20-WORKING FOR INDEPENDENCE

Franklin left Philadelphia on the 26th of October, accompanied by his son, William Temple Franklin, and his grandson Benjamin Franklin Bache, son of Sarah. Sarah was the daughter he had with Deborah Read, his common-law wife.

They sailed on board the Continental sloop-of-war Reprisal which carried sixteen guns. He had to be protected, for if Franklin had been captured by the English on the high seas he would have been hanged for treason. The 70-year-old American, widely referred to by the English as ‘chief of the rebels’ or as ‘General Franklin’, was deemed dangerous. The British Ambassador to France expressed his regrets that some English frigate had not met and dispensed with him on the high seas. However, he landed at Auray on the Loire River and made his way to Nantes with great difficulty. From there, the 250-mile trip into Paris was like a triumphal procession. He was wined and dined by scientific and literary notables on the way, and his entry into Paris caused a sensation.

Franklin’s fame was due not only to his scientific reputation, but also to the French rage for what philosopher Rousseau called ‘the natural man’. There was a vogue for things American in France at this time. Many French intellectuals looked to America as a new world, a fresh world, a world where human nature was closer to its natural origins. And Franklin, of course, was more than pleased to cater to French expectations. When he arrived in Paris, he was wearing a little fur cap to keep his bald head warm. To the French, the hat was the embodiment of the rugged American frontiersman and proof that Franklin was a true ‘natural man’. Even though no one knew what exactly he was doing in France, the French welcomed him with open arms, and he became a pop culture icon. Images of Franklin, wearing a fur cap instead of a wig, were depicted in paintings, engravings, medallions, rings, and snuffboxes.

After the Battle of Saratoga and the humiliating defeat of the British army commanded by General Burgoyne, Franklin, in spite of his struggling with the French language, used his charm, wit, and knowledge, to parlay this English defeat at the hands of American militias into a gigantic diplomatic victory. The French foreign minister, Count of Vergennes, wasted no time in officially acknowledging that the United States was an independent country. A formal treaty with France followed in 1778.

When he first arrived in Paris, Benjamin settled in Passy, a very affluent part of the city. It was necessary to seek out the French elite in order to achieve his goal. He had no direct access to the King, but he could influence those around him in order to get financial and military aid for America. He decided to do this in two ways. He would seek out the most select salon he could find, and since he was a freemason, he would frequent a local lodge, where the great men of the day, the enlightened ones, were members.

Upon his arrival he was introduced to the salon of Mme Helvetius in Auteuil. At the relatively late age of 29, Mme Helvetius had married the French philosopher and poet, Claude Adrien Helvétius, who had amassed a fortune as a Farmers General tax collector. The couple settled in the Paris suburb of Auteuil, and Minette, as she was called, opened a salon where she entertained some of the greatest figures of the Age of Enlightenment. Among them were Suzanne Necker, Diderot, Duclos, André Chénier, Condorcet, l’Abbé Sieyès, Buffon, Condillac, d’Alembert, Lavoisier, and such politicians as Malesherbes, Talleyrand, Madame Roland, Mirabeau, just to name a few.

Twenty years into her marriage, her husband died, and in 1776, she and Jérôme de Lalande opened the ‘Loge des Neuf Sœurs’, a masonic lodge that was affiliated to the Grand Orient of France. Freemasonry was incontestably one of the factors of the great changes that were taking place in the west. It was where new ideas were expressed, and from where men influenced the course of events. Of course, Benjamin frequented that French lodge from the very start. Two years later, in 1778, he was initiated as a member, and, in 1779, he was made Worshipful Master. A few weeks before his death, Voltaire was initiated as a member, and Benjamin was greatly impressed with the man. They became good friends, and when asked by Benjamin, he even gave his blessings to his grandson. Needless to say, the lodge was an excellent way for Benjamin to meet great men who had influence in the highest levels of society.

But Benjamin was also a ladies’ man. His wife had died in 1774, and in spite of his age, while in France, he was treated like a rock star, and he couldn’t help being a flirt. One lady whom he considered his equal was Mme Helvetius, and he may have even proposed to her. One thing for sure, he wanted to share her bed. He called her Notre Dame, and in one of his notes to her, he writes: ‘if Notre Dame is pleased to spend her days with Franklin, he would be just as pleased to spend his nights with her; and since he has already given her so many of his days, although he has so few left to give, she seems ungrateful in never giving him one of her nights’.

