William Franklin, Illegitimate Son of Benjamin Franklin, Born

William Franklin (1731-November 17, 1813) was the last Colonial Governor of New Jersey.

William was a steadfast Loyalist throughout the Revolutionary War, despite his father's role as one of the most prominent Patriots during the conflict, a difference that tore the two apart.

He was born in Philadelphia, the illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin. His mother's identity is unknown though evidence suggests she was a "Low Woman". He was raised by his father and his common-law wife Deborah Read. There is some speculation William's mother may have been Deborah Read, and that because of his parents' common law relationship, the circumstances of his birth were obscured so as not to be politically harmful to William. He accompanied his father on several missions, including his trips to England. Although often depicted as a young child when he assisted his father in the famed kite experiment in 1752, William was 21 years old at the time.

To my son, William Franklin, late Governor of the Jerseys, I give and devise all the lands I hold or have a right to, in the province of Nova Scotia, to hold to him, his heirs, and assigns forever. I also give to him all my books and papers, which he has in his possession, and all debts standing against him on my account books, willing that no payment for, nor restitution of, the same be required of him, by my executors. The part he acted against me in the late war, which is of public notoriety, will account for my leaving him no more of an estate he endeavoured to deprive me of. ”

— Benjamin Franklin

Franklin’s first-born son William was illegitimate. The identity of William’s mother is unknown. Ben and William remained very close for many years but became estranged on the eve of the American Revolution when William refused to give up his loyalty to the British throne. In the end, Franklin disowned William.