William Franklin

c1730 – 1814

I became the Governor of the Colony of New Jersey, and that tore my family apart.

My father was Benjamin Franklin, but I was his illegitimate son. Nonetheless, he treated me well and gave me a classical education. During King George’s War in the 1740s, I served in a Philadelphia company planned for an expedition against the French in Canada, and attained the rank of captain. But since I was a provincial from America, I could not be promoted further, so I resigned.

During the French and Indian War, my father and I went to London, where I became enamored with King George III and met and married my wife Elizabeth. When we returned to America in 1762, I was appointed Royal Governor of New Jersey and we lived in a mansion in Burlington. But then, in 1773, the colony built me a handsome mansion called Proprietary House, in Perth Amboy, overlooking New York Harbor and I ruled from there. Some historians think I was a fine Governor, with one calling me, “the ablest and most progressive royal governor, as well as its longest in office.”

Unfortunately, everything changed with the war for independence. I felt the colonies and England should work out their differences and stay together, while my father was a passionate believer in independence. I sent secret messages to the King warning him about the brewing crisis in America, and when one of my messages was intercepted, I was arrested by Colonel Nathaniel Heard, and eventually imprisoned in Connecticut.

The success of the Revolution made me the last royal governor of New Jersey. Elizabeth left Perth Amboy for New York City, where she died before I could see her. I sailed to England and lived there for the rest of my life.

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