In anticipation of the official release of the audiobook format of Somersett on July 4, I have decided to provide two additional excerpt samples to highlight the actors involved in this project. The first excerpt introduces what may be the single most fascinating subplot of the entire story; were an author to invent this plot device, their audience would likely scream “Foul!” It is simply beyond credibility, but it is all true. Once the motivating factors of revolution, the Somersett decision and the Hutchinson papers, were in hand, Franklin and Pownall were left with the realization that neither of them could be in the American colonies during the Revolution. Pownall, a well-known Member of Parliament, would of course be expected to be present in his typical seat there in Westminster. And Franklin, it was agreed by Pownall, Fothergill, and Barclay, could not possibly remain anywhere in America for fear of being a target of intrigue or even assassination. No, they needed another, an acolyte of sorts, who could carry the zealotry of American independence, but who was relatively anonymous in the British Empire.
It was almost impossible to conceive that there existed such individual. Not one of the famous members of the Scottish Enlightenment, who had provided Franklin a blueprint for revolution. Not an American patriot like Samuel Adams or Patrick Henry, who were both already too biased for the general community of colonials in America. No, it would have to be a gifted writer who was unknown to the general population of Boston, New York, Philadelphia and London.
To aid Franklin in this quest appeared an unlikely ally: Oliver Goldsmith, British playwright and bon vivant, well-known in his own right in London, but surrounded by aspiring young writers, many of whom were “down on their luck.” In the spring of 1774, Goldsmith would introduce Franklin to a near-destitute former exciseman (a British revenue agent serving in the maritime industry to prevent smuggling) recently terminated for absenteeism, and a step or two away from debtors’ prison. That man was named Thomas Pain. He would append an “e” to the end of his surname at about the time he debarked for America, with a ticket provided by…. Benjamin Franklin. No. Way.