Speech presenting medal to France
EXCELLENCY: On the 27th of April, 1904, the Congress of the United States provided by statute that the Secretary of State should cause to be struck a medal to commemorate the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Franklin, and that one single impression on gold should be presented, under the direction of the President of the United States, to the Republic of France.
Under the direction of the President I now execute this law by delivering the medal to you as the representative of the Republic of France. This medal is the work of fraternal collaboration by two artists whose citizenship Americans prize highly, Louis and Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The name indicates that they may have inherited some of the fine artistic sense which makes France pre-eminent in the exquisite art of the medallist.
On one side of the medal you will find the wise, benign, and spirited face of Franklin. On the other side literature, science, and philosophy attend, while history makes her record. The material of the medal is American gold, as was Franklin.
For itself this would be but a small dividend upon the investments which the ardent Beaumarchais made for the mythical firm of Hortalez and Company. It would be but scanty interest on the never-ending loans yielded by the steady friendship of de Vergennes to the distressed appeals of Franklin. It is not appreciable even as a gift when one recalls what Lafayette, Rochambeau, de Grasse, and their gallant comrades were to us, and what they did for us; when one sees in historical perspective the great share of France in securing American independence, looming always larger from our own point of view, in comparison with what we did for ourselves.
But take it for your country as a token that with all the changing manners of the passing years, with all the vast and welcome influx of new citizens from all the countries of the earth, Americans have not forgotten their fathers and their father’s friends.
Know by it that we have in America a sentiment for France; and a sentiment, enduring among a people, is a great and substantial fact to be reckoned with.
We feel a little closer to you of France because of what you were to Franklin. Before the resplendence and charm of your country’s history—when all the world does homage to your literature, your art, your exact science, your philosophic thought—we smile with pleasure, for we feel, if we do not say: “Yes, these are old friends of ours; they were very fond of our Ben Franklin and he of them.”
Made more appreciative, perhaps, by what France did for us when this old philosopher came to you, a stranger, bearing the burdens of our early poverty and distress, we feel that the enormous value of France to civilization should lead every lover of mankind, in whatever land, earnestly to desire the peace, the prosperity, the permanence, and the unchecked development of your national life.
We, at least, can not feel otherwise; for what you were to Franklin we would be — we are — to you: always true and loyal friends.