Benjamin Franklin Papers

Franklin’s Diary of Correspondence, [12 February-2 March 1779]

Franklin’s Diary of Correspondence3

AD: American Philosophical Society

[February 12-March 2, 1779]

Feb. 12. 1779:— 5 OClock

Recd my Appointment of M. P. at this Court.4

Waited upon M. De Vergennes who not being at home I waited upon M. Renvalle,5 inform’d him of it.


Wrote Jona. Williams acquaing him with my late appt. cong Goods to be bought for Wm Green Esqr &c

Wrote Mr Coffyn informg him of my nomination. Approving what he had done for the Prisoners.

Feb. 14.

Wrote to Count De Vergennes acquainting him with my Appt— & enclosing a Copy of my Credential Letter to the king asking his Advice concerning the Conspirators on board the Alliance6 and enclosing several Letters I had received from A. making mention of Le Ms. De la Fayette. Sent the above Letter by W.T.F—

15 Feb.

Sent away a Letter wrote the 11. to M. Dumas in Ansr to his of the 25th Jany7

Feb. 17.8 79

Wrote a Note to M. De Vergennes excusing my not going to Versailles on account of a severe access of the G9 & enclosing an Extract of Dr Coopers Letter which he desired to have.

Gave a Pass to Mr Tilly Merrick, going to Nantes.1

Wrote to Capt. Landais ackn in ansr to his of the 7. Inst & Mr Schweighauser. Ordering him to Comply with the Orders of the N. Board respecting the Alliance. That his Bills for 30,000 Livs have been accepted &c.

Wrote a Letter to Mr Sears in Ansr to his, concerning Duties on Furs.

Feb. 18. 79.

Wrote Mr A. Lee inclosing Resolutions of Congress of Sept. 11. & 14 and of Oct. 22.2

Accepted 3 Loan Office Bills in favor of Mr. Milligan.

Advanced John Conner taken in the Service of the U.S. & escaped from Prison 36 l.t. to help him to America

Recd a Letter from Mr. A. Lee in ansr to the one I had wrote him inclosing the Resolves.3

19. Feb. 79

Wrote Hornica & Fizeaux acquaintg them with my Appointment. & cong the Loan in Holland.

Wrote M. Dumas acquaintg him with my late Appointt.4

Wrote Mr. Jos. Wharton in ansr to his of the 11th Inst. cong Convoy.

Recd a Letter from M. De Vergennes5 appointing Tuesday next, to present my Letter to the king—

Sent W.T.F with a Letter to Mr Lee dated Yesterday desiring him to send me all the publick Papers in his Possn. belonging to this Depart.


Accepted great Numbers of Bills that were presented Yesterday

Gave a Pass to Messrs York & Cumings6


22 Feb.

Dispatched Dr Windship with a Letter to Capt. Landais. Gave him a Pass for Brest.

Wrote Mr Hartley relative to Dr. Bancroft going to London to negotiate an Exchange of Prisoners—

Wrote to the American Gentlemen of Nantes informing them of the Convoy to America Capt. Landais of the Alliance.

Advanced Richard Neale of Virginia 8 Louis d’ors to assist him in returning to America.— Gave him Pass for Nantes.7


Wrote a Letter to Sir G. Grand enclosing him a Copy of a Letter I had wrote to Hornica & Fizeau

Accepted thre Loan Office Bills

Likewise a Bill of Exe. in favor of Monsr Ganot for 900 l.t. drawn by H. Laurens.8


Wrote Capt Jones, relative to a Message from Ld Selkirk Accepted.


Wrote Count Vergennes concerning Operations in North America highly Advantageous to both Nations

Wrote another Letter to Count De Vergennes in ansr to his of the 17. Inst. &c & informing him of the Destination of the Alliance.

Wrote To M De Sartine, thanking him for the Convoy. &c.9


Wrote Mr Paulze, Farmer General concerning the Tobacco come in the Bergere

Wrote to Govr Henry of Virga by M. Le Maire in ansr to a Letter brought from him by that Gentleman.

Accepted a Loan Office Bill of 36 Dollars in favor of Wm Gordon—

March 1st

Wrote M. Leveux of Calais relative to his Acct of Disbursements for Americans escaped from English Prisons

Conversation with M. Neuville—

Gave a Passport to Mr Edmond Jennings to make a Tour.1

March 2d.

