Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from the Baron de Benyowski, 25 September 1777

From the Baron de Benyowski4

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Le 25 7bre. 1777. de versailles.


Ne pouvant pas avoir de nouvells de mon Amy, je Luy addresse quelqu’un, qui est le porteur de la presente, et Com je desire que ce jeun homme puisse passer avec agremt j’ose vous prié de Luy donner Une Lettre de recomendation, afin qu’il puisse des son arivé etre employé par Le General; Je me propose d’avoir L’honeure de vous voir La semain prochain pour prendre ma revanch aux Echecs, ayant celuy d’Estre avec autant de devoüement Que d’attachment Monsieur Votre Tres humble et tres obessent serviteur

Le Baron De Benyowski

Bechet de Rochefontaine5

Notation: de Benyowzni[?], Versailles 25 7b. 77

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4This is the first appearance of a Hungarian nobleman who was one of the more colorful adventurers of the period. Maurice-Auguste or Mauritius Augustus, Baron (he later called himself Count) de Benyowski (1741–86), had got into trouble at home, left to fight for the Poles, and been captured by the Russians and exiled to Kamchatka; he had escaped with a group of companions and eventually made his way to France. In 1773 the French government sent him to establish a colony on Madagascar. This he did, but his conduct provoked an investigation; he returned to France before it was completed, and arrived in Paris in April, 1777. There he met Count Pulaski, his friend and relative, to whom he proposed that the Americans make Madagascar a naval base against the British. Pulaski forwarded the scheme to Congress, and presumably introduced its author to the commissioners to discuss it. In 1779 Benyowski turned up in America; Congress supplied him with money and a horse to join his relative in Georgia, where he arrived in time to be in the attack on Savannah in which Pulaski was mortally wounded. Benyowski, denied a commission, returned to Europe. In 1782 he was back with a plan, which Congress rejected, to raise a corps of German volunteers. The next year he was promoting a new colony in Madagascar. He got financial backing in England through BF’s friend Magellan, and then went to America for the third time; Baltimore merchants provided him a ship in which he sailed for the island in 1784. The settlement he established there lasted until May, 1786, when the French landed troops and attacked it; in the engagement he was killed. During these later years he and BF seem to have had little contact. Before the Count left for America in 1782 BF had some correspondence with and about him, and in 1786, after his own return to Philadelphia, with and about his wife, who was a friend of Pétronille Le Roy. Eufrosina Dvoichenko-Markov, “Benjamin Franklin and Count M. A. Benyowski,” APS Proc., XCIX (1955), 405–17.

5“Mon Amy” was presumably Pulaski and “Le General” clearly Washington. The bearer, Etienne Bechet de Rochefontaine (1755–1814), reached America and was commissioned a captain of engineers in the spring of 1778; he retired as a major at the end of 1783 and returned to France. He later re-entered the American service and spent his last years in New York. Lasseray, Les Français, I, 124, 126–7.

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