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John Paul Jones
Chapter VII - 1777

DESPITE the storm and stress of his voyage Paul learned, with some chagrin, from Dr. Franklin on his arrival at Paris, December 5th, that the news of Burgoyne's surrender had been brought by John Loring Austen of Boston, who sailed in a French merchantman from that port early on the morning of October 30. Though a personal disappointment, it made little difference to Jones, as Austen's despatches were unofficial. The plucky Scotchman had the renown of that "terrific voyage," and brought details of Burgoyne's surrender, which Austen had no time to learn.

There was the usual tempest in the tea-pot of those excellent gentlemen, the Commissioners of the United States of America: Arthur Lee, one of the Commissioners, accusing Dr. Bancroft of using his prior knowledge of the contents of the despatches for stock- jobbing transactions in London and Paris, before the news became public. He insinuated this was not unknown to Dr. Franklin himself. This Jones proved, by later investigation, to be untrue, and a plan of Lee's to shatter the friendship existing between the two men. It was Jones's opinion that "there were some deductions as to both the strategical and the domestic political effects of the surrender which our subsequent conversation proved to be more clearly drawn in my mind than in Mr. Austen's. But this was doubtless due to the difference in our experience and training. Among other things it was evident that Mr. Austen did not at the moment quite share my views as to the decisive effect the event must have upon the morale of our people themselves, and the far-reaching elation of spirit it must impart to our armed force by land and sea."

The charm of Paris more than consoled the adventurous captain for his annoyance. The feeling of being, at last, so near his longed-for goal made hope sing high in his breast, as he gazed out of the window of the house where the American envoys lived, in the Rue Verte, near the Place Beauveau. This hotel they occupied, free of all expense, thanks to the lavish courtesy of Al. Ic Ray de Chaumont, Grand Maitre des Faux at Forts, and intendant des Invalides,

who, despite the offices he held under the Crown, belonged to the advanced political party. Although his later behaviour to Paul Jones was the reverse of pleasant, at this period he was extraordinarily generous to the Commissioners. For the two years they were engaged in secret negotiations with the Court at Versailles, not only did he provide them with lodging and furniture, free of all cost, but sent large consignments of supplies and sums of money to the United States. When Mr. Adams finally asked him to name a sum for the rent of his house, as it was not "reasonable that the United States should be under so great an obligation to a private gentleman," he replied, that "when he had consecrated his house to Dr. Franklin and his associates, he had made it to be fully understood that he should expect no compensation, because he perceived that they had need of all their means to send to the succour of their country . . . There was no occasion," he said, "for strangers to be informed of his proceeding. He considered the house had been immortalised by receiving into it Dr. Franklin and his associates."

Strange to say, through the vicissitudes of the Revolution, with its seizure of all property by the sans-culottes and the many political régimes France has passed through, the house stands to-day bearing in large golden letters the legend " Franklin's Hotel," a tribute to the heavy-jawed old Quaker who once lived there. Looking at it from a certain point of view it is a commentary on the uncertainties of this world, and a monument to Franklin, who enjoyed an unheard of popularity with the volatile French.

A busy street the Rue Penthièvre of to-day, a busy street it was then, under the name of Rue Verte; thronged from morn till night with vendors crying aloud their wares to tempt the passers to buy. For those who required the luxury of a bath there were two men, drawing the ubiquitous charette, laden with tub and the proper quantity of hot water, who conducted the same up endless flights of worn, polished stairs, thankfully receiving the small gratuity, which their descendants would now treat with haughty con- tempt. Old women lauded their cabbages and more refined delicacies; the trim waiting-maids, who never, no matter how muddy the streets—and this was before the days of side-walks--seemed to get a spot on their immaculate stockings, tripped mincingly across the worn stones. The cry of the marchand d'hyabits was shrill and piercing enough, but when the lusty damsel, who carried a broken cane-seated chair slung across her shoulders in token of her calling, uplifted her voice in a volume of piercing sound, Paul hastily clapped his hands over his ears, lest his head should be split by the noise. A fair, rosy wench she was, and for full five minutes after she had faded into the crowd her weird cry could be heard over the tumult of that busy quarter.

