An American in London

Posted by Tory Historian Monday, May 12, 2008 ,

This week-end Tory Historian has fulfilled a long-standing ambition and visited Benjamin Franklin’s House in Craven Street, near Charing Cross Station. Well, worth a visit if you have a couple of hours to spare.

The house is as it was in the days when Franklin lived in London, trying to negotiate an agreement between the British government and the Colonies on matters to do with taxation as well as conducting scientific research, writing many things, including his Autobiography and leading and intensely busy social life.

However, there is next to no furniture. Instead of filling the house up with contemporary artefacts, the people who run it have opted for an alternative solution. They have used voices from different parts of the room, films and the presence of one actress who plays the daughter of Franklin’s landlady and the wife of the anatomist who conducted classes in the house to give a very fair idea of the great man, his many friends and interests and of the busy life of the household at the time.

Occasionally we see and hear of riots both in America and in London with the implication that in 1775 Franklin barely escaped with his life.

All in all a praiseworthy enterprise and a fascinating slice of history. Tory Historian went with a Canadian friend who was visiting London and is, like TH, something of a Franklin admirer. Sad to say, all the other people in the group were American visitors. Not that Tory Historian has any objections to American visitors, especially if they are interested in Benjamin Franklin’s stay in London but it would have been nice to see some British students of eighteenth century history. The word “students” here is used in the widest possible sense.

Franklin is as much part of our history as of America’s. He was described as a Citizen of the World, who was also a great patriot. He was, to use our own terminology, a great Anglospherist. He was desperate to avoid war between Britain and her colonies and desperately sad and angry when it became impossible. But, when the time came, he signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.


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