Franklin frequented the upper classes and the aristocrats, for they were the ones he had to convince in order for them to convince the king. The salon of Mme Helvetius and the Lodge of the Nine Sisters served his purpose well, but that was not his only activity. He was in constant communication with Robert Morris in Philadelphia, because, as arranged by Mayer, he depended on his financial help. There was a four-way communication between Mayer, David Schiff, Robert Morris and Benjamin because arms, clothing and war material shipments to America had to be organized as well. Because Benjamin had so many important contacts in Paris, and because he was such a hit with the French, he had been able to convince Minister Vergennes to replace the outdated arms in France’s numerous arsenals and send them to America. The arms then found their way to Rotterdam from where David shipped them to America through St. Eustatius. So, from 1776 to 1778 ever more arms and powder made their way to America.

Back in NYC, in 1776, after being arrested by the English for helping the Sons of Freedom, Haym had started interpreting for the Hessians. That’s when he befriended Colonel Johann Rall, a Hessian, and by pulling all the right strings, he managed to have him command the Hessian troops sent to hold the Trenton position opposite Philadelphia. Haym had explained to Rall that Philadelphia was a community made up of Germans who had come from the Frankfurt region just like them, and if they were to defect, not only would they feel at home but they would be given large parcels of land and enough money to start a new life. The Trenton Hessian soldier pickup was a total success, more than 900 Hessians crossed the Delaware with Washington’s help. More importantly, it was construed as a major American victory over the English, and it gave quite a boost to American morale.

Later, on July 12th, 1778, when the French Ambassador sailed up the Delaware, Mayer had been forewarned and had sent word to Haym who was in NYC. Haym escaped without too much difficulty, and though the English sentenced him to death in absentia, he arrived safely in Philadelphia ahead of the French Ambassador.

After settling in the counting house run by Bernard Gratz, Washington backed Haym’s candidacy as broker of the French aid package. But the French Ambassador was already looking for Haym, thanks to the recommendations of Benjamin in Paris. That’s how, with Benjamin’s help and the support of influential members of the Continental Congress, Haym was chosen by the anti-Semite French to be their treasurer. Haym was not only named broker to the French Consul, but also Treasurer of the French Army, and Fiscal Agent of the French Minister to the United States. Most important of all, some 500 tons of gold were added to the bullion already in his Philadelphia vault.

However, working within Congress was another matter. Both Haym and Robert worked for Mayer, but Robert Morris was the one chosen to become a member of Congress because he was a goy. Not only that, but he was, as far as the colonials were concerned, a rich merchant who had supplied them arms and ammunitions since 1774. David had sent on the arm shipments to America as directed by Mayer, but it was Morris’ arms importing company that had fronted the operations. Congress and the militias had gotten arms and powder, and they had been too grateful to ask questions. Mayer had total confidence in Robert Morris, and since Americans, like Europeans, were not yet ready to accept Jews in the inner sanctum of political leadership, Robert worked inside Congress, and Haym outside. Mayer was quite satisfied with this arrangement.

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18-1st CONTINENTAL CONGRESS

When he arrived in St. Eustatius, Haym introduced himself to Heyliger with a letter of introduction from Mayer. Heyliger said he was most happy to do more to help the American cause. In order to devote all his time to his new occupation and avoid any conflicts of interest, Abraham suggested it would be best if he handed over the post of Commander to his son-in-law at the first opportunity. Haym left a considerable amount of silver specie with him to make absolutely sure any bills of exchange that came his way in St. Eustatius would be honored, although that was quite unlikely. Mayer’s bills were so widely accepted that merchants simply signed them over to second and third parties who would eventually redeem them in the 13 Colonies or in Europe.

When he arrived in Boston harbor, Haym sent a runner to the home of Moses Hayes, a prominent member of the Sephardi community who ran Mayer’s local counting house. Moses had presold most of the cargo and the balance of wine and denim was promised to waiting buyers in New York and Philadelphia.

