His humiliation at the Cockpit was truly a critical encounter for Benjamin Franklin. Had his ordeal not occurred when and how it did, he may have remained in England after 1775, still haunting Whitehall’s corridors, talking, cajoling, offering one proposal after another, doing his best to keep the Empire together. He would probably not have been in a hurry to leave London. He had resided there for nearly a decade. Deborah had died, as had many of his Philadelphia friends. He often remarked that were he to return home he would know no one there. He would be a stranger among strangers. Moreover, he had forged deep friendships over the years with men and women in London and its environs, and could easily imagine living comfortably there forever. To complicate matters, many of his remaining close emotional bonds were often as not with men like his son William and Joseph Galloway, both of whom remained loyal to the king.
True enough, Franklin may well have become a “Patriot” in any event. He had, after all, suffered innumerable personal setbacks in recent years, and he had been rebuffed all too many times during his final sojourn in England. Moreover, his service as the Massachusetts agent had made him especially sensitive to parliamentary encroachments on colonial “rights.” After the Tea Party, England’s hardliners were more in control than ever and the opportunities for the kinds of compromises that Franklin valued were fewer. Thus, if the colonists