Franklin began his career as a diplomat and statesman when he went to London in 1757 as an agent of the Pennsylvania assembly and became an absentee deputy British postmaster for North America. There he remained, except for a brief return to Philadelphia, until the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775, serving as an American provincial agent and pursuing his interests as an inventor, scientist, and author. In London, Franklin gradually ceased his support for British rule and became an American revolutionary.
Willliam Strahan, an English printer and publisher, who was Franklin's friend and correspondent for many years, voted with the majority of Parliament to proclaim the Americans as rebels. Franklin drafted but never sent this well-publicized letter to Strahan to sever their friendship.
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Benjamin Franklin wrote this tract after Alexander Wedderburn, British Solicitor-General, sharply attacked Franklin. Wedderburn asserted that Franklin was a “true incendiary” before the Privy Council on January 29, 1774, and accused him of being the “prime conductor” in the agitation against the British government largely for illegally obtaining copies of Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson's letters filled with advice on how to subdue America by restricting its liberties. The tract was not published until after Franklin's death.
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Franklin Before the Lords in Council
This engraving captures the abusive hour-long attack waged by the British Solicitor-General Alexander Wedderburn against Franklin before the Privy Council in January 1774. Franklin remained silent throughout the attack. He would later write of the incident: “Spots of Dirt thrown upon my Character, I suffered while fresh remain; I . . . rely'd on the vulgar Adage, that they would all rub off when they were dry.”
Robert Whitechurch (1814–ca. 1880), engraver. Franklin before the Lord's Council, Whitehall Chapel, London, 1774. Hand-colored engraving, 1859. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress (12) LC-DIG-pga-03390
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Just days after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by Congress, Benjamin Franklin wrote this stinging rebuke to the commander of British naval forces in North America and peace commissioner, Lord Richard Howe, who had offered pardons to American political leaders. The offer was rejected. Franklin replied that “It is impossible we should think of Submission to a Government” that has inflicted “atrocious Injuries” on Americans.
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The Assumed Plan
This 1779 British political cartoon shows a laughing Franklin, at center, holding a copy of his “Plan” an invasion by French troops. In his other hand are strings connected to the noses of the French King and members of the French Court.
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