Haym acquainted Hayes with his plan to help the patriots achieve independence, and asked him for the name of a goy politician won over to the cause, preferably one who was very ambitious. Once he was told what kind of man Mayer was looking for, Hayes mentioned one John Adams, a very motivated lawyer who was willing to espouse any cause for a price. Since he and Adams were practically neighbors, Hayes added he could arrange a meeting at Haym’s convenience.

The next day, Haym was sitting in front of John Adams telling him of his plans to finance a meeting of the patriots in Philadelphia in September. He asked him if he would be interested in attending, and if he would be willing to recruit five members from each of the New England colonies which included Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Haym told him the 13 Colonies were making him very rich, and the least he could do was finance a meeting to help the colonials gain their independence. When Adams realized how much money was involved, and seeing what was in it for him, he offered to leave everything he was doing and give the matter his full attention, saying the welfare of the colonies was what mattered most. Haym added that Hayes was to take care of expenses and compensation for the men chosen by Adams, and to show how serious he was, he handed him £300 in silver, a small fortune in badly needed specie. Adams was thrilled to be chosen, and the two men shook hands.

Haym sailed on to New York City with the remaining merchandise and the many chests of pennies to be stored in his vault. Once the presold merchandise was unloaded and the specie deposited in a safe place, the empty ship sailed back to Boston to pick up a rum shipment for David in Rotterdam. Haym then went to meet with John Jay who was flattered to be chosen to recruit the New York delegates. Haym told him he would get all the required funding and gave him an advance of £300 in silver like he had done with John Adams.

The next morning, Haym crossed the Hudson River and took a stage coach to Philadelphia. Mayer’s counting house run by Bernard Gratz was doing almost as well as the one in NYC. Before leaving for Williamsburg, Robert Morris assured Haym that he would be very happy to recruit the representatives for the Mid-Atlantic colonies. It was his way of saying that he was grateful for everything that Mayer was doing for him and the Colonies. Haym then asked Bernard to build or buy the best meeting hall possible along with all the necessary housing for the representatives of the 13 Colonies, estimated to be around sixty members in all, and again Morris volunteered to help. Bernard’s superb mansion could accommodate many delegates, but since he was a Jew, it was best to have Morris, a goy, organize the housing arrangements.

He spent the night in Wilmington, and the next day he arrived early at Elk River from where he sailed to Williamsburg on the other side of Chesapeake Bay. The winds were favorable and he reached Williamsburg by nightfall. He had written ahead to Michael Gratz who was waiting for him. Michael showed Haym to his room where he freshened up before sitting down to a very welcome meal.

Haym made plans to meet with Patrick Henry and George Washington separately. Michael told him he had met Patrick Henry on several occasions and had had a good rapport with him. He didn’t think Henry would mind coming to his home, the home of a Jew. Since they would need someone like Henry to recruit delegates in the southern colonies, he thought it best to first invite him and see if he was truly won over to the cause. The next step would be to meet with George Washington. If all went well, he could then have a meeting that would include Haym, Michael, Patrick and George. A meal washed down with fine Burgundy wine brought along for the occasion, and the promise of unlimited funding, would certainly be helpful in forging a solid bond.

Patrick accepted Haym’s invitation and arrived at Michael’s mansion the following evening. It was quite obvious this sharp-witted individual was distraught with the way the English Parliament was behaving. As a matter of fact, since the Boston Massacre, all he could think about was finding a way to have the colonies meet and devise a plan to achieve independence. It was precisely what Haym wanted to hear, agreeing with Patrick that it was the best thing for trade, and necessarily, for the people. Haym was quick to add he was a rich merchant profiting from trade with the colonies and it was to his great advantage to have representatives from the colonies meet and form some kind of government. What the English Parliament allowed or didn’t allow to go in or out of the colonies and the abusive exchange rate they forced upon the merchants was insane. Free and just trade had to be the colonies’ main goal, and credit had to flow if America was to thrive.

