Future historians would invent the story that Franklin was revered at the French Court because on his first appeareance he had fortotten his wig, and appeared bare headed. If it happened this would have been a social faux pas. But it was not the old man's bare head that made set the French court all a tremble with excitment, and inspired his nickname as "the child of nature". Each winter's morning in his rented house the 70 year old man sat for half an hour reading the newspapers before an open window, stark naked. During the summer months he sat in the garden reading the papers, absolument nu. His sophisticated Parisian neighbors were electrified, while their poor children recieved an unvarnished American education. You had to travel no small distance to offend the morals of such a man as Ben Franklin.
The special Congressional hearing listened skeptically to Deane’s spur of the moment defense. He claimed the account books which would have disproven the charges of his profiteering were in France. He would have brought them but he had no idea they would be demanded. Deane was then forced to wait for Congress to issue him further instructions and re-embursment for the money he had spent on muskets which were already killing British soldiers. The instructions - and the money - never came.
Finally, short of funds (which by itself should have disproved the charge of profiteering), Deane did something foolish. He went public. In December 1778 he published his defense - a pamphlet, "An Address to the Free and Independent Citizens of the United States" - in which he identified the problem in Paris as Mr. Arthur Lee. He also reminded the public of all the weapons and supplies he had bought in France for the American army with his own money, and for which the Congress had not yet repaid him.
The public reaction in America was immediate and vicious. “The educated public saw in his (Deanes’) publication a betrayal of an official trust, and the public regarded it as effusion of an angry and detected man”(ibid). The public now joined the members of the Congress in believing Silas Deane of theft and betrayal.
Thank you, Silas; for whatever it is worth.
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