The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin | Study Guide

Benjamin Franklin

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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin | Part 4 | Summary



In Part 4, the briefest section of the Autobiography, Franklin tells of the opening days of his diplomatic mission to London on behalf of the Pennsylvania Assembly. As soon as he was settled in his lodging, Franklin took care to call on Dr. Fothergill and on Peter Collinson, his correspondents whom he greatly respected. He then met with Lord Granville, who served the British government as President of the King's Council. Granville coldly informed Franklin that the King was "the legislator of the colonies," meaning that the American colonial assemblies lacked the right to make their own laws.

Dr. Fothergill serving as intermediary, Franklin then met with the Pennsylvania proprietors. This meeting, too, was less than satisfactory. The proprietors seemed bent on delay and on legal counter-strategies.


The two meetings recounted by Franklin in Part 4 provide a brooding, somewhat pessimistic end to the Autobiography. Of course, it should be remembered that Franklin left his work unfinished. Lord Granville, in particular, treated Franklin with studied arrogance, asserting a tyrannical view of the way the colonies should be governed. The proprietors seemed altogether unwilling to negotiate. The reader may very well conclude that Franklin, as a diplomat, has his work cut out for him in London. He was, with one minor interval, to remain there for the better part of the next 18 years.

Diplomacy dominated Franklin's later life, which is not covered in the Autobiography. Although he failed to achieve colonial reconciliation with the British, he was brilliantly successful at securing French aid to the colonies during the Revolution. After the American victory, Franklin was instrumental in framing the Treaty of Paris, whereby the British officially recognized American independence.

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