Haym continued by saying he was willing to finance such a meeting and that he had already recruited John Adams in Boston, John Jay in New York, and that Robert Morris had volunteered to do the same out of Philadelphia. If Patrick agreed to recruit representatives from Georgia, South and North Carolina and Virginia for a September meeting in Philadelphia, Haym was willing to give him unlimited funding through Michael Gratz. He told him Michael ran his counting house in Williamsburg and was authorized to finance the meeting. He went on to say, if Patrick accepted, he would get all the necessary funding to give him the necessary status and power in order to get the job done. If Patrick needed to expand his mansion in order to accommodate the American leaders when he met with them, Mayer was more than willing to finance such an undertaking. Giving the impression of authority and power was important. Haym added he was quite impressed with Patrick’s initiative to have George Mason draft a complaint intended for the English Government, and that it would be a great idea to present such a document in Philadelphia when the representatives met. Patrick answered he also had a young prodigy working for him by the name of Thomas Jefferson, and together, George and Thomas were bound to come up with an impressive document. Patrick shook Haym’s hand and promised to get the job done. Since Haym was fulfilling his every wish, and since there were no conditions attached, Patrick was indeed motivated.

When George Washington came to meet Haym in Williamsburg a few days later, Haym acquainted him with the offer he had already made Patrick Henry, but added he had something else in mind for him. Saying he was quite impressed with George’s natural leadership qualities, he added he was not only willing to finance his military career as head of the revolutionary army if it came down to that, but also his political career which, if all went well, would likely include his election as head of the new government. In anticipation of the meeting, and in order to make sure he was chosen as Commander-in-Chief, he was to offer to personally finance the confederate army and forego his own salary. He would submit his expense account to Congress after the war was won. Haym would give him unlimited funding and make sure George received everything he needed. Haym was doing it for free trade. What was good for the colonials was good for him.

Since many prestigious residences would be needed to house out-of-state leaders and hold meetings, Haym was allowing as much credit as needed to have them built. If George wanted to expand and renovate his mansion, all he had to do was ask Michael. As a matter of fact, George could immediately hire an architect, and if he wanted, he could even start ordering materials from England through Michael. With the help of his people in Rotterdam and London, building materials and furnishings could easily be ordered and shipped to him in Virginia.

This offer was beyond George’s wildest dreams, but keeping his excitement in check, he simply told Haym he accepted his offer, promising if he ever became leader of the new government, everybody would know where the funding came from. He couldn’t help asking, however, if Haym had a strategy regarding what had to be done next. Haym simply repeated he wanted the Philadelphia meeting to be a success, and was depending on him, Patrick Henry, and Robert Morris to make it happen. Michael and his brother Bernard would supply all the credit needed. Haym would study the maps of the colonies along with English troop and ship movement, and after consulting with General Von Estorff in Germany, he would make the general’s views known to George as soon as possible. Lastly, as the men shook hands, Haym told George that the most important thing he could do for now was make sure the wording of the resolves presently being drafted by George Mason and Thomas Jefferson reflected the mood of the representatives when they met in Philadelphia.

 

Post-scriptum

Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia was finished on time and the 1st Continental Congress met there from Sept. 5, 1774 to Oct. 26 1774. There were 56 delegates from 12 of the 13 colonies, Georgia being the exception. John Jay, John and Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, George Washington were some of the more prominent participants. The Fairfax Resolves whose content is briefly referred to below were used as a template during the meeting.

 

Synopsis of Fairfax Resolves

  1. Resolved that our ancestors, when they left their native land and settled in America, brought with them the form of government of the country they came from and were entitled to all its privileges, immunities and advantages which ought to be as fully enjoyed as if we had still continued within the Realm of England.
  2. Resolved that the most important and valuable part of the British Constitution, upon which its very existence depends, is the fundamental right of the people not to be governed by laws to which they have not given their consent.
  3. Resolved that the inhabitants of the American Colonies are not represented in the British Parliament, and that the legislative power can only be exercised by its own Provincial Assemblies or Parliaments, and that the Colonies should be allowed to trade with countries other than England
  4. Resolved that it is the duty of the Colonies to proportionally contribute to the defense of the British Empire as long as they are treated on an equal footing
  5. Resolved that to extort money from the Colonies without the consent of the people is not only diametrically contrary to the first principles of the Constitution, but is totally incompatible with the privileges of a free people.
  6. Resolved that Taxation and Representation are in their nature inseparable.
  7. Resolved that the powers over the people of America now claimed by the British House of Commons are contrary to the interests of the colonies and are most grievous and intolerable forms of tyranny and oppression.