Steering through Storms
I for the most part kept my sentiments to myself and only endeavoured to steer my little bark quietly through all the storms of political contest with which I was every where surrounded.
--William Franklin to William Strahan, June 18, 1771
IN AN OUTBURST of filial gratitude, William Franklin had once assured his father that he was prepared to follow him to the ends of the earth. But he was not, as it turned out, prepared to follow him along the ideological path to independence. In 1775, William was an officer of the crown every bit as much as he had been when he had "kissed hands" in 1762. While Benjamin Franklin tacked and trimmed his way through the decade between the repeal of the Stamp Act and the Declaration of Independence, his son attempted to carry out the instructions of His Majesty's government even when he detested its ministers and deplored its policies. However much one may fault him for lack of imagination, for failing to see that the world was changing, one cannot accuse him of a breach of faith or a lack of consistency.
For over twelve years--far longer than any of his fellow governors-- William administered New Jersey as successfully as a man of good will, considerable industry, and adequate intelligence could be expected to do in difficult circumstances. Were it not for the Revolution, he might be remembered chiefly for his efforts to improve roads in his province and alleviate the condition of debtors in its prisons. The twin capitals of his little domain were the sleepy river ports of Burlington and Perth Amboy, on opposite sides of the colony. The early Proprietors of East Jersey had fixed on Ambo Point as "a sweet, wholesome and delightful place, proper for trade,"1 and the same description could have served for Burlington, the capital of West Jersey. Neither fulfilled the commercial expectations of its Quaker settlers, though Burlington had a brief heyday as a shipbuilding and trade center between the Delaware and the West Indies before being eclipsed by Philadelphia, eighteen