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
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