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The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 29 - Oberg, Barbara B.; Franklin, Benjamin - Yale University Press

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The Papers of Benjamin Franklin


The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 29

Volume 29: March 1 through June 30, 1779

  • Benjamin Franklin; Edited by Barbara B. Oberg
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Barbara B. Oberg, editor

Dorothy W. Bridgwater, Ellen R. Cohn, Jonathan R. Dull, Catherine M. Prelinger, associate editors; Marilyn A. Morris, assistant editor; Claude A. Lopez, consulting editor

This volume marks the first full months of Franklin's tenure as sole American minister to the Court of France. Relieved from the necessity of having to work any longer with John Adams and Arthur Lee, Franklin took charge of the American mission with new-found vigor, writing on average fifty letters a month, sometimes in spurts of six or seven a day. No other period of his life has left so full a documentary record.

In the absence of a network of American consuls in France, the business of receiving cargoes, fitting out ships, supervising the procurement of supplies, and tending to the interests of American citizens abroad fell to the American minister plenipotentiary. Prominent among the naval captains with whom he dealt was John Paul Jones; this volume reveals the first attempts of Franklin and the French Court to devise a mission for the Bonhomme Richard squadron.

Busy diplomat that he was, Franklin always had time for scientific and other pursuits. His paper on the aurora borealis was delivered to the Academie des sciences. He attended experiments on the ingenious microscope solaire by the young scientist of future Revolutionary fame, Jean-Paul Marat. In May, he was elected Venerable of his Masonic lodge.

During these months too, Franklin resumed his earliest profession and avocation, printing. He established a type foundry at Passy in 1778 and had his press in operation by the following spring. In this volume is reproduced the first Passy imprint that can be dated with any certainty, his invitation to an Independence Day celebration. Also in the spring he reworked an essay that he had conceived over sixty years before. Entitled "The Morals of Chess," it became one of his best-known lighter pieces.

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