CODE NUMBER 72 -- BEN FRANKLIN: Patriot or Spy? by Cecil B. Currey

CODE NUMBER 72 -- BEN FRANKLIN: Patriot or Spy?

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Ben Franklin was a great American patriot who played with kites, put together Poor Richard's Almanac and persuaded the French to support the colonies against England during the American Revolution. Right? Wrong. According to Prof. Currey (Hist. -- Southern Florida Univ.) Franklin was agent ""72"" (alias ""Moses"") and his Paris residence was the French center for British espionage. And what evidence does Currey have to support these shocking allegations? Well, isn't it suspicious that so many of Franklin's private papers have disappeared? Weren't his sexual morals notoriously loose? Didn't the audit of his Paris Mission of 1776-1785 show a deficit of 100,000 pounds? And isn't it a matter of record that Franklin engaged in some pretty shady land speculation with a group of London financeers before and even during the American Revolution? Adding a little psychological guesswork to some tenuous circumstantial ""evidence,"" Currey builds a cloak-and-dagger melodrama featuring spies and double-agents, war profiteering and intrigue. Not that he ever says fiat out that Franklin was in the pay of the British Secret Service: guilt by association is the modus operandi here. Indeed a close reading will show that the wily Franklin can be convicted of nothing more specific than self-seeking opportunism. Like any shrewd diplomat he hedged his bets during the Treaty negotiations. It would never stand up in court but Currey plants the suspicion and for those who enjoy digging out skeletons in the Founding Fathers' closets, that will be enough.

Pub Date: Dec. 6th, 1972
Publisher: Prentice-Hall