England’s American colonists were a serious problem for the British Empire by 1774. Mad old King George was pretty…well…you know.
Great Britain was the world’s foremost military power, which meant it had bills to pay. The American colonies were prosperous, what with all their self-starting go-getterism, so Parliament and the king decided they should bear some of the financial burden of being subjects of the world’s foremost military power.
England did, after all, kick the French out of Canada and the land east of the Mississippi, which opened all that territory for development by the colonists.
Here’s your bill, said the King.
The resulting taxes got the colonists all in an uproar. Things were set on fire and Boston Harbor was turned into the world's biggest tea kettle.
Ben Franklin, the most famous American in the world, was in London, and he became a handy target for all the pent-up frustration the British Empire had with its uppity provincials.
He was summoned to appear before the King's Privy Council in 1774 to take a beating in a room Henry VIII had once used for cockfights. The British Solicitor General spent an hour tearing Franklin to shreds.
Ben Franklin stood in silence the entire time.
It is said that he went into the Cockpit an Englishman and came out an American.
Isaacson, Walter. “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life.” Simon and Schuster, 2003.
Skemp, Sheila L. “The Making of Patriot: Benjamin Franklin at the Cockpit.” Oxford University Press, 2013.