Advanced Casenarve de la Porte for his Brother Prisoner in England, by an Order upon M. Grand, the sum of 15 Louis d’ors.2

Wrote the Prisoners of the Drake in ansr to their Memorial of the 16. Past.

Wrote M. Sartine desiring him to renew his Orders for the better treatment of the Prisoners in Brest.

Wrote M. Coffyn in ansr to his of the 17. past.

Wrote M. Schweighauser concerning M. Adams’s embarking at Nantes for America.

Wrote Capt. Landais to inform him of Mr. As intention to take a Passage on board of him.3

Recd a Letter from the Prince of Conti desiring a Passport for Horses and Dogs to be brought from England.4

Made out the said Passport.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3BF’s short-lived attempt at keeping a record of his correspondence began when he received official news of his appointment as minister plenipotentiary to the French court. The “Journal” was composed on a single sheet of paper that had been folded and turned several times to make smaller pages for the daily entries. We point out any substantive changes or additions that BF made.

4The Congressional dispatches notifying BF of his appointment were, according to JA, brought by Amos Windship, surgeon of the Alliance, and by an aide-de-camp of Lafayette (presumably Charles-Albert de Moré de Pontgibaud, for whom see Bodinier, Dictionnaire): Butterfield, John Adams Diary, II, 353; Louis Gottschalk, Lafayette Joins the American Army (Chicago, 1937), p. 324.


6BF’s letter to Louis XVI is missing, but it apparently approximated his letter to Vergennes of the same day. In closing this paragraph, BF first wrote “Gran” for “Grandson” and then settled upon the more formal “W. T. F—”

7A sentence, “Wrote Capt Landais acknowledging the Receit & in ansr to his of the 7th Inst”, has been deleted here and incorporated into the entry of Feb. 17.

8BF crossed out “16” and replaced it with “17”. He also added among the letters of the day’s entry, “Note. The above Letters by mistake were dated the 16.—”


1There are at least two Mass. residents of that name, although we have no evidence that either visited France; the elder (1743–1836) was a West Springfield resident who graduated from Harvard College in 1773, and the younger (1755–1836) was born and died in Concord: George B. Merrick, Genealogy of the Merrick-Mirick-Myrick Family of Massachusetts: 1636–1902 (Madison, Wis., 1902), pp. 281–2, 292.

2Following this sentence, BF deleted, “Wrote Mr A Lee desiring him to send all the public Papers—in his Possession belonging to this Department—”. See, however, the entry for Feb. 19.

3Lee’s reply is below, Feb. 18. James Milligan, continental treasurer, had once been responsible for signing continental bills of credit: Ferguson, Morris Papers, I, 379–80n. John Conner was the former gunner of the Angelica who had escaped from Forton Prison (Kaminkow, Mariners). BF noted this expenditure in his Cash Book (Account XVI, XXVI, 3): the unnamed “American Gunner who had been a Prisoner in England” was given 36 l.t. “to help him down to L’Orient.”

4BF here wrote, and then deleted, “& cong his Friend”.

5Dated Feb. 17.

6James Cuming, whom JA saw in Nantes on March 12: Butterfield, John Adams Diary, II, 356–7.

7Possibly Richard Neale of Northumberland County, Va., who was wed in 1775 (Va. Mag. of Hist. and Biog., XXVI [1918], 158).

8Ganot must be Louis de Recicourt de Ganot, who had been granted passage money to France by Congress when Laurens was president: XXVII, 111n.

9BF had first penned “thankg him for his Assurances of Protection to the Amer”.

1The letter to the Calais agent (Library of Congress) promised to pay the debts he contracted on behalf of escaped prisoners. Neuville is Jean de Neufville: see BF’s Feb. 28 letter to him. Edmund Jenings (XXIII, 320n), possibly a British agent, apparently had been in Paris since October, 1778: James H. Hutson, ed., Letters from a Distinguished American: Twelve Essays by John Adams on American Foreign Policy, 1780 (Washington, 1978), p. XV.

2The Alphabetical List of Escaped Prisoners lists a payment of 360 l.t. to Casenave de la Porte “for his Brother & other Prisoners in England.”

3Coffyn’s letter of the 17th is missing, but a copy of each of the outgoing letters is at the Library of Congress. On March 3 JA went to Versailles to take leave of Vergennes: Butterfield, John Adams Diary, II, 354. His hopes for a quick return to America were frustrated, as will become apparent in vol. XXIX.

4Dated Feb. 28.

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