Benjamin Franklin Goes to France


Join me in welcoming a new guest to the blog today! Steve Gnatz has written about Benjamin Franklin in Paris, and I can’t wait to pick this one up. Why did Franklin go to France in 1776? Gnatz shares some insight below.

Welcome, Steve!

~ Samantha


Benjamin Franklin Goes to France

Guest Post by Steve Gnatz

On October 26th, 1776, Benjamin Franklin, along with his grandsons Temple (age 16) and Benny (age 7), boarded the American naval vessel USS Reprisal to be transported to France. This is where the story begins in my historical fiction novel The Wisdom of the Flock: Franklin and Mesmer in Paris

Once in France, Ben would assume the position of the unofficial American ambassador to the French court of Louis XVI. 

Obtaining the support of the French against the British would be key to the success of the American Revolution. France and England were enemies at the time – and as it is said “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. France had lost face in the Seven Years War and was looking to recover some stature on the world stage, if nothing else. 

Still Franklin found that the French king could not be openly supportive to the American war effort. The support had to come via a very circuitous route involving a Spanish shell company and also needed to evade the watchful eye of British spies. One of Franklin’s own confidants, Edward Bancroft, was later revealed to be a “double agent” working for both the British and American causes. It is possible that Franklin knew of this duplicity as no information ever passed by Bancroft significantly changed the outcome of the war.

Despite all of the challenges he faced in France, Franklin’s efforts led to increasingly open support by the French – particularly after the first few hard fought American battles resulting in some victories against the British. 

By 1784, it was clear that America had won the conflict with French assistance, and the British capitulated. Ben was present at the signing of the Treating on Paris. An interesting historical note is that the British envoy to the signing failed to sit for his portrait – and it remains unfinished until this day.

Treaty of Paris

Of course, The Wisdom of the Flock: Franklin and Mesmer in Paris isn’t only about the American revolution – even though these historical events play a major part in the background. 

 The book is really about the conflict between science and mysticism in late 18th century France. While in Paris, Franklin was invited to head a commission charged with investigating the quasimedical practice promulgated by Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer. 

Mesmer mesmerizing

Mesmer claimed that he could channel a mysterious fluid (force) that was capable of healing people. Today, we could probably consider his “discovery” to be hypnotism. But in the day, it was considered heretical to the medical community. They wanted him exposed as a fraud. 

Franklin, the pragmatic scientist, very carefully documented blinded experiments showing that no force existed. His commission is credited with the first well-documented scientific “blinded” experiments. They even used a real blindfold! 

The commission’s work complete and the American revolutionary war won, Franklin returned from France to America in July 1785. 

Franklin Returns to Philadelphia

He received a hero’s welcome when he disembarked in Philadelphia harbor.

The Wisdom of the Flock: Franklin and Mesmer in Paris


1776: Benjamin Franklin sails to Paris, carrying a copy of the Declaration of Independence, freshly signed. His charge: gain the support of France for the unfolding American Revolution. Yet Paris is a city of distractions. Ben’s lover, Marianne Davies, will soon arrive, and he yearns to rekindle his affair with the beautiful musician. 

Dr. Franz Mesmer has plans for Marianne too. He has taken Parisian nobility by storm with his discovery of magnétisme animale, a mysterious force claimed to heal the sick. Marianne’s ability to channel Mesmer’s phenomena is key to his success. 

A skeptical King Louis XVI appoints Ben to head a commission investigating the astonishing magnétisme animale. By nature, Ben requires proof. Can he scientifically prove that it does not exist? Mesmer will stop at nothing to protect his profitable claim. 

The Wisdom of The Flock explores the conflict between science and mysticism in a time rife with revolution, love, spies, and passion.

Get your copy of The Wisdom of the Flock today! 

Amazon UK – Amazon US – Amazon CA – Amazon AU –  Barnes and Noble – Waterstones

Also Available on Kindle Unlimited

Connect with Steve

Steve Gnatz is a writer, physician, bicyclist, photographer, traveler, and aspiring ukulele player. The son of a history professor and a nurse, it seems that both medicine and history are in his blood. Writing historical fiction came naturally. An undergraduate degree in biology was complemented by a minor in classics. After completing medical school, he embarked on an academic medical career specializing in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. There was little time for writing during those years, other than research papers and a technical primer on electromyography. Now retired from the practice of medicine, he devotes himself to the craft of fiction. The history of science is of particular interest, but also the dynamics of human relationships. People want to be good scientists, but sometimes human nature gets in the way. That makes for interesting stories. When not writing or traveling, he enjoys restoring Italian racing bicycles at home in Chicago with his wife and daughters. Connect with Steve through his Website – Blog – FacebookBookBubAmazon Author PageGoodreads