May 2: King Louis XVI of France makes a loan to Hortalez & Cie, initiating secret aid to the United Colonies
May 4: General Charles Lee requests “arms, medicine, and blankets…” for his troops. He asks for a salary raise for qualified military engineers.
May 15: The Virginia Convention instructs its Congressional delegates “to declare the United Colonies free and independent states…”
May 21: The Maryland Convention resolves that all royal authority is abolished and that the people no longer needed to pledge allegiance to Great Britain.
May 23-24: The Massachusetts General Assembly advises delegates to Congress that the colony supports a declaration of independence “with their lives and the remnant of their fortunes.”
May 27: Native American representatives from the Six Nations of the Iroquois meet with Congress, followed by a military parade of Continental troops and local soldiers.
May 28: The London Post newspaper prints parts of Common Sense, omitting all insulting references to George III.
May 30: British General Henry Clinton decides to try and capture Charleston, South Carolina.
"The Father of All Yankees"
Throughout the Revolutionary epoch strode that homespun colossus, that national treasure, man of the world, Benjamin Franklin. The Philosopher of Electricity was the most human, the funniest, the wisest, the most inquisitive, the most gifted and versatile man of his day. And maybe any other.
WHEN BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, then 70 years old, sailed into New York, May 26, 1776, he was aching with failure and fatigue and nothing to show for an exhausting trip to Montreal and back except a cap of marten's fur and excruciating gout. He thought he had completed his last mission for his country. It was one of the few misjudgments of prophecy he ever made.
Franklin had gone to Canada with a delegation from the Continental Congress to woo that largely Catholic province to the American side. Samuel Chase, Charles Carroll of Maryland and Carroll's cousin, John, a Jesuit who was to become the first archbishop in America, accompanied Franklin. Both John and Charles, perhaps the richest man in the colonies, had been educated in France and spoke French fluently. Franklin had also been to France and was greatly admired there, but the real reason for Franklin's selection was that he was the most experienced diplomat the colonies had.
Franklin had spent 18 years in London. He knew the British intimately and loved them. Yet he was quintessentially American, lowly born. Franklin was a leading philosopher, as scientists were then described, a world figure, America's first. Historian Joseph Ellis lauded Franklin: “What Voltaire was to France, Franklin was to America, the symbol of mankind’s triumphal arrival at modernity.”
He was an insightful political analyst, and he believed fervently in a limitless America, putting his money where his convictions lay, buying land, then buying more. But he also believed in the British Empire. He found it logical that America should provide raw materials and Britain the manufacturing technology- the two, in partnership, to reign supreme in the world. That administrative bumbling had brought this boundless future to swords point was insulting to his intelligence and to his heart, an ache.
No one was more qualified by experience, ability, and goodwill to avert disaster. In effect, Franklin had been the American ambassador to London. No one felt the failure of good sense more keenly or foresaw the consequences more clearly. He loved Britain, but he loved his homeland more and had returned to await the storm. Franklin could make peace and had tried with all his resources.
He could also make war.
The Carrolls initially were edgy about making a long voyage in company with a freethinker like Franklin. But Franklin was no proselytizer – he was a listener who spoke only when he had something to say. Shortly after leaving New York to sail up the Hudson to Albany, Charles Carroll had been won by the philosopher's charm as had so many others.
"Docr Franklin is a most engaging and entertaining companion of a sweet, even and lively temper," he wrote, "full of facetious stories and always applied with judgment. ... He is a man of extensive reading, deep thought and curious in all his inquiries; His political knowledge is not inferior to his literary and philosophical. In short, I am quite charmed with him .... "
After a stormy journey, Franklin almost collapsed with exhaustion as the party reached the Saratoga home of General Philip Schuyler. Resting briefly, the group set off on horseback through an April snow to Lake George, then sailed north through icy Lake Champlain in a 30-foot boat. They reached Montreal on April 29 and were greeted by Benedict Arnold, the new Brigadier General. Their mission was nearly impossible, with only about 360 Protestants in the whole province, and a Catholic hierarchy deeply suspicious of the Americans. Franklin and the Carrolls...