Many details are recorded about Benjamin Franklin’s long life, much of it in his own correspondence and other papers. Yet the things that are not known, especially about this short segment of his time in London, intrigue us and afford historians and biographers a continuous temptation if not to speculate then at least to offer plausible constructions of these gaps in our knowledge.
So it has been with several mysteries in the Hutchinson letters affair and its aftermath. Certainly the leading one of these is the question, who indeed was his source for the letters?
Probably the most compelling reason advanced thus far for trying to find an answer to that question is simply that the information could well tell us more about his understanding of the letters and his judgment about their use. Without that knowledge we are forced to scour Franklin’s own explanation for that understanding.
Almost equally compelling as a reason to inquire and pose some plausible answers to the who question is the plain fact that Franklin himself stoutly stuck to his promise and determination to keep that person or persons’