The Many Hats of Ben Franklin

Statesman, Diplomat, Inventor, Stud

Kathy Copeland Padden


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Just like now, in the 18th-century politics was a dirty, self-serving business.

So it’s no surprise that during its earliest days as a nation, the United States of America took advantage of France’s age-old antipathy towards England. In turn, King Louis XVI of France was using the Americans to vex his old rivals as much as possible.

The fledgling United States of America had the perfect guy to walk the fine line between the two ancient enemies.

Benjamin Franklin, charming chameleon extraordinaire, arrived in France accompanied by Silas Deane and Arthur Lee in December of 1777. Franklin knew the image he wanted to project — that of the wise but humble country bumpkin — clad in a simple brown suit with a fur hat instead of a more highfalutin powdered wig.

His reputation as an inventor and statesman already preceded him, so there was no need to toot his own horn. Deane and Lee followed suit, presenting a non-threatening, provincial countenance.

It paid off in spades. They earned the admiration of the diplomats they were hoping to win over and the love of the French people with their simple, home-spun charm. The three Americans, particularly the charismatic ladies man Franklin, became the toast of Paris and Versailles.

Although King Louis XVI had his reservations about supporting a country born of an anti-monarchy revolution (a premonition perhaps?), he put them aside knowing how badly it would irk England’s King George III. On March 20, 1778, Louis received the three representatives from the United States, Franklin, Deane, and Lee, in the Royal bed chamber at Versailles. His Majesty presented them with a letter for the American Congress extending his friendship.

This meeting was merely a formality. The American envoys already negotiated a treaty with the Minister of Foreign Affairs finalized on February 6, marking the entry of France into the war with the U.S. against England. The King sent 6,000 troops to America under the command of Rochambeau, a huge boon to the war effort. Among other things, this was instrumental in the defeat of the English at Yorktown in…



Kathy Copeland Padden

is a music fanatic, classic film aficionado, and history buff surfing the End Times wave like a boss. Come along!