The secret talks with the several surrogates of ministry that took place over three months—December, January, and February—of that last of Franklin’s London winters had collapsed. Both houses of Parliament had adopted a resolution to the King declaring the province of Massachusetts to be in rebellion. The port of Boston had been closed under supervision of warships of the Royal Navy. Neither of Chatham’s overtures for moderation had been seriously considered in Lords. Even so, as late in his stay as March 16, 1775, four days before he would leave London for Portsmouth and his trip home, Franklin attended a debate in the House of Lords to see once more whether the distemper gripping Westminster and Whitehall since his trial had abated. There was nothing encouraging about the experience. In fact he was so infuriated by what he heard that he drafted an angry letter to Dartmouth, a letter he never sent, thanks to the timely advice of friends, Thomas Walpole, a business partner, and Lord Camden.
There was something slightly hurried about these last days in London for Franklin. His turnover of the Massachusetts agency to Arthur Lee was by letter on March 19th, noting that documents for his successor were being left in the custody of his landlady. On the previous day he had a long talk with Edmund Burke. We do not know what they said to each other, but