Benjamin Franklin Was America's First Political LeakerBreaking News
tags: Benjamin Franklin
But few in this maelstrom of distraction have mentioned the fact that leaks played an essential role in the American revolution, turning the tide toward the Patriots and away from the crown, setting the stage for the final, fateful rebellion. The Hutchinson Letter Affair was a scandal that ended two British officials’ careers and led to the public censure of the central leaker, none other than Benjamin Franklin.
The story begins with the June 1772 death of former British MP Thomas Whately. A bigwig among the powdered-wig set, Whately was privy to loads of private information, most of it in the form of letters from equally powerful stalwarts….
Aghast by the contents, and secretly hoping they would show the Crown wasn’t all bad, but was just receiving bad advice, Franklin sent the letters to Massachusetts Bay Speaker and Patriot Thomas Cushing that December with explicit instructions to keep them hush-hush.
Cushing didn’t. He shared them with future beer-brand and then-clerk for the Massachusetts Assembly, Samuel Adams, who in turn read them to the Massachusetts Assembly, which subsequently opened an official investigation.
Adams wanted to move things along, so hit up newspaper man and famed propagandist John Hancock to spread words of the letters’ existence, a favor he was more than happy to oblige and set to work penning a report that the Massachusetts Assembly deemed the letters a danger to its government. Other papers joined in, too, fanning the flames as only the press can.
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