‘Franklin’ Episode 1 Recap: Why Did Vergennes Not Trust Franklin?


Directed by Timothy Van Patten, Franklin is the story of the American polymath who was sent on a secret mission to France to gather support for his nation, which was in a state of war with the English forces. Based on Stacy Schiff’s book, the series makes us privy to the tactics that the statesman had to resort to and the kind of gambles he made to help the cause of his country. So, let’s find out what happened with Franklin in France and how he was able to accomplish the mission he was sent on.

Spoiler Alert

What happened between Franklin and Dr. Bancroft? 

The Continental Army was being obliterated by the English forces, and the Confederation Congress had no clue what else they could do other than ask for help from the French. But asking for help was not such an easy task because France didn’t see any kind of profit for them in the deal. Benjamin Franklin’s kite experiment had made him famous, and his reputation followed him wherever he went. However, apart from having a great scientific mind, Franklin was also an excellent diplomat, and he became one of the founding fathers of the United States of America. It worried him that if the French did not spare their resources, then the English forces would completely take over his country. The biggest problem that the man had to encounter was that he was fighting for America, but the majority of people with whom he was dealing didn’t even consider it a proper country.

Franklin was fighting for his country’s identity, and he had a lot of belief in the people of his nation and what they were capable of doing. Defeat was certain, but Franklin was adamant about changing the odds, and he was ready to go to any extent for the same. Franklin’s grandson, William Temple, had accompanied him to Brittany Coast in 1776, as probably Franklin wanted his grandson to understand world politics and how to make things happen in such hostile circumstances. The common people were fond of Franklin, and it could be said that he enjoyed a celebrity-like status as they all heard about his scientific discoveries. Franklin met his old colleague who served with him in parliament, Dr. Edward Bancroft. During the dinner, we realized how deeply affected Temple was by all that was happening in his country. He got even more stressed when Bancroft told him that New York had fallen and the English had registered yet another victory, and that too convincingly. The problem was that Franklin was the official emissary of his country, so he had to find a reliable source who could help him in his cause. That’s when Bancroft suggested the name of Pierre Beaumarchais, the famous playwright who was often referred to as a multi-talented man. 

How did Pierre Beaumarchais help Franklin? 

In the first episode, we saw that Pierre felt honored when the American polymath came to meet him. They both struck a chord, and Pierre agreed to take Franklin’s message to the foreign minister, Vergennes. In an earlier scene, we witnessed how Vergennes was of the opinion that France should side with America in the battle since they knew that the British could never be their ally. But there was a lot of resistance from other French ministers, and they just didn’t want to meddle in the affairs of the two conflicting nations. They felt that it was best that they let the nations fight their battles and destroy each other. But Vergennes was an intelligent man, and he knew that the outcome of staying neutral wouldn’t be very good. But Vergennes had no option, and he went back, as he knew that at that moment, nothing could be done by his peers.

Pierre gave Franklin’s letter to Vergennes, in which the American diplomat stated what resources they would need for the battle. Vergennes realized that America’s condition was worse than what he had imagined. He got the feeling that the nation would be destroyed even before it was founded. Vergennes’ hands were tied, and Pierre realized that he would have to think of some other ways to broker the deal. That’s when Monsieur Chaumont invited Franklin and Pierre Beaumarchais to his castle for a party. Franklin knew that he would have to maintain relationships with such people, as they had the resources to help the United States of America. Chaumont offered Franklin and Temple to come and stay at his castle, and though the American diplomat didn’t exactly want to do that, his hands were tied, and he also didn’t want to give Chaumont a reason to get angry at him.

Why did Vergennes not trust Franklin? 

It hurt Franklin when people made sarcastic comments about his country. In episode 1, when someone asked where America was situated, somebody replied that it was located somewhere between India and Purgatory. Franklin knew that he not only had to save his nation from the British onslaught, but he also needed to create a reputation for his own people. Franklin, at the end of episode 1, asked Temple to deliver a cartography that was superior to anything that existed in France. Vergennes and Franklin finally met, and that’s when the former raised questions about the latter’s allegiances. Franklin’s son was in prison for committing an act of treason, and Vergennes very bluntly asked Franklin how anyone could put her faith in him. Franklin replied that he might have been a British subject in the past, but his experiences had made him learn a lot of things.

Meanwhile, Temple made friends with a man named Lafayette, and he made it very clear that he wanted to fight alongside American soldiers and teach the English forces a lesson. I believe that in the near future, Franklin would convince Vergennes, and the latter would make sure that America got what it wanted. Actually, Vergennes wanted to help Franklin, but since it was such a huge political move, he wanted to be sure before placing his bets. Franklin spoke his heart out and told Vergennes how the republic and the monarchy would both benefit if his nation got the desired support. In the subsequent episode, we will learn the tactics Franklin resorts to make this secret mission a success and lay the foundation for the United States of America. 

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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