ARTICLE: Hayes on Peter and King, Benjamin Franklin’s Slaves

Kevin J. Hayes. “New Light on Peter and King, the Two Slaves Benjamin Franklin Brought to England.” Notes and Queries (March 27, 2013). 


“WHEN Benjamin Franklin went to London on behalf of the Pennsylvania assembly in 1757, his son William accompanied him. In addition, they brought along two slaves. Peter served as personal servant to Benjamin Franklin, and William brought King to serve him in the same capacity. From their arrival in England on 17 July 1757 through their departure in August 1762, Peter remained with Benjamin Franklin. King, on the other hand, ran away from the Franklins. A previously neglected newspaper notice advertising for the apprehension and return of a slave named ‘King’ may significantly alter our understanding of Benjamin Franklin’s relationship to slavery.

Before getting to the text of this advertisement, let’s recall the general story of Peter and King in England, a story beset with a major problem from the outset. By 1750, Benjamin and Deborah Franklin owned a slave couple, Peter and Jemima. In addition, the Franklins had another slave in their household during the 1750s, a ‘Negro Child’, who was inoculated for smallpox in 1756.1 Gary B. Nash theorizes that this child could have been Othello, the male slave who helped Deborah around the house after her husband went to England in 1757…”

Read the rest ($$).