Benjamin Franklin and Catharine Ray Greene: Their Correspondence, 1755-1790

By William Greene Roelker | Go to book overview

IV. Franklin at Paris
1776-1785

CONGRESS chose three commissioners on September 26, 1776, to represent it at the court of France: Franklin, Jefferson, and Silas Deane, who was then in Paris. Jefferson could not go because of his wife's ill health, and Arthur Lee, then in London, was substituted as the third commissioner. Seventy years old and troubled with boils, Franklin sailed from Philadelphia, October 27, on the armed sloop Reprisal, accompanied by two grandsons, Temple, nearly seventeen, and Benjamin Franklin Bache, seven. It was a hazardous voyage, for he knew that if the Reprisal were captured by one of the many British men-of-war patrolling the French coast, he was almost certain to be hanged. After a fast voyage of thirty-eight days he landed at Auray, December 3, and finished his journey by land to Nantes.

Franklin arrived at Paris, December 21, 1776, and overnight found himself famous. John Adams, who was often critical of him, was forced to acknowledge Franklin's success with the French:

But Franklin's fame was universal. His name was familiar to government and people [both of high and low degree to such an extent that there was scarcely anyone] who was not familiar with it, and who did not consider him as a friend to human kind. 1

It became the rage to make likenesses of him: busts, medallions, and engravings. In response to her request Franklin sent Caty Greene an iron medallion which still hangs over the big fireplace in the Greene homestead.

The enthusiastic reception of the French people had its disagreeable side: it was impossible for Franklin to have any privacy. Therefore when Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont, a zealous friend to the American cause, offered him the hospitality of a pavilion or wing of his large house at Passy, Franklin was

-83-

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Benjamin Franklin and Catharine Ray Greene: Their Correspondence, 1755-1790
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Introduction 1
  • I. the First Meeting 1755-1757 6
  • Ii. the Hostess 1758-1774 30
  • Iii. the Eve of Independence 1775-1776 48
  • Iv. Franklin at Paris 1776-1785 83
  • V. Twilight 1785-1790 126
  • Index of Persons 141
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