From Seine to Schuylkill
Another Paradise was waiting for you in America. Providence could not, without you, make that country free and happy; we respect its designs too much to com-plain that it has given happiness to others at our expense.
--Abbé de la Roche to Franklin, July 27, 1787
THEY HAD ARRIVED in France on a windswept December day, unheralded, exhausted, forlorn. They left at the height of summer, kissed and hugged by a whole crowd. Until the last minute, Franklin's friends had hoped he would yield to their entreaties and remain among them. At times the pain of leaving had been almost too much: "Many honorable tears were shed on both sides."1 On that July 12, 1785, Benny recorded, "My grandfather mounted his litter among a great number of people of Passy. A solemn silence reigned around him, only interrupted by sobs." And Jefferson commented that it looked as if Passy had lost its patriarch.
Nine years earlier, making his way up from Brittany, Franklin had had trouble procuring even a miserable chaise. Now he was lent the queen's own litter and Spanish mules; he was presented with a miniature of the king encircled by more than four hundred diamonds. Packed under Benny's supervision, their not so frugal 128 crates of luggage went by barge down the Seine.
Franklin's French friends had wanted him to live out his days in France. Strahan had kept begging him to settle in England. Jane Mecom entertained her private fantasy that he would buy an estate in New England and allow her to stay under his roof away from the world except for a few interesting friends, but he had called it a project of the heart rather than the head. It was too late in life, he said, they would both be dead before that new house was ready. As a solace he gave her an appointment in a rather sober hereafter ("a House more lasting and I hope more agreeable than any this World can afford us"2), a far cry from the jolly paradises he was forever tantalizing his Parisian