Six months after America declared her independence, Congress dispatched Benjamin Franklin to France to solicit aid and arms for the upcoming fight. He was seventy years old, possessed of the most rudimentary French and had no diplomatic training. But this most remarkable of envoys was also among the most famous men in the world. During his eight years in Paris he charmed the French, outwitted the British spies and stirred a passion for a republic in those who lived under an absolute monarchy. Stacy Schiff tells a tale of international intrigue and from it emerges an intimate portrait of a brilliant man, as well as a sense of the fragility and improvisation of his country's bid for independence. Illustrations, ports.