Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

Download the .pdf here!

Benjamin Franklin and the French

From the very beginning, the founding fathers knew that if the original Thirteen Colonies were going to achieve independence that they would need financial support. From this support they hoped to acquire a steady source of supplies. The British had done everything possible to make sure that no wealth had been accumulated in the Colonies. They had stood steadfast in their opposition to manufacturing, and had even passed the Iron Act of 1750 which banned the production and processing of iron. At the same time, the founding fathers knew that they would need a large modern fleet if they were going to win. They needed a fleet that could regain control of the waterways and seas from the British.

It wouldn't take long before the list was narrowed down to the French, and their ruler King Louis XVI. In November of 1775, the Continental Congress created a Committee of Secret Correspondence under the direction of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was told to find a country that would be interested in helping the Americans. Then not long afterward, in the winter of 1775-76, a French agent, named Bonvouloir appeared in Philadelphia. He soon testified in front of Franklin's committee. Bonvouloir had no powers, and he could not negotiate. However, when Bonvouloir returned to France he reported that the Americans were determined to become independent.

Before long, Arthur Lee was told to contact the various embassies in London, and not long afterward, Silas Deane was sent to contact the French Court. Unfortunately, Deane did not speak a word of French. However, in France he found a friend in Comte de Vergennes who was the French Minister of Foreign Affairs. Vergennes had already fought for funding the American cause. He believed that if the British lost North America, it would be their ruin, and that their ruin would make France the worlds leading power.

Finally, the Americans began to triumph militarily. However, there was still a need for money and supplies. The Continental Congress decided to send their wisest and best known citizen, Benjamin Franklin, to France. Congress told him to get more aid from the French, and to get the French to declare that they were on America's side of the conflict. Franklin left on October 27th and he was accompanied by his two grandsons. They landed near Quiberon Bay, and Benjamin Franklin could hardly believe the reception. France had opened up its arms to Franklin. Everywhere he went huge crowds and beautiful women followed. Statues and portraits began to appear everywhere. His face soon appeared on handkerchiefs, watches, and on broaches. While in Paris, Franklin stayed in the Chateau de Chamount in the suburb of Passy. His hair was down to his shoulders, and he wore a fur cap and plain clothes while walking with the aid of an Applewood cane.

After a few months, more and more French ships left for America. However, a treaty had yet to be signed. Then, one day Vergennes became frightened when he learned that the Prime Minister of Britain, Lord North was trying to negotiate with Franklin. Vergennes was stunned, and caught off guard. Hastily, Vergennes and King Louis XVI presented a draft of their new Treaty of Alliance. The new version of the treaty now included military provisions, in addition to the commerce sections that had already been approved. Congress would ratify the treaty on May 2, 1778.