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tic. Captain Wickes had received instructions to avoid fighting, if possible. He was to devote all his energies to transporting his precious passenger as rapidly as possible, from shore to shore. They were often chased by cruisers. The vessel was small, and Franklin, in his old age, was sadly cramped by his narrow accommodations. He says that of all his eight voyages this was the most distressing. When near the coast of France they captured an English brig, with a cargo of lumber and wine. On the afternoon of the same day, they took another brig, loaded with brandy and flax seed. England was almost delirious with rage, in finding that the Americans were bearing away their prizes from the channel itself, thus bidding proud defiance to those frigates and fortresses of Great Britain which had overawed the world.
On the 29th of November the Reprisalcast anchor in Quiberon Bay. Franklin there obtained a post chaise to convey him to Nantes. He writes,
“ The carriage was a miserable one, with tired horses, the evening dark, scarce a traveller but ourselves on the road. And to make it more comfortable, the driver stopped near a wood we were to pass through, to tell us that a gang of eighteen robbers infested that wood, who, but two weeks ago, had robbed and murdered some travellers on that very spot.”
Though absolutely no one in Europe knew that Franklin was expected, his fame had preceded him. The scientists of France were eager to render him their homage. French statesmen had learned, at the Court of St. James, to respect his grandeur of character, and his diplomatic abilities. He was a very handsome man, with a genial smile, which won love at sight. The invariable remark of every one, who chanced to meet him for five minutes was, “What a delightful man.” Franklin had none of the brusqueness which characterizes John Bull. He was always a gentleman, scrupulously attentive to his rich, elegant, yet simple dress. He manifested his knowledge of human nature, in carefully preserying his national garb,—the old continental costume.
Thus wherever he appeared he attracted attention. No man was ever more courteous. The French Court, at that time, was bound by the shackles of etiquette, to an almost inconceivable degree. But Franklin was never embarrassed. He needed no one to teach him etiquette. Instinct taught him what to do, so that, in the bearing of a well bred gentleman, he was a model man, even in the court where Louis XIV. and Louis XV. had reigned with omnipotent sway. The most beautiful duchess, radiant in her courtly costume, and glittering with jewels, felt proud of being seated on the sofa by the side of this true gentleman, whose dress, simple as it was, was in harmony with her own. The popular impression is entirely an erroneous one, that there was anything rustic, anything which reminded one of the work shop or the blouse, in the demeanor of Benjamin Franklin, as he moved, unembarrassed, in the highest circles of fashion then known in the world.
Franklin was received to the hospitalities of a French gentleman of, wealth and distinction, by the name of Gruel. His elegant apartments were always crowded with visitors, eager to manifest their respect for the trans-Atlantic philosopher. Horace Walpole, a warm friend of the Americans, wrote,
"An account came that Dr. Franklin, at the age of 72, or 74, and, at the risk of his head, had bravely embarked, on board an American frigate, and, with two prizes taken on the way, had landed, at Nantes, in France, and was to be at Paris on the 14th, where the highest admiration and expectation of him were raised.”
Upon his arrival Mr. Deane exultingly wrote, “Here is the hero and philosopher, and patriot, all united in this celebrated American, who, at the age of seventy four, risks all dangers for his country.”
Anecdote of Gibbon-John Adams— Residence at Passy - Lafayette
introduced-Cruise of the Reprisal-Paul Jones-Capture of Burgoyne—Alliance with France-Anecdote of the Cake-Excitement in England-Franklin's introduction to the king-Joy in America-Extraordinary letter of Count Wissenstein—The reply-Injustice to Paul Jones-French troops in AmericaCharacter of John Adams-Franklin's mature views of human nature-Anecdote of the Angel-Capture of Cornwallis-Its effect in England—Prejudices of Mr. Jay—Testimony of Dr. Sparks—Jealousy of Franklin-Shrewd diplomatic act—The treaty signed.
In the journey from Nantes to Paris, a curious incident occurred, which is well worth recording. It so admirably illustrates the character of two distinguished men, as to bear internal evidence of its truthfulness. At one of the inns, at which Franklin stopped, he was informed that Mr. Gibbon, the illustrious author of the “ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” was also tarrying.
Mr. Gibbon was an Englishman. He was a deist, being in entire sympathy with Franklin in his views of Christianity. He was also a man of letters. Mr.
Franklin addressed a very polite note to Mr. Gibbon, sending his compliments, and soliciting the pleasure of spending the evening with him. Mr. Gibbon, who was never renowned for amiability of character, replied, in substance, we have not his exact words,
“Notwithstanding my regard for Dr. Franklin, as a man and a philosopher, I cannot reconcile it with my duty to my king, to have any conversation with a revolted subject.”
Franklin responded to this by writing, “ Though Mr. Gibbon's principles have compelled him to withhold the pleasure of his conversation, Dr. Franklin has still such a respect for the character of Mr. Gibbon, as a gentleman and a historian, that when, in the course of his writing the history of the “Decline and Fall of Empires,” the decline and fall of the British Empire shall come to be his subject, as will probably soon be the case, Dr. Franklin would be happy to furnish him with ample materials, which are in his possession.” *
* This anecdote has had a wide circulation in the newspapers, Mr. William Cobbett inserts it in his “Works," with the following comment, characteristic of the spirit of most of the higher class of Englishmen, in those days:
“Whether this anecdote record a truth or not I shall not pretend to say. But it must be confessed, that the expressions imputed to the two personages were strictly in character. In Gibbon, we see the faithful subject, and the man of candor and honor. In Franklin