Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) is arguably the most approachable of America's founding fathers. But there is another, more enigmatic aspect to his persona, that of the gifted intellectual who, during eight decisive years of the American Revolution, served as America's Minister to France. He traversed the salons and courts of Europe with ease, and exchanged thoughts with some of the most influential philosophers and intellectuals of The Enlightenment. Complemented by historian Brett F. Woods' thoughtful and explanatory ...
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) is arguably the most approachable of America's founding fathers. But there is another, more enigmatic aspect to his persona, that of the gifted intellectual who, during eight decisive years of the American Revolution, served as America's Minister to France. He traversed the salons and courts of Europe with ease, and exchanged thoughts with some of the most influential philosophers and intellectuals of The Enlightenment. Complemented by historian Brett F. Woods' thoughtful and explanatory commentary, Letters From France is an insightful and powerful collection of Franklin's personal observations and opinions, and provides new insights into the French-American alliance against the British during one of the most critical junctures in American history. All other achievements aside, during his sjour in France Benjamin Franklin emerges as an extraordinary individual, distinguished as much as a philosopher as a statesman. Whether he is writing to peers such as John Adams and John Jay, to French officials such as the Marquis de la Fayette and Count de Vergennes, or even to long-time British friends such as David Hartley, Member of Parliament from Hull, and William Petty, the second Earl of Shelburne, Franklin reveals much, if not quite all, of himself. And whether the subject might be prisoners of war and privateers or rules of engagement and reconciliation with England, he writes with remarkable clarity, insight and, on occasion, humor: the portrait of a thoughtful man following a challenging course through uncertain times. Franklin adroitly exploited his popularity, and his sojourn in Paris enjoyed remarkable success. Although not specifically instructed to seeka military alliance with France- material and financial aid, it was initially believed, would be sufficient to meet the most urgent colonial needs-over the next eight years he not only crafted the French-American Alliance of 1778, but also negotiated the 1783 Treaty of Paris which effectively ended the war with Britain and provided for the removal of British forces from all American territories. This selection of letters, with annotation, is an important contribution to the body of literature exploring French support to the American Revolution, and perhaps more importantly, provides a rare glimpse into the character and complex mind of Benjamin Franklin the diplomat. Brett F. Woods received his PhD in literature from the University of Essex, England. A senior executive fellow of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, he has served an editor for both the Journal of Interdisciplinary Twentieth Century Studies and The Best Century: A Journal of the Nineteenth Century. He is the author of numerous books and essays relating to political, military and literary history; his writings have been published in academic and mainstream periodicals such as the California Literary Review, The Canadian Journal of History/Annales canadiennes d'histoire, The Asian Studies Review (Australia), and The Richmond Review (England). Dr. Woods has taught historical method at the university level. In the current work Dr. Woods provides explanatory notes to assist the reader in placing the correspondence in its particular historical, political, or conceptual context.
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