"You Are a Thorough Courtier"
I have often thought that it will hereafter be considered as Lucifer's Masterpiece in human Affairs--the effecting so great a Misunderstanding between two Countries, that every Consideration should [inspire] to Love and Confidence in each other. --John Temple to William Franklin, April 6, 1769
A WELCOME LULL in the conflict between American claims and British pretensions gave Franklin some time in 1772 for other than political pursuits. Appointed to a committee of the Royal Society to study means of protecting the Purfleet gunpowder magazines from lightning, he recommended the use of pointed conductors. The committee followed his advice, with only one dissenting member who claimed that pointed rods would "collect the lightning in too powerful a manner"1 and proposed knobby conductors instead. But since pointed rods were so closely identified with Franklin and Franklin with the wrongheaded colonies, the controversy took on political overtones once the atmosphere heated up again in the following years.
Franklin stayed out of the scientific row, trusting that experience would ultimately settle the dispute. (It was to prove that there is no great difference between knobs and points.) King George III, however, eventually had his palace wired with knobby conductors; a rumor arose that he tried to force Sir John Pringle, the president of the Royal Society, to reverse the Society's earlier vote and reject the report, and that Pringle replied the king could change the laws of the land but not those of nature.* A day would come, during the American Revolution,____________________