The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 23
Volume 23: October 27, 1776, through April 30, 1777
Imprint: Yale University Press
Series: The Papers of Benjamin Franklin
Franklin in France was in a world that was strange to him. His previous visits had shown him a little of French society; now that he was exposed to it at many level and on unfamiliar ground, a new phase of his education was beginning. It has many sides. He was a guest at salons and attended his first meeting of the Academic royale des sciences; he and his fellow commissioners negotiated over tobacco with the farmers general; Le Ray de Chaumont, a merchant prince close to Vergennes, took him under his roof in the rural quiet of Passy, surrounded by neighbors who soon became friends.
Passy was a solace in his trial. He was pestered day in, day out by importunate favor-seekers, while he and his colleagues wrestled with questions that seemed insoluble. How to pay for supplies with no money from Congress, or publicize the American cause with no news from home? How to influence, or even plumb, the intentions of Versailles? Franklin’s past experience gave little guidance. His years in England had turned him into a colonial spokesman but not a suitor for his country; his months in Philadelphia had taught him much about the war, but not how to get the French to pay for it. Yet the past had also served him well: by repeatedly forcing him to learn ways, it had kept him limber. Otherwise he would never have been able, in his seventies, to continue his education.