When most men think about retirement, Benjamin Franklin went to Paris in 1776. Seventy-years-old was a ripe old age in the 1700s. He wrote this letter to George Washington – who didn’t get to Paris:
“Should peace arrive after another Campaign or two, and afford us a little Leisure, I should be happy to see your Excellency in Europe, and to accompany you, if my Age and Stength would permit, in visiting its ancient and most famous Kingdoms. You would, on this side of the Sea, enjoy the great Reputation you have acquir’d, pure and free from those little shades of Jealousy and Envy of a Man’s Countrymen and Contemporaries are ever endeavouring to cast over living Merit. Here you would know and enjoy what Posterity will say of Washington. For 1000 Leagues have nearly the same effect as 1000 years…..I frequently hear the Old Generals of this martial Country (who study the Maps of America, and mark upon all of them all your Operations) speak with sincere Approbation and great Applause of your conduct, and join in giving you the Character of one of the greatest Captains of the Age.”
Benjamin Franklin in Paris.
If you’d like to read more about Benjamin Franklin’s sojourn in Paris, check out this excellent book:
Triumph in Paris: The Exploits of Benjamin Franklin by David Schoenbrun (Harper & Row, 1976)