Ben Franklin had a humble start in life, and he always wanted to make it big.  In the eighteenth century, this meant becoming a gentleman.  And Franklin pursued that goal with a vengeance.

In middle age, he seemed to have achieved it:  he was rich, respected, and famous, and he not only followed the gentlemanly avocation of scientific pursuit, he did rather well at it, gaining additional acclaim.  He was probably the most famous American in the world, and it was no surprise that the Pennsylvania colony sent Franklin to London to prosecute Pennsylvania's various interests.

Franklin had a high time in London, and he made powerful friends.  He really thought he'd made it and was "one of the guys" -- until a scandal I won't go into here, the Hutchinson affair, when Franklin was reminded, forcefully, PUBLICLY, that he was, when push came to shove, just a colonial.  Just expendable.  Just not all that special.  And just not really regarded as a real gentleman after all.

Franklin didn't like that much.  And although in his life he was never held by the bulk of the American people as a genuine patriot and rebel, there was no reconciling him to England, Parliament, or particularly the crown after his public humiliation.

When Franklin was sent to Paris in order to try to gather support from the French for the revolution, he didn't try to play the gentleman card.  He went the other route, putting on a bearskin cap (because this Boston-born, Philadelphia-bred guy was SUCH a frontiersman...!) and hamming it up as a "noble savage."  The French couldn't get enough of it.  Fun!  Saucy!  Amusant!

Franklin-the-gentleman got THE HAND from London.  Franklin-in-fur-cap got exactly what he wanted from the French.  He played by the rules when the rules worked for him.  When they didn't -- it was the results that mattered, not the process!

He was a wily old thing, and if there's anyone I wouldn't want to cross, Franklin and Washington would top my list.





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