Benjamin Franklin’s Years In London

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Franklin knew the end had come. He remained in London until March, 1775—almost on the very eve of the conflicts at Lexington and Concord—winding up his affairs and meeting privately with English friends who still hoped reconciliation with the colonies was possible. His last day was spent with Joseph Priestley choosing articles from American newspapers that he hoped might be printed to advantage in London. This wise and witty man, who had fought so long and so ably “to preserve from breaking that fine and noble china vase, the British Empire,” was, as Priestley later recounted, “frequently not able to proceed for the tears literally running down his cheeks.”

He returned to an empty house in Philadelphia, for in December Debbie had died.

Horace Walpole, looking back on Franklin’s ordeal, wrote:

Sarcastic Swaney swoin with spite and prate On silent Franklin poured his venal hate; The citizen philosopher, without reply, Withdrew, and gave his country liberty.