Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to [the Chevalier de Richoufftz?], 15 July 1777

To [the Chevalier de Richoufftz?5]

ALS (draft): Library of Congress

Paris, July 15. 1777.


I this day received your Letter of the 5th Instant, wherein you request being sent to America in the Service of the United States, and that I would pay the Charges of your Passage, and give you a Commission to be an Officer in their Army. In answer I would assure you, that I am not authoris’d by the Congress to do either the one or the other, nor is there any Money put into my hands for such purposes. And knowing as I do that more Officers are already in America offering their Service than can possibly be employ’d, I should not counsel any One I had a Regard for, to undertake so long and hazardous a Voyage upon an absolute Uncertainty. I have the Honour to be, Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5This note, although blunt, is at least an answer to a commission-seeker. BF rarely gave one unless the applicant was too well connected to be ignored, and Richoufftz was not. Although his family was an old one, which had come to France from Germany in the time of Francis I, it had no money. His father, an artilleryman, was a chef de brigade, his eldest brother an infantry officer; the other five siblings had trained for the service but not secured commissions. The young chevalier (1755–97) first wrote to BF and to some one else, presumably Deane, on May 5. When the letters, now lost, had no reply, he wrote both men again on June 1, from Douai; and his plea to BF smacks of desperation: “Tirez moi de cette angoisse je n’ai pas meritté ce malheur.” He needs a captaincy, 2,400 l.t. for equipment, and free passage to Boston. Still no answer. In his final letter to BF of July 5, which presumably elicited this one, he asks for any appropriate rank, and tries to convince himself that the other letters have miscarried; no generous soul could have ignored them. (The letters are all in the APS; further information is from Bodinier.) Richoufftz’s sheer persistence, we assume, persuaded BF to break his silence.

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