Editorial Note on a Charity Appeal
Broadside: American Philosophical Society
Among Franklin’s papers in the American Philosophical Society is a one-page printed invitation to the “Assemblées de Charité,” held at the Grand Châtelet on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoon of Holy Week, April 15–17, 1778; it was in a packet that Franklin endorsed “Notes and Invitations.” The assembly was a religious service followed by a sermon, and the first preacher was Claude Fauchet.3 The money collected from the congregation, or sent by well-wishers who could not attend, was for the assistance of poor prisoners and for the release of those jailed because they could not pay for the feeding of their infants. A lady of high station, according to a handwritten note at the end, was in charge of the collection at each service; the comtesse Auguste de la Marck on Wednesday, the marquise de Lafayette on Thursday, and the comtesse de Vauban on Friday.4
3. Prédicateur du roi, who in July, 1790, delivered a famous eulogy of BF; he became a Girondist, and was guillotined in 1793. Larousse.
4. The authorities did not wait for the Friday collection. That morning the director general of the Bureau des nourrices was instructed to call at the prison and release 53 inmates who had not paid for the months of feeding (by wet nurses); they owed their freedom, he told them, to the generosity of the Queen. The prisoners cried with joy and attended mass; then each “retourna au sein de sa famille, pour essuyer les pleurs de sa femme, et recevoir les caresses de ses enfans.” Jour. de Paris, May 16, 1778, pp. 542–3.