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Voyage to France.
Arrives at Nantes.
Proceeds to Paris, and takes up his Residence at Passy. - His Reception in France. -Influence of his Name and Character. - Pictures, Busts, and Prints of him.Interview with Count de Vergennes. Money obtained from the French Court, and Military Supplies sent to the United States. — Contract with the Farmers-General. Franklin disapproves the Policy of seeking Alliances with the European Powers. - Lord Stormont. - Application of Foreign Officers for Employment in the American Army.-Lafayette. - Reasons why the French delay to enter into a Treaty with the United States. Interview with Count de Vergennes on that Subject. Treaty of Amity and Commerce. — Treaty of Alliance. Franklin and the other Commissioners introduced at Court.
AFTER a boisterous passage of thirty days from the Capes of Delaware, the Reprisal came to anchor in Quiberon Bay, near the mouth of the Loire. While crossing the Gulf Stream, Dr. Franklin repeated the experiments which he had made on his last voyage from England, for ascertaining the temperature of the The result was the same as he had then found it. The water was warmer in the Gulf Stream, than in other parts of the ocean. The sloop was sometimes chased by British cruisers, and Captain Wickes prepared for action; but he had been instructed to avoid an engagement if possible, and to proceed directly to the coast of France. By good management he escaped his pursuers, and no action occurred during the voyage. Two days before he came in sight of land he took two prizes, brigantines, one belonging to Cork, the other to Hull, laden with cargoes obtained in French ports.
The wind being contrary, Captain Wickes could not sail up the river to Nantes, the port to which he was bound. After a detention of four days in Qui
beron Bay, Dr. Franklin was set on shore with his grandsons at the little town of Auray. Thence he travelled by land to Nantes, a distance of seventy miles, where he arrived on the 7th of December.
His arrival in France was entirely unexpected. The news of his appointment had not preceded him, this having been kept secret in Congress. It was easily conjectured, however, that he would not come so far without being invested with some important public mission, and the friends of America greeted him with cordiality and lively expressions of joy. The event was celebrated by a dinner, at which he was invited to be present, and which was attended by a large number of persons. Fatigued with the voyage and his journey from Auray, he sought repose for a short time at the country-seat of M. Gruel, near the town; but in this retreat many visiters called to see him, as well to testify their personal respect, as to make inquiries concerning the state of affairs in America. From Nantes he wrote as follows to the President of Congress.
"Our voyage, though not long, was rough, and I feel myself weakened by it; but I now recover strength daily, and in a few days shall be able to undertake the journey to Paris. I have not yet taken any public character, thinking it prudent first to know whether the court is ready and willing to receive ministers publicly from the Congress; that we may neither embarrass it on the one hand, nor subject ourselves to the hazard of a disgraceful refusal on the other. I have despatched an express to Mr. Deane, with the letters that I had for him from the Committee, and a copy of our commission, that he may immediately make the proper inquiries, and give me information. In the mean time I find it generally supposed here, that I
am sent to negotiate; and that opinion appears to give great pleasure, if I can judge by the extreme civilities I meet with from numbers of the principal people, who have done me the honor to visit me."
He stayed eight days at Nantes, and then set off for Paris, and reached that city on the 21st of December. * He found Mr. Deane there, and Mr. Lee joined them the next day, so that the commissioners were prepared to enter immediately upon their official duties. Shortly afterwards Dr. Franklin removed to Passy, a pleasant village near Paris, and took lodgings in a commodious house belonging to M. Leray de Chaumont, a zealous friend to the American cause. He remained at that place during the whole of his residence in France.
