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Blueprint for a Revolution: The Spies at Carpenters' Hall by Charles and Nancy Cook
Wish not so much to live long as to live well.
–Poor Richard's Almanack, by Benjamin Franklin
Detail — Flemish Bond — Each glazed header centered above and below each stretcher.
The Flemish Bond was more expensive because it took longer to build, but it produced a stronger wall. Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and Julien de Bonvouloir all knew a strong bond would take time.
It was a cold night in the second floor library of Carpenters' Hall, but Francis Daymon was perspiring as though it were summer. He was very nervous, and at first everything went quite slowly. He carefully translated each word Dr. Franklin and Mr. Jay said to Bonvouloir, and in turn he translated what the French envoy said to the two Americans.
Soon, however, Francis Daymon was much more comfortable. He realized how easily he could perform what was needed, and the conversation between everyone flowed smoothly and quickly.
Still, this first gathering in the darkened library of Carpenters' Hall was a cautious one. Francis Daymon and Dr. Franklin both realized that Chevalier Julien Alexander Achard de Bonvouloir was not a double agent, for he was even more nervous than everyone else that he might be discovered and arrested. The terms of his commission from the King of France were quite definite. If he was captured by the English, the French government would deny ever knowing him or authorizing his mission.
In fact, everyone spoke so cautiously during this first meeting that as the hours moved by, it became quite obvious that the only real accomplishment of this gathering would be that the parties would achieve some degree of comfort with each other. It was resolved, therefore, to meet again to see if further progress and agreement could be made. For two more nights in December before the old year expired, Benjamin Franklin and John Jay met with Achard de Bonvouloir, and by necessity Francis Daymon was there, not only to open the door for the individuals involved in this international intrigue, but to also make the very communication possible. Daymon kept the talks moving forward by translating the conversations back and forth.
Eventually, Daymon stopped thinking of the danger he and all the others were in, and the task of achieving an alliance with the French government became the overriding concern.
He became very concerned about ever achieving this goal. Achard de Bonvouloir was more than cautious. He would not commit to anything, but merely advised his American counterparts in this dangerous intrigue that he would report the needs of the colonists back to his associates in France.
Dr. Franklin and Mr. Jay tried to press for more commitment, but they were never successful in obtaining more than a resolve on Bonvouloir's part to see what he could do for his new friends.
When Bonvouloir pressed to commit the American colonies to a new allegiance with France rather than a mere alliance, Dr. Franklin and John Jay were equally firm in making no agreements. In fact, Dr. Franklin made it quite clear that America would not trade one king for another.
The Flemish bond was more expensive because it took longer to build, but it produced a stronger wall. Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and Achard de Bonvouloir all knew a strong bond would take time.
He had done this in a most amusing but unmistakable fashion. He had a chessboard set to play a game between himself and Achard de Bonvouloir before the final third meeting.
As Bonvouloir sat, prepared to make his first move, Dr. Franklin reached over and removed both kings from the board. The shocked French envoy looked at Francis Daymon for an explanation, but Francis was equally bewildered.
Dr. Franklin, with a twinkle in his eye, whispered to Francis Daymon to please explain to Julien Alexander Achard de Bonvouloir,
"In America we have no need of kings."
Daymon explained this and many things. John Jay and Benjamin Franklin pointed out that, although Americans would never consent to a new allegiance with France to replace their domination by England, the alliance between the French and Americans would bring about markets and resources that France had so far been unable to gain. It could make France an equal to England in trade and commerce in the New World.
This was a significant objective and worth considering for the French government. Also, for the French King there was, of course, the constant thorn of England itself. Here was the chance to weaken his enemy and seek revenge for past losses in wars that the French had fought with the English.
Through these three secret meetings, Francis Daymon carefully translated the words and expressions of all parties. By the end of the third and final meeting, he was not certain at all that any progress had been made. He helped each gentleman bid adieu to the others, and he opened a door downstairs so each could leave separately and stealthily to return to where they must and to a future that no one could know.
When he had let the last of the three conspirators out the door, he locked it again and turned to the darkness of the first floor. For a moment he imagined he could hear once more the lively debates that Patrick Henry and Sam Adams and all the others had brought to this meeting place during the First Continental Congress. He remembered the cautious hope and faith so many of the colonists had had during such meetings. Now he had seen both John Jay's and Benjamin Franklin's faces filled with concern and despair. There had been no commitment made by the French government. Perhaps America would be left on its own in its struggle against the most powerful nation on earth.
Had he, Francis Daymon, risked his life for nothing? Had these three dangerous meetings been worthless? Had all his efforts ended in failure?
Copyright by Charles and Nancy Cook. Used by kind permission
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