Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from [the Comte de Lauraguais?], [before 21 December? 1776]

From [the Comte de Lauraguais?6]

L: American Philosophical Society

[Before December 21?, 17767]


I congratulate your arrival with an intelligence of the first moment, which you will apply with your wonted caution. Mr. de morande is secretary to m. beaumarchais, and brother to a refugee of the same name in London, lately acquitted in the Kings bench, of a suit by the chev. d’Eon, and known by every body to be a man a tout faire. There is also m. Charles parker forth of somerset street portman sq. some time past and, now in paris intimate with all three, who conveys (by Lord stormonst messenger) to lord mansfield all the transactions and equipiments of the court of france for america, the ships, description, name, force and cargo of mr. du Coudrays expedition at havre, &a. Mr. b—m—was to have come to england, but it was found that mr p—F—could more convenient go to france.8 You are too wise to neglect this because anonymous.

Addressed: dr. Franklin / paris. / by the hands of Silas deane ecq.

Notation: Intelligence

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6For the comte see above, XIX, 86 n; XXII, 468 n. As a friend of Arthur Lee he saw a good deal of all the commissioners; although the letter is not in his hand, he seems to us the most likely author. He was jealous of Beaumarchais, he had some contact with Nathaniel Parker Forth (even though he mistook his first name), and he was fond of feeding information behind the backs of those concerned; see Stevens, Facsimiles, VIII, no. 782; XVIII, no. 1691. He was in Paris when BF arrived or soon after, for as early as Jan. 8 Stormont referred to the great intimacy between the two: ibid., XIV, 1410, pp. 1–2. This evidence is not conclusive, but it is at least suggestive.

7The fact that the note was left with Deane suggests to us that it was written before BF’s arrival in Paris.

8M. de Morande was in fact Jean-Baptiste-Lazare Théveneau de Francy. His brother in London was Charles Théveneau de Morande, indeed “a man à tout faire,” and one whom Lauraguais detested. Charles Eon de Beaumont, Chevalier d’Eon, the brother-in-law of BF’s winegrowing acquaintance the Chevalier O’Gorman (above, XIX, 86 n), was a notorious adventurer and transvestite. Brian N. Morton, “Beaumarchais, Francy, Steuben, and Lafayette: An Unpublished Correspondence. . .,” The French Rev., XLIX (1975–6), 943–59; Ernest A. Vizetelly, The True Story of the Chevalier d’Eon . . . (London, 1895), pp. 88, 247–8; for Morande and Eon see also Larousse, Dictionnaire universel. Nathaniel Parker Forth was Lord North’s unofficial emissary to Maurepas, and was known in Paris as Stormont’s spy; the following April he approached Francy, apparently without success, to betray Beaumarchais: Stevens, op. cit., VI, no. 640, p. 3; VII, no. 670, p. 26; XV, no. 1514. “b—m—” is clearly Beaumarchais himself. Du Coudray (above, XXII, 462 n), after collecting men, weapons, and supplies in ports from Dunkirk to Marseilles, had left Le Havre on Dec. 14 on the Amphitrite with a cargo of arms and ammunition. See Stevens, III, no. 240; XIV, no. 1405; WTF to BF below, Jan. 9; Roger Lafon, Beaumarchais, le brillant armateur (Paris, 1928), p. 87. The ship soon returned to port and left again without Du Coudray, as will be seen; but he and most of his officers eventually found their way to America, and constituted the largest group of French recruits before 1778.

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