There was much to amuse the observant stranger —the way you could hire umbrellas from an old woman, who had the official concession, and, for a few sous, protect your headgear from the elements; the happy-go-lucky way in which daily intercourse jogged along, the endless conversations required for the slightest purchase; the gaily painted ladies who plied their vocation without undue mystery, when not in fear of the lynx eye of authority. Throngs of midinettes, who swarmed from nowhere, when the magic hour released them, to liven the street with their magpie chatter, their shrill laughter at the badinage of the crowd, their utter absence of self-consciousness, which was refreshing. It was from these, he mused, the du Barri had come, to drag the name of France's king as low as name of king had ever sunk in the history of the world. . . The day was crisp, clear, exhilarating, and yet mild, as sometimes happens in Paris in December, and the chestnut-sellers did a roaring trade as they stood on the corners, crying their wares. Strangely unfamiliar was the scene to the man who, for the last few years, had lived the life of a planter, with only occasional visits to towns of the new world, with their glaring crudity and absence of romance.

There is, and always will be, a certain glamour brought up by the word Paris; not in the new quarters, where one hears more English than French, but in the delightful and, alas! fast disappearing old streets, with their uncomfortable pavé and strange smells; where big arched gateways afford glimpses of court within court, and the thousands of chimneys send forth slender streams of pungent wood smoke to scent the clear, thin air.

From the instant of his arrival Paul Jones found the hours too short for all he hoped to do. France was at the dividing ways, pausing, before declaring herself for or against the new republic. The political game had to be played with a masterly hand. The three French parties distrusted themselves and each other, and there were "rifts within the lute." The extreme party, hailing everything republican with wild acclaim, headed by the Due de Chartres, Lafayette, the Prince de Poix, and other headstrong young nobles, arranged the affairs of the nation over their convivial suppers at I'Epée du Ibis, and bent on ruining themselves boldly and openly from the first, upheld the revolt of the colonists against their King. The Due de Chartres, Louis XVI's cousin, was the soul of this party, which it is said he upheld from motives of policy, as he was in the line of 'direct succession to the throne after his father, the Duc d'Orléans.

The second party, more hesitating, with the King as leader, hated England and hoped to see her power broken, helping the Americans with this end in view rather than from any love of themselves. Bitter at the defeat of the French in Canada and the loss of French possessions in India, they longed to sec a dreaded rival forced from her high estate, no matter by what means. In this party were the younger sons of the nobility, the poor and ambitious officers of the army and navy and a large following from the middle classes who had nothing to lose. There were certain statesmen who agreed with the short-sighted King in encouraging the subjects of another king to revolt, little dreaming that the bitter drama would one day be enacted at home. Vauguyon, Luzerne and Malesherbes were of this party, which included Mirabeau and a host of lesser lights.

The third party was that of the Queen, poor Marie Antoinette, who is accused of being a scatterbrain and help up as the example of frivolity, when in truth, she was the only one who possessed enough intuition to see to what all, this was leading. The instinct of a long line of kings revolted at the madness of encouraging the masses in the belief that the Divine Right of Kings could be questioned; but she was an unheeded atom in the maelstrom of those who had their own ends to gain. In reality the Queen was simple and democratic, but she was not French, and so her views and her warnings went unheeded. In her party were certain factions of the courtiers, the clergy, and the followiug such classes wielded.

The arrival of the news of Burgoyne's defeat had a decisive effect on French policy. The party headed by de Chartres and Lafayette could not be restrained, and completely obliterated the more moderate ones of the King and Queen in their enthusiasm. On the 7th of December the despatches were communicated to the Court at Versailles, and on January r, 1778, the King approved the preliminary articles of the "Treaty of Alliance" with the exception of the clause stipulating that France should not undertake the re-conquest of Canada. The irresolute monarch soon gave in to his advisers, and on February 6, 1778 the treaty was signed at Versailles. There was no more temporising; France was committed to stand by her new ally and abide the result.


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