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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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William Franklin

FRANKLIN, William, the last royal governor of New Jersey, born in Philadelphia in 1729; died in England, 17 November 1813. He was an illegitimate son of Dr. Benjamin Franklin. About a year after his birth his father married, took the child into his house, and brought him up as a son. In his childhood he was remarkably fond of books, and of an adventurous disposition. During the French war of 1744'8 he obtained a commission in the Pennsylvania forces, with which he served in one or two campaigns on the Canadian frontier, and rose to be captain before he was of age, gaining praise for his conduct at Ticonderoga. From 1754 till 1756 he was comptroller of the general post office, and during part of that period was clerk of the provincial assembly. In 1757 he accompanied his father to London, where he was admitted to the bar in 1758. He then visited Scotland, and became acquainted with the Earl of Bute, who recommended him to Lord Fairfax, and the latter secured for him, unsolicited, the appointment of governor of New Jersey in 1762, to which province he returned the next year. His appointment caused great disgust, probably from his birth as well as his timeserving conduct and courtier like propensities, as he had been originally a Whig, but became a Tory on being made governor.

In the revolutionary contest he remained loyal to Great Britain, and some of his letters, containing strong expressions of Tory sentiments, having been intercepted, a guard was put over him in January1776, by the new government, to prevent his escape from Perth Amboy, and he was declared an enemy to his country. He gave his parole that he would not leave the province, but in June he issued a proclamation, as governor of New Jersey, summoning a meeting of the abrogated legislative assembly. For this he was arrested by order of the provincial congress of New Jersey and removed to Burlington. He was soon afterward sent to East Windsor, Connecticut, where he was strictly guarded for about two years, till in November 1778, he was exchanged. Governor Franklin remained in New York till August 1782, and for a short period served as president of the board of loyalists in New Jersey, when he sailed for England, in which country he continued to reside till his death.

The English government granted him £1,800 in remuneration of his losses, and a pension of £800 per annum. William Franklin's adhesion to the royal cause led to an estrangement between him and his father, but in 1784 the two became partially reconciled. Dr. Franklin bequeathed to William his lands in Nova Scotia, and released him from all debts that his executors might find to be due from him, and added this clause in his will: "The part he acted against me in the late war, which is of public notoriety, will account for my leaving him no more of an estate he endeavored to deprive me of."

He was the author of " A Humble Attempt at Sourrility, in Imitation of those Great Masters of the Art, the Rev. Dr. S~th, the Rev. Dr. Aln, the Rev. Mr. Ew~n, the Rev. D. J. Dae, and the heroic Jn Dn, Esq., being a Full Answer to the Observations on Mr. It's Advertisement. By Jack Retort, Student in Scurrility. Quilsilvania, 1765. A defense of Dr. Franklin, by his son. Printed at Philadelphia." The initials in the title severally signify Smith, Alison, Ewing, Dove, John Dickinson, and Hughes. Governor Franklin also published "Tile Answer of his Excellency William Franklin, Esq." (Philadelphia).

His son, William Temple Franklin, died ill Paris, France, 25 May 1803, accompanied his grandfather to Paris, acting as his secretary. He published editions of Franklin's works (London and Philadelphia, 1816'19).

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

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