Benjamin Franklin Papers

The American Commissioners to John Ross, 3 November 1778

The American Commissioners to John Ross

LS:7 Justin G. Turner, Los Angeles (1959); AL (draft):8 Massachusetts Historical Society; two copies: National Archives

Passy, Novr. 3 1778


We have received yours of the twenty seventh of October,9 inclosing a Copy of a Resolution of Congress of the 11th August 1778.1

We shall pay the strictest Attention and Obedience to this Resolution of Congress and to all others, as far as shall be in our Power; and Shall be always ready to receive your Accounts and to settle them; and pay the Ballance, if any should appear due2 out of the Proceeds of the Cargoes mentioned in the Resolution, as soon as we shall receive them.

In Relation to the Affair of the le Brune,3 as we are Strangers to the Nature and Circumstances of it, we are not qualified to form any Opinion; And if we were fully informed, we have no Authority to give any Advice concerning it. If it is in a Course of Law, we cannot with Propriety interfere, unless in Case of flagrant Injustice, which must be made clearly to appear, and even then we can interfere only by Application to the Ministry. We return you all the Papers relative to this Affair, and are with due Respect Sir Your most obedient humle Servants

B. Franklin
Arthur Lee
John Adams

Mr. John Ross at Nantes.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7In the hand of BF’s secretary Nicolas-Maurice Gellée, for whom see XXVI, 287, where we were misled by what at the time appeared to be a discrepancy in his handwriting.

8In JA’s hand.


1Although all four extant versions of this letter say Aug. 11, the correct date is the 1st. The resolution (JCC, XI, 738–40) directed that the commissioners consign the cargoes of four vessels bound for France to settle accounts with the merchant Ross.

2The phrase “if any should appear due” had been interlined, in JA’s draft, by BF.

3About which Ross and the commissioners had exchanged several letters since he sold it to them in February: XXV, 309n, 494n, 629–30, 648–9, 716. As a public vessel, its costs were to be charged to the account of the U.S.

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