Benjamin Franklin in Paris
It’s Paris in July, so I wanted to learn about Benjamin Franklin’s time in Paris from Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson. Over the 4th of July weekend, I learned about his time in London, where he attempted to solve the problems between Britain and the colonies before the Revolutionary War. When that didn’t work out, he went home. Among other things, he helped draft the Declaration of Independence. In late 1776, he was dispatched to Paris by the fledgling United States, where they hoped he would secure support for the cause by the French government.
He spent the war in Paris, performing complex diplomatic negotiations with the French and, later, England, that kept the US from floundering before it got off the ground. Franklin was in his 70s while all this was going on.
My favorite part of his time in Paris, though, was shortly after the peace treaty was signed. Franklin was in France for Balloon Mania in 1783 when the first hot-air balloons were flown. He was present for the first manned flight on November 21, flown by brothers Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier.
As a huge crowd cheered and countless women fainted, the balloon took off with two champagne-toting noblemen, who initially found themselves snared by some tree branches. “I was then in great pain for the men, thinking them in danger of being thrown out or burnt,” Franklin reported. But soon they were free and gliding their way over the Seine, and after twenty minutes they landed on the other side and popped their corks in triumph. Franklin was among the distinguished scientists who signed the official certification of the historic flight the following evening, when the Montgolfiers called on him at Passy. (p. 420)
I love picturing Franklin, and the Seine, and the first manned hot-air balloon.
I’m happy, too, that I can participate in Dreaming of France this week. Check out Paulita’s post for more French-themed content.
How interesting! Benjamin Franklin is one of my favorites….& thinking of him in Paris is so much fun. Thanks!
How interesting-thank you for sharing.
I love the stories of Franklin in Paris – all the pre-revolutionaries, actually. Thank you for the picturesque story of Balloon Mania. Fascinating.
What a great mental image! This past weekend I happened to visit a fort designed by Jonathan Williams, whom I figure may have come up in that book too, as he spent a lot of time with BF (his great-uncle) while in Paris.
I love books about France, I think I need to check out that meme!
My husband and I love Benjamin Franklin. In fact, we named our younger son, Ben.
We named our first son, Benjamin. It turns out, I was thinking of Ben Franklin, one of my favorite hometown heroes while my husband was thinking of Benny Cunningham, an old time Pittsburgh Steelers football player.
Joy, What a fun excerpt to include about Franklin. I bet you’re learning all kinds of interesting things about him and able to picture him in the beautiful places around France. Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Here’s my Dreaming of France meme
Sounds like a very interesting read, I’ll have to look that one up.
This looks like an interesting book on Franklin. Hard not to like him!
What a wonderful little Parisian vignette.
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