Why, his friends wondered at the time, and historians have wondered ever since, had the politically savvy Benjamin Franklin made so colossal a blunder? How could he possibly have believed that throwing the red meat contained in the Hutchinson/Oliver letters to an already hostile Massachusetts Assembly would ease tensions between England and America? The idea seems so preposterous on the face of it, that many observers—then and now—take it for granted that Wedderburn was right when he accused Franklin of knowing full well what the results of his grand gesture would be. Others, just as nonplussed, take him at his word. They simply shrug their shoulders and confess that in this case, the usually astute Franklin had miscalculated—that he had made a huge, uncharacteristic, and extremely costly mistake.
We will probably never know whether or not Franklin actually understood the implications of what he was doing when he forwarded those letters to Thomas Cushing, although it is worth noting that he never deviated from his explanation of his motives. One thing, however, is clear. If Franklin did, however wrongly, believe that his actions would bring peace to the Empire it was by no means the first time that he had been the victim of his own lack of judgment. Indeed, his Autobiography is riddled with accounts of the various “errata” that dotted his personal life throughout his formative years. That same Autobiography, however, invariably made light of Franklin’s mistakes. Every