Synopsis: “The Constitution only guarantees the American
people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”
― Benjamin Franklin
The agent approached carefully, warily, for no other reason than proper tradecraft.
“Excuse me monsieur, a moment please?” The Frenchman hollered over the din of the port come to life. He had to chuckle a bit as his American assignment stepped off the fast sailing ship, a sloop named Reprisal, in the port town of Auray.
“Monsieur, this way.” He waived, and his target came closer. It was a universal truth of intelligence operations, nothing stayed secret forever. So, how could you keep secret the identity of the most interesting man in the world? But the older man had certainly tried, dressing up as backwoods simpleton complete with a beaver fur hat. An inventor, scientist and writer, certainly. A genius and political theorist, perhaps. An agent provocateur? No, certainly not.
“I am sorry monsieur, but your ruse is up. You can take off that silly hat and disguise.”
The man looked over the top of his spectacles and arched an eyebrow. “Disguise?” he grumbled.
“Of course. You may fool the English into thinking you are a rube and a nobody. But the French know better.”
“I see, and what do you know of the English?”
“The English know you are siding with the rebellion. They probably know you are here.” He presented a copy of the St. James Chronicle of London dated November 14, 1776. Indeed, it indicated that he, Benjamin Franklin, was siding openly with the revolution in the North American Colonies. “But my dear Mr. Franklin, lucky for us, they did not capture you on your treacherous journey across the Atlantic. Soon we will discover what brought you here. For now, welcome to France.”
Franklin’s young entourage, his grandsons, came ambling up as the French agent shook hands with the American envoy.
“Boys, take my hat and store it carefully. It is, after all, my favorite one.” Franklin smiled at his escort. “Not only am I siding with the Patriots my dear sir, I am here to represent them and formally request that I be taken to Paris to discuss terms of friendship. And perhaps to go shopping.”
Over the coming months, in parlors of elegant mansions along the Tuileries Gardens, the upper-class citizens of Paris wore the finest fashions and held elaborate parties. Franklin ambled onto the stage with a furry hat, no powdered wig, and a few simple suits. He never did update his wardrobe. Instead, he discussed science and politics, demonstrated wit and wisdom, and charmed the Parisians as no other American had before or, perhaps, since. The French grew to adore him and threw their own wigs into the ring against Britain the following year, turning the tide toward Independence. In 1790, when Franklin passed away at the age of eighty-four, his death sparked the largest funeral ever seen in Philadelphia with some twenty thousand attendees. Not to be outdone, the French National Assembly proclaimed three national days of mourning.
Writer, scientist, printer, humorist, rake, statesman, inventor, political theorist; Benjamin Franklin was a man whose diverse talents were as immense as the country he helped establish. In 2018, some investors began to revolt against the idea of diversification as only US stocks handily beat their foreign counterparts and even bonds through the first few quarters. Days of mourning ensued for the death of diversification. But Ben’s likeness is on the one-hundred-dollar bill for a reason. Here are the lessons investors should have learned from the famous Mr. Franklin, in his own words:
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