The Private Franklin: The Man and His Family

By Claude-Anne Lopez ; Eugenia W. Herbert | Go to book overview

V
"Much of a Beau"

. . . a base born Brat.
-- John Adams, Autobiography

The whole Circumstances of his Life render him too despicable for Notice.
--Reverend Mr. William Smith, May 20, 1756

TWO PSYCHIC DRIVES dominated William Franklin's life: a hankering for respectability because he was illegitimate, a hankering for power because power meant both communion with his father and proof of his own worth.

To be a bastard was by no means as damaging in eighteenth-century America as in Victorian England, but in British law (unlike Roman or canon law) the subsequent marriage of his parents could not legitimize a child born out of wedlock. Only a baby born after marriage might be called legitimate. Was this the case with William? Not only is the identity of his mother unknown but even the date of his birth is cloudy. It is generally ascribed to 1731 because Franklin wrote to his mother in April 1750 that William was nineteen, and William in July 1812 referred to himself as being in his eighty-second year. But this may have been no more than a face-saving date, meant to put his birth a few months at least, if not quite nine, after the date of Franklin's marriage, September 1, 1730. The chief objection to 1731 is the fact that William was commissioned an ensign in 1746, and fifteen seems an extraordinarily early age even in the days of abbreviated adolescence. When he found out about his status is not known; but once his father's political enemies got hold of this piece of information, they never let William forget it.

As if to make up for what he could not give his first-born child, Franklin lavished money and attention on his education. Compared to the struggles of Benjamin's own childhood, William had every advan-

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The Private Franklin: The Man and His Family
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • A Subjective Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Prologue: the Sweet Air of Twyford 1
  • I - Son and Sibling 5
  • II - Errata Committed, Errata Corrected 16
  • III - Industry, Frugality, Fertility 30
  • IV - Out of the Home and into the World 42
  • V - "Much of a Beau" 59
  • VI - "The Seeds of Every Female Virtue" 70
  • VII - London 78
  • VIII - Homecoming, Homesickness 93
  • IX - Faith or Deeds? 104
  • X - The Dream and the Nightmare 116
  • XI - Father of the Bride 135
  • XII - The Patriarch of Craven Street 149
  • XIII - "Sorrows Roll Upon Me like The, Waves of the Sea" 158
  • XIV - "Your a Feck Shonet Wife" 166
  • XV - Steering Through Storms 176
  • XVI - "You Are a Thorough Courtier" 190
  • XVII - Tug of War 200
  • XVIII - No Watch for Benny, No Feathers for Sally 218
  • XIX - "Temple, is My Right Hand" 236
  • XX - "Nothing Has Ever Hurt Me So Much" 253
  • XXI - Indian Summer 266
  • XXII - From Seine to Schuylkill 281
  • XXIII - Slaves 296
  • XXIV - "Our Little Fleet of Barques" 308
  • Bibliography 343
  • Index 351
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