Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy Birthday Ben!

Today's Ben Franklin's birthday.  Or rather it would be if he were still alive at 305.  So let's just say it's the anniversary of his birth, a date momentous both for Americans and for the French.  Franklin did the leg work to get the French behind the ragtag Continental Army in its fight against the mighty British.  It didn't turn out so well in the end for the French (being tremendously expensive and distracting Louis XVI from other things that he might better have spent his time attending to) but by all accounts, French support of American independence was an absolutely essential ingredient to the American victory in our Revolutionary War. 

Franklin arrived in France in 1776 at the age of 70 and by all accounts, he charmed the pants off the French.  Some say his French was atrocious, some say he was an outrageous flirt, some say he played the part of the country bumpkin (coonskin cap and all) to the hilt.   Let the historians sort it all out. What's indisputable is that he stayed almost 10 years, leaving finally in 1785, having been party to the Treaty of Paris, and leaving the ambassadorship to Thomas Jefferson.

The house where Franklin stayed in Passy (on the corner of rue Raynouard and rue Singer) is no longer standing but in addition to the usual historical marker, the current building sports a rather large stone monument in his honor.  There's a statue of him just inside the grounds of the U.S. embassy, off the Place de la Concorde, although they don't let you take a picture of that.  For the rest of us, there's a thoroughly satisfying homage just to the south of Trocadero, on the street that bears his name.

5 comments:

Sasho said...

Thanks for the birthday reminder. Ben Franklin's London house (he lived there from 1757 to 1775) still stands and can be toured. I nipped over to view the website and noticed that the cost of a tour is considerably less now then when I toured it in 2007, about a quarter if I remember correctly. It was a terrible disappointment at the time. A terrible (to my mind) show with a live actress/docent who affected to be the landlady and some recorded items. I would have much preferred to just walk through the house and read about Franklin's London sojourn. I expect they've ironed out the rough bits.

Starman said...

Whatever else one might say about Mr. Franklin, no one can deny what a remarkable statesman he was.

Peter said...

From what I know, he defenitely did a good job in Paris and was loved by the French! ... and he installed the first lightning-conductor on the house where he lived!(Well, unfortunately it has been destroyed anyhow.)

Pamela said...

I just came across your blog and have become a follower. I am so fascinated by your story! Wow!
What a treasure you have given your children on this life adventure of moving to Paris! Such courage to I might add. A year ago I moved with my family 3,000 miles across Canada and thought that was a big undertaking!
My dream is to one day see Paris but until then I will live seeing it throught your blog!!
Pamela from French Buttons :)

Anne said...

Pamela: Thanks for stopping in and commenting. Yes, it's been a great ride but I wouldn't say that it was courageous. I'd reserve that for some place much more exotic. Life here, even with some of the frustrations, is pretty easy!

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