The Making of a Patriot: Benjamin Franklin at the Cockpit

The Making of a Patriot: Benjamin Franklin at the Cockpit

The Making of a Patriot: Benjamin Franklin at the Cockpit

The Making of a Patriot: Benjamin Franklin at the Cockpit


On January 29, 1774, Benjamin Franklin was called to appear before the Privy Council--a select group of the king's advisors--in an octagonal-shaped room in Whitehall Palace known as the Cockpit. Spurred by jeers and applause from the audience in the Cockpit, Solicitor General Alexander Wedderburn unleashed a withering tirade against Franklin. Though Franklin entered the room as a dutiful servant of the British crown, he left as a budding American revolutionary. In The Making of a Patriot, renowned Franklin historian Sheila L. Skemp presents an insightful, lively narrative that goes beyond the traditional Franklin biography--and behind the common myths--to demonstrate how Franklin's ultimate decision to support the colonists was by no means a foregone conclusion. In fact, up until the Cockpit ordeal, he was steadfastly committed to achieving "an accommodation of our differences."

The Making of a Patriot sheds light on the conspiratorial framework within which actors on both sides of the Atlantic moved toward revolution. It highlights how this event ultimately pitted Franklin against his son, suggesting that the Revolution was, in no small part, also a civil war.


The volumes in this Oxford University Press book series focus on major critical encounters in the American experience. the word “critical” refers to formative, vital, transforming events and actions that have had a major impact in shaping the ever-changing contours of life in the United States. “Encounter” indicates a confrontation or clash, oftentimes but not always contentious in character, but always full of profound historical meaning and consequence.

In this framework, the United States, it can be said, has evolved on contested ground. Conflict and debate, the clash of peoples and ideas, have marked and shaped American history. the first Europeans transported with them cultural assumptions that collided with Native American values and ideas. Africans forced into bondage and carried to America added another set of cultural beliefs that often were at odds with those of Native Americans and Europeans. Over the centuries America’s diverse peoples differed on many issues, often resulting in formative conflict that in turn gave form and meaning to the American experience.

The Critical Historical Encounters series emphasizes formative episodes in America’s contested history. Each volume contains two fundamental ingredients: a carefully written narrative of the encounter and the consequences, both immediate and long-term, of that moment of conflict in America’s contested history.

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