by Dr. Pelham Mead
While researching a new movie script historical facts I discovered many interesting facts. 70 year old Benjamin Franklin was quite the ladies man in Paris, France. Jacques Donatien le Ray du Chaumont purchased the Hotel de Valentinois jus for Benjamin Franklin to live in rent free while he was in Paris, France representing the Continental Congress as it maneuvered to separate itself from England. Silas Deane use many of his own money and assets to purchase French artillery cannons, uniforms and 2500 rifles from the French to supply the Continental Army.
Behind the scenes in this days is the double agent Edward Bancroft a self-learned Doctor of Medicine and a well written scientist regarding Dutch Guiana plants, animals and indians. Arthur Lee is one of the men assisting Silas Deane in procuring credit to buy arms for the Continental Army. Lee seem to despise everyone. He accused Deane and Bancroft of being spies for the British many times. Franklin became close friends with Silas Deane and they ofter worked together without requesting Arthur Deane.
The French minister of Foreign affairs did not want to commit French credit to the Americans without a declaration of War. Jacques le Ray helped Benjamin Franklin in every way he could by buying him a hotel to live and work in in Passy just outside Paris and in trying to convince the French King Louis XVI the benefits in supporting the American revolutionary movement. The French eventually gave the Americans three million livre credit to purchase field artillery pieces, uniforms and rifles. In addition the French applied their credit to build ships for the American Navy in Holland. The British got wind of the Dutch building ships for the Americans and convinced the Dutch to stop building. When John Paul Jones came to France he was surprised to find out no ships had been built in Holland for the Americans. He had to settle for a smaller ship taken as a captive.
Meanwhile Bancroft was delivering messages in a glass jar on a string hung inside a hollow tree in Tuilleries park in Paris, only 3.7 kilometers from the Hotel de Valentinous where Bancroft was staying as a guest of Benjamin Franklin. The British knew everything the Americans were doing because Bancroft leaked all the information in letters with invisible ink. The British paid Edward Bancroft 200 pound sterling a year to spy on the Americans. Bancroft’s wife Penelope and his two sons lived in apartments in the suburbs of Paris not too far from the Hotel de Valentinois. Paul Wentworth was the spy who received Edward Bancroft’s reports and took them to Lord North who was in charge of the British secret service. King Charles III read the reports but did not believe them because he saw Bancroft as a gambling investor with financial problems. Lord Eagan also felt the same way, so much of what Bancroft report to the British was taken with a grain of salt.
Hotel de Valentinois back in 1776 when Jacques Donatien le Ray du Chaumont purchased it for Benjamin Franklin to live and work in. Jaques was a rich French aristocrat that made his money in shipping.
Benjamin Franklin brought his two grandsons to Paris with him so that they might get a good European education. Temple Franklin was sixteen at the time and his other grandson William was only five at the time. Bancroft stayed in the Hotel de Valentinois on many occasion so that he could be available when Franklin and Silas needed him to translate a French document or to copy some letter or treaty for them. At no time did the Americans pay Edward Bancroft for his services even though he was an integral assistant to the American Diplomats in France. Only the British paid him for his services.
Franklin was a slow methodical man who did not mind having dinners night after night to get to know all the people of power in France. Arthur Lee complained that Benjamin was wasting time and money doing nothing to further the American cause. Franklin was a smart person in realizing that if he pushed the French to get involved in the American declaration of freedom while France was still a monarchy.
Temple Franklin eventually became his grandfather Franklin’s personal secretary handling all the letters and paperwork that Franklin had to do. In the Signing of the Treaty of America with France a famous painting shows Temple sitting the to left of his Grandfather Franklin. Silas Deane and others were also in the painting from 1777. Had the French and Spanish not backed the Americans financially, the American would have never won the war. Silas Deane’s personal secretary was accused of being a spy and he fled to England, making Silas look bad for choosing the man to be his secretary. Secret invisible ink was often used by spies in the 1700’s. A lemon wash usually made the letters in invisible ink appear. The French spies were watching the Americans and British diplomats and the British were watching the Americans and British. Everyone was suspect of one thing or another and millions of dollars were at stake for military supplies for the Americans to win the war. Thanks to the well made Napoleon field artillery made by the French, the Americans were quite successful in winning many battles.
Edward Bancroft, M.D. double spy for the British who was never caught spying.