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Doctor Franklin and the French

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II.  Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

June 1.—The love and attachment of the French nation for America, is earned at this time to such a degree of enthusiasm as is difficult to be conceived. There are few personages that have borne an interesting part in this contest, but have employed the hands of the most famous artists, and the pens of the brightest geniuses of that nation. But among so many illustrious characters, the celebrated Dr. Franklin is distinguished in a particular manner; and of the several homages that arc incessantly offered to his merit, none must ever have been more flattering to him than the provinces of France contending with each other for having given birth to some of his ancestors, and endeavoring to prove by similarity of names that this great man derives his descent from among them—an honor of which, since the days of Homer, (who excited a like dispute among seven of the most flourishing cities of Greece,) nobody has ever been thought worthy.

The following extract from the Gazette of Amiens, the capital of Picardy, in France, is the most convincing proof of what has been just now advanced:

“Mr. Fragonard, the King’s painter at Paris, has lately displayed the utmost efforts of his genius in an elegant picture dedicated to the genius of Franklin. Mr. Franklin is represented in it, opposing with one hand the aegis of Minerva to the thunderbolt, which he first knew how to fix by his conductors, and with the other commanding the god of war to fight against avarice and tyranny; whilst America, nobly reclining upon him, and holding in her hand the fasces, a true emblem of the union of the American States, looks down with tranquillity on her defeated enemies. The painter, in this picture, most beautifully expressed the idea of the Latin verse, which has been so justly applied to Mr. Franklin:

‘Eripuit Coelo fulmen, sceptrumque Tyrannis.’

‘He snatched the thunderbolt from Heaven,
And the scepter from the hands of Tyrants.’

“The name of Franklin is sufficiently celebrated that one may glory in bearing it; and a nation prides herself in having given birth to the ancestors of a man who has rendered that name so famous. We think ourselves entitled to dispute with the English nation an honor of which they have rendered themselves so unworthy. Franklin appears rather to be of a French than of an English origin. It is certain that the name of Franklin, or Franquelin, is very common in Picardy, especially in the districts of Vimeu and Ponthieu. It is very probable that one of the doctor’s ancestors has been an inhabitant of this country, and has gone over to England with the fleet of Jean de Bienconrt, or that which was fitted out by the nobility of this province. In genealogical matters there are bolder conjectures than this. There was at Abbeville, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, a family of the name of Franklin. We see in the public records of the town, one John and Thomas Franquelin, woollen drapers in 1521. This family remained at Abbeville till the year 1600; they have since been dispersed through the country, and there are still some of their descendants so far as Auz le Chateau. These observations are a new homage which we offer to the genius of Franklin.”1


1 Pennsylvania Packet, June 3.