Unusual Alliances (Part 2 of 2)
In Paris, Benjamin Franklin would discover that his humble style of dress and his incredible intellect immediately impressed the aristocracy; biographer Claude-Anne Lopez states that Benjamin ‘was temperamentally suited for France. The streak of irreverence that ran through his entire life found a congenial reception in Paris, as did his love of laughter and desire to amuse. He did not shock the French, nor did his interest in women, which was considered perfectly normal.’’
Franklin spent virtually all of his time with the those of the intelligentsia and the upper-classes. It may seem odd; Franklin appearing to be apathetic towards the plight of the French peasants, considering his advocacy for the common good. When one considers the situation at larger, however, it no longer appears so peculiar. His primary goal was to obtain French aid for the United States, therefore it would not have been in Franklin’s interest to champion the cause of the poor against the French court, from whom he was seeking assistance (Ultimately, the political ideals that Franklin and the American Revolution represented, along with the French financial support for the same war–which bankrupted France–helped pave the way for the French Revolution in 1789).
The versatile Franklin learned the language of the nation hosting him and displayed a natural affinity for politics and persuasion.
Scholar Leo Lemay called Franklin ‘the most essential and successful American diplomat of all time.’ It is unequivocal that the United States would not have won the Revolutionary War without the financial and military aid France provided; the obtaining of which was almost solely due to Franklin.
For 9 years Benjamin would be a resident in the town of Passy–a region in Paris. When he returned home in 1785, the new ambassador to France, Thomas Jefferson wrote that “when he left Passy, it seemed as if the village had lost its patriarch.’ Following Franklin’s death in 1790, France mourned him with ostentation, and ceremony befitting a hero. He remains the only foreigner to be immortalized in the French coin.
The Scribe’s Thoughts:
Adaptability is the most important skill to possess in the modern market. Despite his fervent beliefs, Benjamin would foster a relationship with the upper class of the French (basically the same people he fought against in the Revolutionary War). He knew what his long-term goals were, and made an applicable decision based on them. His personal beliefs had to take a backseat to the long-term goal of the nation he represented. There are two lessons to be learned from this.
The First is goal setting.
Long-term goals allow tangibility to gain a modicum of a foothold in the abstract world of defining success. When one knows one’s definitive goals, one is able to make much clearer decisions.
The Second is knowing when to choose one’s battles.
Arguably no one hated the suffering of the lower-class more than Franklin did, but he knew that nothing was to be gained by trying to emancipate another nation’s disenfranchised. He stuck to his goals, and exercised civility and restraint, despite his fervour. We can learn to utilize patience to our own advantage in most situations.
As Franklin said:
“He that can have patience can have what he will”
End Part 2
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