Temple's Diary Temple's Diary

The Electric Franklin

June 16, 1776

A Conversation

— "Good morning, Grandfather. Are you feeling better?"

A grunt. He is in bed, face turned towards the wall. Only the top of his skull is showing.

— "I'm bringing you a cup of nice warm broth."

Another grunt.

— "As a matter of fact, you have a choice between two kinds of broth: a Philadelphia one and a Boston-style one.

— "I don't want broth. I'm full of broth."

— "What would you like, Grandfather?"

— "To be left in peace."

— "Allright. But I have to tell you an important thing. Yesterday, my father was arrested 'as an enemy of the liberties of this country' because of his attempt to convene his Assembly against the will of the new Provincial Congress in New Jersey. His salary has been stopped. He is given the chance to escape confinement by signing a parole declaring his promise to reside from now on in Princeton or on his farm in Rancocas. I know in my bones that he will refuse. If he refuses, he'll be led under strong guard to Burlington where his fate will be decided on June 21st."


— "Isn't there anything you can do to help him?"

— "No."

— "One last question. Since you told me that I should always honor my father, don't you agree that I should join him in Burlington to show some support and solidarity?"

He turns around, finally, in a great upheaval of sheets and blankets, and shouts: "You are out of your mind, Temple. That is the stupidest, the worst thing you can do. Just stay at home, quietly, don't make yourself conspicuous."

Now that he is looking straight at me, I can see how sick he is. His face is feverish, very red, swollen, covered with blotches. He looks at me standing there, the son of the governor, a boy who sees his father in disgrace and has to watch, helpless, after so many years of not even knowing who his father was.

— "I tried to save him from himself," says Grandfather, "but it was impossible, he would not listen."

— "Yes, I know."

— "How would you know?"

— "I overheard your discussion when you picked me up in Perth Amboy last summer."

— "Yes, we were very angry, very loud. Listen, Temple, I know I'm being cranky, but I must tell you that the thing I hate most in life is being fussed over and that is exactly what your aunts are doing, all the time. My only chance for recovery is to get out of the house, out of Philadelphia, into the country, staying with my old friend the clockmaker, Mr. Duffield. Can you arrange for a carriage to take me there?"

— "I'll do my best. Right now I want to tell you something that happened in May while you were away and that will please you, I'm sure."

— "Something political?"

— "Yes. On May 10, the New Jersey Congress resolved that it was absolutely out of the question for Americans to swear allegiance to any government under the crown of Great Britain, or words to that effect. Things are moving quickly now in the direction you want."

— "Indeed."

And that was our disappointing conversation. When I went downstairs to my aunts bustling in the kitchen, I explained as gently as I could that Grandfather desperately needed fresh air and a change of scenery ... as if getting to Montreal and back had not been scenery enough!