, finding them as cold as death, and partly frozen, She had aired them indeed, but it was out upon the hedge. I was forced to wrap myself up in my great coat and woollen trousers, everything else about the bed was shockingly dirty.

"As I hope in a little time to be with you and my family, and chat things over, I now only add that I am, dear Debby, your affectionate husband

B. Franklin"

Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 6, page 367
Franklin's Sketch of Fort Allen at Gnadenhutten

Gramps patted my hand while I was reading the letter and when I'd finished he told me that it had been such an honor to ride next to Benjamin Franklin through pine forests. "When his son, your father, joined us in his crisp uniform, your grandfather, in his civilian clothes, was just beaming. He did cut a fine figure, William Franklin, he had military experience, he was of great help to us. I was so happy for him when he was made Governor of New Jersey. Did you know, Temple, that your father was the first governor, ever, to come from outside the ranks of British aristocracy, the first to be born on American soil?"

— "Well, no, I was not aware of that."

— "Oh, yes. His was the very first appointment made by George III while the King was still quite young. That explains, I believe, William's deep devotion to the Crown. I understand that the circle of his friends is diminishing these days but still he vows to remain on the job until it is taken from him. Could you warn him, Temple, not to send so much political information to England, since his correspondence is opened and read by the censors?"

I sighed and answered in a whisper that Father would pay no attention to my warnings; he still sees me as a child and will talk only about my studies.

When the muffins were all gone, yesterday, Gramps explained to us how the three forts mentioned by Grandfather were built, but I kept that part of the story for Benny on our way to school since my little cousin is currently enamored of battles and military strategy.

— "Our grandfather, yours and mine" I told him "brought seventy axes with him on this expedition. First his men felled many trees, removed their branches and then each pine trunk was cut into three pieces about eighteen feet long. One end was pointed with the axes; the other was pushed into a trench three feet deep that served as the foundation of the stockade. It took 450 timbers to make a round fortress large enough to shelter a number of people in danger. A platform several feet high was constructed on the inside and loopholes prepared so that the men might fire at the attackers. Indeed, a round was fired immediately so that any spies hiding in the forest would report that the colonists were now ready to defend themselves."

Benny listened to all this as only Benny can listen: with every inch of his body.