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Monday, April 15, 2013

AMERICA’S FIRST CIVIL WAR ~ Part 2


AMERICA’S FIRST CIVIL WAR

Part 2

In last month’s post we saw that America’s first civil war was The Revolutionary War; a war that divided families and neighbors to the Loyalist or the Patriot cause. We also reviewed the motivations which determined their decision.

Throughout the colonies, families and neighbors who once enjoyed amicable relations now found themselves at odds with each other. Families of every station of life were impacted by the severing of ties, but two very prominent families from two very different colonies experienced division in a very public arena.

The Franklin Family

Benjamin Franklin
William Franklin
Benjamin Franklin, born to the son of a candle maker in Boston, Massachusetts, at seventeen moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When he proposed to Deborah, the daughter of his landlady, the mother did not allow the union. While Franklin was in London, Deborah married a man who later avoided prosecution for non payment of debts by absconded to Barbados with her dowry. When Franklin returned from England, he and Deborah formed a common-law marriage until they could legally marry.

William Temple Franklin's
portrait by John Trumbull
Franklin was a man of many achievements; a successful newspaper editor, printer, writer, satirist, scientist, inventor, politician, statesman, and diplomat.  He had an illegitimate son, William, possibly by Deborah. Franklin financed William’s education at the Inns of Court in London. Later, William was admitted to the bar and automatically became a member of Britain’s upper class. William made influential friends while in England and returned to become the Royal Governor of New Jersey in 1762. William also fathered an illegitimate son, William Temple Franklin, who embraced the patriot cause and would later work as an aide to his grandfather. William Franklin remained a Loyalist, was imprisoned and later exiled to London.  He was unsuccessful in his attempt to reconcile with his father and at Benjamin Franklin’s death was disowned in favor of the grandson.




The Randolph Family



The Peyton Randolph House
Williamsburg, VA


Peyton Randolph
Peyton and John Randolph, cousins of Thomas Jefferson, were born (1721 & 1727) in Williamsburg, Virginia to Sir John and Lady Susannah Randolph a wealthy, aristocratic, powerful Virginia family. Their father, a prominent attorney and Speaker of the House of Burgesses, died when Peyton was sixteen, leaving their house and other property in trust for the older son. At different times, the brothers were both educated at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg and later studied the law at London’s Inns of Court. Upon his return, Peyton was appointed Virginia’s attorney general and later became Williamsburg’s representative in the House of Burgesses.

John Randolph
Peyton had challenged some of the rights of the Royal Governor he was appointed to defend, but it was not until 1764 with the conflict over the Stamp Act that his conflict with the British crown escalated. In 1766 he was elected Speaker of the House of Burgesses. Meanwhile, Peyton’s younger brother John succeeded him as the Virginia’s attorney general; however, by now the two brothers were politically polarized. Peyton joined the Patriot cause and John left for England in 1775 with most of his family. John’s son, Edmund joined the American army and he served as aide-de-camp to General George Washington.


The Wren Chapel is in the
Wren Building - Williamsburg, VA
The Wren Chapel 
In 1784 John died in England. As a patriot, Peyton had a warrant for his arrest and execution, but would die of a stroke in Philadelphia in 1775. After their deaths, both brothers were returned to Williamsburg where they are buried with their father in the Randolph crypt beneath the Wren Chapel at the College of William and Mary.

It may seem ironic that in the Franklin family Benjamin and his grandson embraced the Patriot cause while Benjamin’s son, William remained loyal to the crown. And, in the Randolph family, the younger brother, John remained a Loyalist, while his own son Edmund chose to join his uncle in pursuing independence from England.         


Like America’s Civil War of the nineteenth century, families and friends relationships would be tested and strained by their disparate loyalties.     

11 comments:

  1. Wow interesting info. It would have been so hard having some one either side like in the Civil war. I didn't know this info but found it interesting.
    I re-watched Gettysburg last week as I will be there in about a month. I dont remember crying so much before in it but seeing how several of the generals had been best friends and were now fighting each other and how they found it so hard but had to fight for there side.
    I am looking forward to seeing some of the famous places.

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    1. Enjoy your visit to Gettysburg. The light show is so helpful in understanding the battle. It's an amazing and sobering place. Thanks for stopping by.

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  2. Fascinating look at 'the old families'... I didn't know the relationship between Jefferson and the Randolphs.

    Jenny, enjoy Gettysburg. There are so many options for touring the battlefield.

    The lines are hard to find in politics, aren't they? New England certainly had not solid lines between loyalists and revolutionaries and indeed, by the War of 1812 much of the area was very reluctant to go to war with their neighbors as they intermarried and traded. They'd grown comfortable with British rule close by.

    Janet, the College of William and Mary's chapel is an incredible link to British roots. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. I thought the Randolph story was particularly touching; a family torn apart by external factors in life, yet reunited in their final resting place. The crypt cannot be seen, but there is a plaque on the wall of the Wren Chapel, given by Sir John Randolph's great great great grand-daughter honoring the two brothers and their father.
      Thanks for your comments.

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  3. This is good stuff! Does common-law marriage mean that they lived together out of wedlock? And an illegitimate son? Definitely something I didn't know about Franklin.
    Great post! God bless.

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    1. Yes, Debbie, they lived together prior to their marriage. They also had two other children, but one died in childhood. I've read that William referred to Deborah as mother,

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  4. Poor Deborah! Mother does not always know best. I wonder how mother felt when her chosen son-in-law absconded out of the country with the dowry. Hummm... Thereby might hang an interesting tale. Would love to know what conversations went on between mother and daughter.

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    1. Franklin and Deborah were quite young when they first formed an attachment. You are right, Judith, their story is an interesting one.

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  5. I enjoyed my morning dose of American History! Sad events, though. It is heart-breaking to see families torn apart by war and ideologies. Aren't we thankful that it all turned out the way it did in the end?

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Kay. I've no doubt there was a lot of healing that had to occur during and after the Revolution.

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  6. People are amazed when they find out that many of the Revolutionary War battles that took place in South Carolina involved few British combatants. They were between Patriots and Loyalists, neighbor against nieghbor, brother against brother, father against son. A true civil war.

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