Books Magazine

250th Anniversary of Franklin at Parliament #BriFri

By Joyweesemoll @joyweesemoll

British Isles Friday logoWelcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!

Last week, I wrote about the BAFTAs, the British equivalent to the Oscars and Sim, in a comment, mentioned her reviews of two of the movies on the awards lists: Brooklyn and The Danish Girl. Sim’s virtual walk in London took her through a neighborhood known as Elephant and Castle — isn’t that an intriguing name?  Jackie shared her photographs of the London Eye, a stunningly photogenic piece of moving architecture. Becky reviewed Death on the Riviera by John Bude, a “golden-age” detective novel from 1952.

Tomorrow, February 13, 2016 will mark 250 years since Benjamin Franklin stood before Parliament to testify for repeal of the hated Stamp Act. His success staved off the Revolutionary War for ten years, keeping the American colonies British until 1776.

Benjamin Franklin by Walter IsaacsonI read big chunks of this in 2014. Rick just finished the whole book and really enjoyed it.

The story of the Stamp Act and Benjamin Franklin’s role in it is told in a gripping account in Walter Isaacson’s biography. I first read it on the 4th of July in 2014 while adding Franklin-themed itinerary items to our trip to England. My post has a timeline of Franklin’s activities in England (he lived there for 15 years!)

The Stamp Act was a tax on paper products, imposed by Parliament on the American colonies (taxation without representation). At first, Benjamin Franklin, as was his nature, took a conciliatory tone. He misjudged the ire of the colonists that soon worked up to a violent crisis, almost resulting in the destruction of his home in Philadelphia while he was absent in London. When it became obvious that Americans had no patience for this tax, he took another uniquely Franklin approach — writing funny pieces for the newspapers, written under pen names, that advocated a boycott of all British products.

Benjamin Franklin's oratory in testimony against the Stamp ActThe testimony of Benjamin Franklin before Parliament against the Stamp Act

Those published pieces and other behind-the-scenes negotiations gave Franklin the opportunity to appear before Parliament on February 13, 1766.

His dramatic appearance was a masterpiece of both lobbying and theater, helpfully choreographed by his supporters in that body. In one afternoon of highly charged testimony he would turn himself into the foremost spokesman for the American cause and brilliantly restore his reputation back home. (p. 229)

Our visit to London included several sites where I sensed Benjamin Franklin’s presence, two hundred and fifty years previously. Here are my stories of those days, with photos:

  • The Grecian Coffehouse (now a pub)
  • The Benjamin Franklin House and St. James’s Park


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