Temple, John

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Temple, John

TEMPLE, JOHN. (1732–1798). British official. Born in Boston in 1732, Temple went to London in 1761 in search of preferment. Aided by family connections, which included Earl Temple and future prime minister George Grenville, he was named lieutenant governor of New Hampshire and surveyor general of customs. Temple earned the approval of colonial merchants for his fair implementation of the tax laws; his not very secret opposition to the Stamp Act; and his bitter dispute with the Massachusetts governor, Francis Bernard, whom he accused of fraud. In 1767 he further cemented his warm relations with Boston Patriots by marrying Elizabeth Bowdoin, daughter of James Bowdoin. Appointed to the Board of Customs that same year, Temple was the only one of the five commissioners not driven out of Boston by an angry crowd. Using Temple's local approval against him, Governor Bernard succeeded in getting Temple fired.

Back in England in 1771, Temple—unable to regain his position—turned to extortion, threatening to publish his correspondence unless new employment was found for him. Lord North gave in, making Temple surveyor general of customs for England. The publication of Governor Thomas Hutchinson's letters in 1772 cast suspicion on Temple as the source of these documents, leading to a duel with William Whately in which the latter was wounded. Temple again lost his position, even after Benjamin Franklin admitted that he had leaked the letters. In 1778 Lord North sent Temple to Boston as a gesture towards reconciliation with the Patriots, but Congress refused to listen to him, and he returned to England the following year. In 1785 he was named the first British consul to the United States. He died in New York City on 17 November 1798.

SEE ALSO Hutchinson Letters Affair.


Bowdoin-Temple Papers. Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.

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