Benjamin Franklin and Catharine Ray Greene: Their Correspondence, 1755-1790

By William Greene Roelker | Go to book overview
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III. The Eve of Independence 1775-1776

WHEN Franklin sailed for England in November, 1764, he expected to return to America within a year; it turned out that he remained there for eleven years, until the spring of 1775. In 1764 he represented the Colony of Pennsylvania as agent in one particular matter; by 1775 he was the general colonial agent for Pennsylvania, and for Georgia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts as well. With each passing year it seemed to the ministry that he became more and more a general agent representing all the colonies, whose relations with the mother country meanwhile were steadily deteriorating. Van Doren has written that the feelings of the ministry towards Franklin "were both irritation and boredom. . . . Irritating as it was for unphilosophical British politicians to listen to distant Americans who, it must have seemed, could find philosophical excuses even for riots, it was still more irritating to have an American philosopher almost at court, almost an ambassador. There might be temporary quiet overseas, but there was never any relief from Franklin. Touch American interests at any point, and he was instantly aware and active." 1

Because of these feelings the ministry had sought for some time to find an excuse to get rid of him. The publication of the letters from Governor Hutchinson of Massachusetts written to an unidentified member of Parliament provided the occasion for his dismissal. Franklin was haled before the Privy Council, where Solicitor General Alexander Wedderburn insulted him by calling him a thief and accused him of stealing the letters. The next day Franklin was removed from his position as Deputy Postmaster General. Left with no official connection with the government, he nevertheless tarried a while longer in London vainly seeking some means of preventing a break between Great Britain and the


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Benjamin Franklin and Catharine Ray Greene: Their Correspondence, 1755-1790


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