Central New Jersey, United States
When Lord Frederick North, the British Prime Minister, sends Colonel Jeremiah Black to America to arrest General George Washington and bring him back to England to stand trial for treason, the British warship HMS Peregrine lands Black near the mouth of this New Jersey river. From there, he is to sneak into the country and meet up with Loyalists who will assist him to carry out the plot. It is hard to imagine this heavily populated part of northern New Jersey as largely untamed wilderness, but that’s what it was in 1780.
Read more about the Raritan River here.
Passaic County, New Jersey
This Georgian-style mansion near Totowa, in Passaic County, New Jersey was owned in the 1770’s and 1780’s by Theunis Dey, who lived there with his family. In 1780, he lent part of the house to General Washington, who used it as his commander-in-chief headquarters on two occasions, the second time from October 8 through November 27, 1780. In The Trial and Execution of the Traitor George Washington, it is here that Colonel Jeremiah Black of the King’s Guards and his Loyalist co-conspirators carry out their bloody attempt to kidnap Washington. Visitors can still tour this restored mansion and see the rooms that served as General Washington’s office and bedroom, as well as the kitchen and other rooms.
Read more and plan a visit to the Dey Mansion here.
Pennsylvania State House
This building is what we now call Independence Hall. Both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated and adopted there. In 1780, it was known as the Pennsylvania State House, the seat of government of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the meeting place for the Continental Congress. When news of Washington’s possible kidnapping reaches Samuel Huntington, the president of the Continental Congress, he must decide what to do. Try to rescue Washington or just begin the process of choosing Washington’s successor?
Learn more about the Pennsylvania State House now known as Independence Hall here.
10 Downing Street
10 Downing Street is today both the office and the home of the British Prime Minister, much as the White house is the office and home of the President of the United States. Prior to 1780, however, 10 Downing was used mostly as a governmental office. Prime Ministers didn’t always live there. When Lord North became Prime Minister, however, he changed that. He not only used 10 Downing as his office, but also lived there with his family during his entire term as Prime Minister, from 1770 to 1782. And it's here, in the novel’s opening chapter, that North plots the kidnapping of General Washington.
Read more about 10 Downing Street here.
Today, Buckingham Palace is the principal residence of the British monarch, currently Elizabeth II. In 1780, however, it was simply a large townhouse that George III had earlier purchased for his wife, Queen Charlotte, and their thirteen children. It was known as 'The Queen’s House.' The King, a devoted family man, spent much of his time there instead of at his official residence at St. James Palace in Pall Mall. In the novel, it is here that several of the increasingly bitter confrontations between George III and Lord North take place.
Learn more about Buckingham Palace here.
Tower of London
This historic landmark in the heart of London is the place where, over the centuries, British governments often have held important political prisoners – some closely-guarded in crude cells, some in nicer rooms with the freedom to walk about the grounds, and still others in well-appointed apartments, with the right to come and go. It is where, in the novel, the Government chooses to imprison George Washington, who has the freedom to walk about, but only if he wishes to risk being pelted with rotten fruit.
Learn more about the Tower of London and plan a visit here.
The Old Bailey is now the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales. In 1780, it had only recently been expanded and improved, ready for bigger and better trials. In the novel, the biggest trial of the 18th Century, George Washington’s trial for treason, takes place there.
Read more about the Old Bailey here.
Benjamin Franklin’s House
During the many years that Benjamin Franklin lived in London before the American Revolution (1757-1775), he resided with the widow Margaret Stevenson and her children at 36 Craven Street, in central London (at the time the house was numbered as No. 7 Craven Street). In the novel, Colonel Ethan Abbott, who is sent by the Continental Congress to try to negotiate General Washington’s release, finds lodging there in Benjamin Franklin’s old rooms. Tours are available.
Read more about the house on Craven Street and plan a visit here.