Jeremy Bell

Ben Franklin’s ‘Mystery of the Hutchinson Letters’

Jeremy Bell presents his recent discovery concerning the Hutchinson Letter Affair. It was the secret which Ben Franklin took to his grave. He never told anyone who gave him private letters from Governor Hutchinson which were pivotal to the revolution. Samuel Adams printed the letters in 1773, exactly 250 years ago.

In his Political Trial of Benjamin Franklin, Kenneth Penegar predicted that ‘The mystery over the identity of Franklin’s informant is likely to remain unsolved, barring discovery of some hitherto unknown letter.’ Well, that ‘hitherto’ letter has been found! It was written just five days after Franklin’s famous Ordeal in the Cockpit, and then printed in the Massachusetts Gazette in April 1774.

This newspaper notice identifies the source (Sir Francis Dashwood) and the exact location. They were handed to Franklin in a wooden structure atop a church which Dashwood had built on his estate. The church was connected by a shaft to the infamous Hellfire Caves that Dashwood had dug into the hill below the church.

[Recorded August 12, 2023]

Jeremy Bell is from the UK and lectures on the artist, William Hogarth. He has three artbooks to his name – his most recent was Editor’s Choice at the British Art Journal. His work on the Masonic symbolism hidden within the work of William Hogarth has been well received by Freemasons globally. He presents an annual lecture at the St. Botolph Club, here in Boston. Last year’s subject was ‘Swizzle sticks and nutmeg graters.’

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