Sunday, December 31, 2006

Franklin during the Revolution

When mining through the mailaise that is US history, once we get to the American Revolutionary War, we hear much about George Washington and his exploits (victories and losses) during the war. He is our greatest military hero. We hear little of other types of history during the war like diplomatic victories. This is what I learned today about Benjamin Franklin. I knew his role as ambassador to France during the Revolution was a big one but I had not idea how big.

If not for France supporting our fledgling nation during our revolution, we would probably never have been a country. They supplied boots, armaments and troups while also bringing their ally Spain into the war against England as well. We had no money at the time, this was all done on credit. This as monarchy lending massive amounts of credit to not only a new nation but new type of nation. None of this would have happened if not for Franklin's achievements as a diplotmat. His personality and guile. Sure while Washinton was commanding on the front line under horrendous conditions, freezing and facing death each day, Franklin was partying it up with the elite in Paris and having a good time. One does his best work when one enjoys it.

Franklin arrived in France at the age of 70 and was greeted everywhere he went like he was a rock star. He was by far the most famous American alive at that time. He was a famous Phillie businessman (born in Boston) who dropped out of business world after becoming comfortable to pursue his intellectual passion for electricity. At the time, the popular knowledge of eletricity was limited to parlor tricks. No one until Franklin found a connection to lightning nor thought of any practical uses for it. This was not his only discovery but his most famous. He also discovered the gulf stream on one of his many trips to and fro Europe. He also invented bifocals and the Franklin stove among others.

If not for France coming into the war, the US may still be an English possession. When the US came to their aid during World War II and to a lesser extent World War I, this was simply us paying them back. You could say that we are now even. So the next time you hear someone complaining about France not supporting us during the Iraqi War, you might want to mention this.

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