Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to James Jay, 17 April 1778

To James Jay1

ALS (draft):2 American Philosophical Society

Passy April 17. 78


I knew before the Receipt of your Letter (to which you request an Answer) that implicit Faith could be no part of your Character; For I remember’d that in January or Feby. 1777, you quarrel’d with all the Commissioners for not engaging two Officers of your Recommending, and would not believe them tho’ they all assur’d you seriously that they had no Authority to engage Officers.

By the above Vote of Congress you will see that they told you the Truth.3

You now have again the Civility to acquaint me that you cannot believe what I told you relating to the Impropriety of your following Mr. Deane, unless I offer you convincing Reasons.

I have Faith enough to believe that Reasons could not be drawn from you by such a Behaviour.4

You have nothing to apprehend from my “insinuating any thing against you among our Friends”. I do not deal in Insinuations. I am, Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant


Sir James Jay

1In answer to his above of the 14th.

2Another and undated draft in the APS condenses the first two paragraphs of the one we print: “Your acquainting me that implicit Faith was no part of your Character was unnecessary. You did not believe us, last Year, (when we declin’d engaging some Officers you recommended) tho’ all the Commissioners together assur’d you we had no Authority to contract with Officers for America. The Votes of Congress since prove that we spoke Truth.” The final paragraph of Jay’s reply the next day indicates that he had received the substance of the longer draft.

3We have found no record of this earlier squabble. Congress had resolved on March 13, 1777, that its agents should discourage all foreign volunteers who did not have the strongest recommendations and fluent English: JCC, VII, 174.

4Instead of this sentence BF originally wrote: “Be pleased to wait a little, and you shall have such Reasons. At present I cannot give them.” He was still pledged not to reveal that Deane was going home with d’Estaing’s squadron.

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