Dr. Benjamin Franklin in France
by Dr. Pelham Mead
Few people realize how significant a role Dr. Benjamin Franklin played in bringing an end to the American Revolutionary war by involving the French and the Spanish governments. While doing research for one of my movie scripts about shapeshifters and the Japanese variation, the Kitune or Fox shapeshifter I had to research Benjamin Franklin while he was negotiating with France to purchase 100 brass canons, 2500 uniforms and ammunition from the French government, aka King Louis XVI who was still a young man of 23 years of age in 1777.
In June of 1776, the Continental Congress send Silas Deane, a Connecticut Teacher to France to negotiate to purchase arms and uniforms from the French on credit. On June 5, 1776 Deane landed in Burgundy France. It wasn’t until July 7 that he made it to Paris, France. Meanwhile he sent a letter recommended by Franklin to Dr. Edward Bancroft to come to Paris to help Deane. Bancroft was an American living in London and spoke fluent French and was a brilliant scientist and writer. He had written many books of Dutch Guiana when he lived there for a few years. During the fall of 1776 Deane and Bancroft approached merchants to purchase supplies for the Colonies. They met with Foreign Minister for King Louis XVI, Vergennes and told him what the Colonies needed which was a loan. At first the French were coy but eventually loaned the Americans 1 million livre and another Million livre came from the Spanish government. In December of 1776, Dr. Franklin arrived in Paris on Dec. 23, 1776 with his two grandsons, Temple Franklin age 16 and William Franklin age 6. He brought them along to get a good European education in France or Switzerland. Temple became Franklin’s personal secretary and learned to speak French in the process. Bancroft helped to translate French documents for Deane and Franklin. They never knew that the British had bought Bancroft out to spy on the Americans. At the time Bancroft was broke from debts owed and bad stock transactions. He was a born American but believed that the Americans should not separate from the British. Part of his belief was based on the fact that he needed black oak bark for his cloth dying business in London and if the Americans went to war with the British, he would not be able to get any black oak from America.
Back to Franklin. He was already a celebrity in France because many of his books were published in French and everyone was aware of his kite experiment with electricity. Franklin had a laid back approach to diplomacy. He held dinners for his rich friends and sought the aid of many famous Frenchmen for the American cause. He lived in the Hotel de Valentineious in Passy, France, just outside Paris which was provided for him by a rich French merchant. Arthur Lee arrived from London soon after Bancroft arrived and was surprised to learn much planning had been done without him. He went off to Spain and Prussia to seek help and was not around the fall of 1776 and 1777. Franklin wisely made friends with Minister Vergennes which helped the Americans secure 3 million lives eventually to purchase arms, cannons, black powder and ammunition. The ships sailed to the Caribbean to avoid the British blockade and the on to the Colonies to deliver the goods. It was Franklin that helped to draw up the Treaty of Paris which formally announced a partnership with France and the Colonies. After that France declare war against Britain on the side of the American Colonies. Without the loans from the French which Franklin won the war against the British would have been lost.
The French built many Man of war ships over the years between 1776 and 1778 and eventually helped the Americans blockade the Colonies harbors from the British. Franklin was 70 years of age when he first went to Paris in 1776 and he gave his duties his main attention in Paris.