The American Commissioners to the President of Congress1
ALS2 and copy: National Archives
Paris, Feb. 6. 1777
This will be delivered to you by M. de Coudray, an Officer of great Reputation here, for his Talents in general, and particularly for his Skill and Abilities in his Profession. Some accidental Circumstance, I understand, prevented his going in the Amphitrite; but his Zeal for our Cause, and earnest Desire of promoting it, have engag’d him to overcome all Obstacles, and render himself in America by the first possible Opportunity.3 If he arrives there, you will I am persuaded find him of great Service not only in the Operations of the next Campaign, but in forming Officers for those that may follow. I therefore recommend him warmly to the Congress, and to your Countenance and Protection. Wishing you every kind of Felicity, I have the Honour to be, with the highest Esteem, Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant
Honourable John Hancock Esqr Presedt of the Congress
Notation: Letter from Ben Franklin & Silas Deane 6 Feby 1777 per Mons Du Coudray read 3 June 1777 referred to the comee. on foreign applications5
1. For the background of this letter see the headnote on La Rochefoucauld to BF above, under Feb. 3. The letter was the result, as mentioned there, of the intercession of the Duke and the chevalier de Chastellux. We have no evidence that Du Coudray was present at their interview with the commissioners, when the letter was presumably signed, but if not they must have transmitted it to him immediately. It is unlikely that he had already left the city, as Deane later remembered (Deane Papers, III, 162), for he used the letter within a day or two; see the note below on Deane’s signature.
2. In BF’s hand.
3. Du Coudray wasted no time in finding an opportunity; he left in haste before he could be stopped, as Beaumarchais and Deane hoped he would be. By the 8th or thereabouts he was near Angers: Morton, Beaumarchais correspondance, III, 55. By the 13th he was in Nantes, and on the next day he was reported there to have sailed: Lee to BF and Deane below, Feb. 13, 14. A shipmate later provided a timetable of the voyage, according to which the sailing was no later than the 14th: Deane Correspondence, p. 89.
4. Lee, as Deane remembered, was out of town: Deane Papers, III, 162. BF’s use of the first person singular suggests that he did not expect his fellow commissioner to sign the letter. Deane did so with the greatest reluctance, and only after La Rochefoucauld and Chastellux had given their word of honor that no use would be made of it in France. Instead Du Coudray promptly divulged it to others, including Beaumarchais. Deane found this out and was furious. He protested to Chastellux at the breach of faith, and assured Beaumarchais that he hoped Du Coudray would never reach America. Beaumarchais forwarded Deane’s letter in translation to Vergennes, with the complaint that Du Coudray was jeopardizing the secrecy of the whole operation. Deane to Chastellux, undated but after Feb. 6, Deane Papers, I, 468–9; Morton, op. cit., III, 51, 54–5.
5. JCC, VIII, 412.