Benjamin Franklin Papers

Barbeu-Dubourg to the American Commissioners, 18 June 1778: résumé

Barbeu-Dubourg to the American Commissioners2

ALS: American Philosophical Society

<Paris, June 18, 1778, in French: If I did not respect your wisdom I should be astonished at your refusal to enlist all who want to fight the British. Precautions would have to be taken to ensure obedience, and this would require official cooperation in the ports in which the ships outfit and to which most of them return. The goal is worth the effort. The first attempt would doubtless bring considerable gain, and would force the British either to take extraordinary and costly defensive measures or to cut down their lucrative trade with the Levant. The chief promoter of the plan is an old associate of a certain marquis Roux de Corse; the captain of the first xebec is intrepid, determined, and the best possible man to inspire a crew.3>

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2Published in Taylor, Adams Papers, VI, 218–19, where Roux’s title is rendered as Marquis “of Corsica.” Our guess is that his was a family name, unconnected with the island. The prolific house of Roux was centered in Provence, which may or may not be a clue pointing to the Mediterranean. “Xebec,” a vessel peculiar to that sea, certainly is.

3Whatever the scheme was, it had apparently been under discussion for weeks. On April 27 Coder, Dubourg’s entrepreneur friend, sent him “le plan de gibaltar” and asked to have it passed on to BF, then a few days later wanted it back: to WTF, May 2, 1778, APS. The present letter suggests that the idea was to commission foreigners to attack British commerce in the Mediterranean, but we can no more go beyond that than could the editors of the Adams Papers. Although BF, in what we believe was his reply the next day, said that the commissioners had already approached the French government, we have found no further mention of the scheme.

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