The intelligence of Franklin's arrival at Paris was immediately published and circulated throughout Europe. His brilliant discoveries in electricity, thirty years before, had made him known as a philosopher wherever science was studied or genius respected. His writings on this subject had already been translated into many languages; and also his Poor Richard, and some other miscellaneous pieces, clothed in a style of surpassing simplicity and precision, and abounding in sagacious maxims relating to human affairs and the springs of human action, which are almost without a
Madame du Deffand says, in a letter dated on the 18th of December; "The object of Dr. Franklin's visit is still problematical; and what is the most singular of all is, that no one can tell whether he is actually in Paris or not. For three or four days it has been said in the morning that he had arrived, and in the evening that he had not yet come." Again, on the 22d, she writes; "Dr. Franklin arrived in town yesterday, at two o'clock in the afternoon; he slept the night before at Versailles. He was accompanied by two of his grandsons, one seven years old, the other seventeen, and by his friend, M. Penet. He has taken lodgings in the Rue de l'Université." Lettres de la Marquise du Def
fund à Horace Walpole, Tom. III. p. 343.
parallel in any other writer. * The history of his recent transactions in England, his bold and uncompromising defence of his country's rights, his examination before Parliament, and the abuse he had received from the ministers, were known everywhere, and had added to the fame of a philosopher and philanthropist that of a statesman and patriot. A French historian, of the first celebrity, speaks of him as follows;
"By the effect which Franklin produced in France, one might say that he fulfilled his mission, not with a court, but with a free people. Diplomatic etiquette did not permit him often to hold interviews with the ministers, but he associated with all the distinguished personages, who directed public opinion. Men imagined they saw in him a sage of antiquity, come back to give austere lessons and generous examples to the moderns. They personified in him the republic, of which he was the representative and the legislator. They regarded his virtues as those of his countrymen, and even judged of their physiognomy by the imposing and serene traits of his own. Happy was he, who could gain admittance to see him in the house which he occupied at Passy. This venerable old man, it was said, joined to the demeanor of Phocion the spirit of Socrates. Courtiers were struck with his native dignity, and discovered in him the profound statesman. Young officers, impatient to signalize themselves in another hemisphere, came to interrogate him respecting the military condition of the Americans; and, when
*There are three separate translations of Poor Richard in the French language; one by Dubourg, another by Quétant, and a third by Castéra. Many editions have been printed, and some of them in a beautiful style of typography. It has also been translated into modern Greek; and a new translation has been recently made from the French into Spanish by Mangino, and published, with a selection from Franklin's miscellaneous writings, in the same language.
he spoke to them with deep concern and a manly frankness of the recent defeats, which had put his country in jeopardy, this only excited in them a more ardent desire to join and assist the republican soldiers. "After this picture, it would be useless to trace the history of Franklin's negotiations with the court of France. His virtues and his renown negotiated for him; and, before the second year of his mission had expired, no one conceived it possible to refuse fleets and an army to the compatriots of Franklin." *
The commissioners were furnished by Congress, in the first place, with the plan of a treaty of commerce, which they were to propose to the French government. They were likewise instructed to procure from that court, at the expense of the United States, eight line-of-battle ships, well manned and fitted for service; to borrow money; to procure and forward military
Histoire de France, par CHARLES LACRETELLE, Tom. V. p. 92. — The same historian adds, that portraits of Franklin were everywhere to be seen, with the sublime inscription, which was first applied to him by Turgot; "Eripuit cælo fulmen, sceptrumque tyrannis."
A variety of medallions were likewise made, on which his head was represented, of various sizes, suitable to be set in the lids of snuffboxes, or to be worn in rings; and vast numbers were sold; as well as numerous copies of pictures, busts, and prints, in which the artists vied with each other to attain beauty of execution and accuracy of resemblance. While he resided in England, he wore a wig, according to the fashion of the times, of somewhat formidable dimensions. His head is thus covered in the portraits by Chamberlin and Martin, both of which are deemed good likenesses. In another picture of him, by West, painted in England, which is now in the possession of Mr. Edward D. Ingraham, of Philadelphia, the wig is likewise retained. After he went to France he laid aside this appendage, and supplied its place with a fur cap, which is seen in some of the engravings. But at length this was dispensed with. The portrait by Duplessis is considered the best that was taken in France, and in this he appears with his own hair, thin at the top, but flowing down the sides of his head and neck nearly to the shoulders. During the latter years of his life he seldom went abroad without spectacles, fitted by an invention of his own, for rendering objects distinctly visible at different distances from the eye.