Franklin, William

last name (variants): Franklind
Other names: Royal Governor
Birth: 1730
Death: November 16, 1813 in London, England

British Loyalist


Alexander Annand's Classical Academy




Royal Governor

  • New Jersey (from 1763 to 1778)
  • New York (from 1778 to 1782)
  • London, England (from 1782 to 1813)
Marital status

Married Elizabeth Downes in 1762 who died c. 1778. Remarried Mary D'Evelyn.


William Franklin was the 13th, and last, royal governor of New Jersey. He was the natural son of Benjamin Franklin, printer and diplomat of Philadelphia. William attended Alexander Annand's Classical Academy for two years and was tutored at home. He then served in King George’s war on the New York frontier, attaining the rank of captain, and participated in trade missions to the Delaware and Shawnee Indians in 1748. He went on to study law, was admitted to the bar, and traveled to Europe assisting with his father’s scientific experiments. In 1762 he was awarded an honorary master of arts degree from Oxford, married Elizabeth Downes, and was appointed to the governorship. Franklin was popular in the position early on, introducing subsidies for farmers, establishing the first Indian reservation at Brotherton, PA, and helping to found Queens College (now Rutgers University). His popularity faded when he allied himself with Great Britain during the Revolutionary War. He was arrested in June 1776, imprisoned, and released in October 1778 to British authorities in New York in a prisoner exchange. His wife died during this separation, and for the next four years, he was involved in Loyalist operations. After the American victory, Franklin emigrated to England where the British Commission on Loyalist Claims awarded him £1800 and a pension for his loss of estate. He remarried a wealthy Irish widow, Mary D’Evelyn, and served as an agent for Loyalist claims in London. Franklin tried to reestablish relations with his estranged father and his own natural son, William Temple Franklin, who had become Benjamin’s ward. Although briefly reconciled, his father finally disinherited him. He was called the most notorious Loyalist after Benedict Arnold.


Stellhorn, Paul A. and Michael J. Birkner, eds. The Governors of New Jersey, 1664-1974: Biographical Essays. Trenton: New Jersey Historical Commission, 1982, 72-6; Randall, Willard Sterne. “William Franklin.” American National Biography Online. Feb 2000.

Further reading

Skemp, Sheila L. Benjamin and William: Father and Son, Patriot and Loyalist. Boston: Bedford Books, 1994.