Triumph of Freedom, 1775-1783

By John C. Miller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII
The Deane-Lee Affair

WITH the consummation of the Franco-American alliance and the slowing down of the tempo of the war in North America, domestic politics came to the fore in the United States. Although the discord seemingly took its rise in Paris and revolved around international issues, actually it was part and parcel of the conflict that raged between conservatives and radicals over the kind of social and economic system that was to emerge from the American Revolution.

Not all Americans in Paris shared Franklin's fondness for the French capital and its people. The Paris of the philosophers, salons, and beautiful women had its seamy side which did not escape the attention of tourists: there were no sidewalks; the streets were ill lighted, "narrow, nasty, and inconvenient," "stinking extremely bad"; pedestrians sank up to the calves in mud or worse filth; the descending contents of chamber pots was an inevitable hazard in walking; and as one Bostonian remarked, "the whores are as thick as flies with us in summer, painted as much as possible." The only way to get about Paris with convenience, celerity, and a reasonable degree of sanitariness was by carriage. As the American commissioners soon found, it was necessary to keep one's own carriage, public vehicles being out of the question -- they were so narrow that "two Englishmen cannot with any sort of ease sit on a side; but the natives having less beef and pudding about them, will cram six or seven together."

None could deny, however, that Paris was the arbiter of fashion. At a time when men dressed in silks and satins, laces and ruffles, wigs and highheeled shoes, Paris was quite as much a mecca to the male sex as it was to the ladies. "The first thing to be done in Paris," John Adams observed, "is always to send for a tailor, peruke-maker, and shoemaker, for this nation has established such a domination over the fashion, that neither

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