Temple's Diary Temple's Diary
Episode 8. 1776: Year of the Revolution?

The Electric Franklin

January 9, 1776

Now I know what happened. Once again, through the channel of Drummer.

Earl of Stirling (formerly William Alexander)

One week ago, on January 2, the Continental Congress demanded that "all unworthy Americans" (meaning the Loyalists) be disarmed or, if needed, arrested. Official mail has been intercepted and read. Alas, that was precisely the moment Father had chosen to send two bundles of confidential documents to Lord Dartmouth, the Colonial Secretary who succeeded Lord Hillsborough. Rather than being shipped across the Atlantic, the compromising package was immediately delivered to the Earl of Stirling in East Jersey, a one-time friend of my father, in whose house I met him last summer (when he still went by the name William Alexander). The Earl must have recently joined the rebel cause, for he wasted no time in forwarding the documents in question to the Congress in Philadelphia.

Worse yet, without waiting for congressional orders, Stirling, now a colonel, dispatched soldiers to Perth Amboy. At two in the morning, on January 6, my father and Elizabeth were awakened by violent knocking on the front door. I can see the scene in my mind's eye: Elizabeth sobbing, Father rushing to calm her down, worrying about the impact of this shock on her fragile health, while a servant, shaking all over, opens the front door. He has been handed a letter and told to carry it up to the master's bedroom. He knocks gently and presents to Father — not on a silver tray, for once — Stirling's letter. My father learns from it that he is rumored to be about to flee, something he is forbidden to do without congressional permission. In other words, he is under house arrest.

How does he react? I don't know. Haughtily, I would guess. He probably expresses indignation at the thought that an officer of the Crown like himself should be treated that way by what he considers the illegal government of New Jersey. Intelligent and educated as he is, he is incapable of adjusting to changing events. Now that his mansion, as this latest piece of information tells me, is surrounded by soldiers guarding every issue, let us hope that he has no choice, no possibility of making another wrong move.

At dinner, I am unable to swallow my food, in spite of Aunt Sally's repeated efforts to make me eat. And it strikes me again that nobody has mentioned my father in days.