Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Pierre André Gargaz, 14 February 1779

From Pierre André Gargaz7

ALS: American Philosophical Society

A Toulon le 14 fevrier 1779.


Je crois que si les deux Manuscrits, ci très humblement joints, etoient imprimez, ensemble ou separement, et anoncez au Public, il s’en rependroit beaucoup dans plusieurs Païs, par le möien de la vente, et fairoient un trez bon efect pour etablir une Paix perpetuele entre les Etats unis de L’Amerique, les Anglois, et les françois; et meme entre tous les souverains de l’Europe et leurs voisins. Si vous étes de mon avis je vous demande la grace, Monsieur, de les faire imprimer, anoncer et rependre dans le public autant qu’il vous sera possible./.8

Pierre André Gargaz.
forçat numero 1336.

A Monsieur Monsieur franklin, Envoyé par les Etats unis de l’amerique. a Paris.

Endorsed: Project of Universal Peace by a Galley Slave

Notation: Gargaz 4 Fevr. 1779.—

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7A far cry from the other convicts included in our collective description of favor seekers, Gargaz was no ordinary felon. A former teacher, accused of murder—an accusation he was too proud and unbending to refute—he may well have been a victim of a miscarriage of justice. Before writing to BF he had sent a copy of his project to Voltaire (July 24, 1776), and Voltaire answered him in verse in a sympathetic manner on Sept. 22: Theodore Besterman, ed., The Complete Works of Voltaire: Correspondence and Related Documents: Definitive Edition (50 vols., Geneva, Toronto and Oxford, 1968–76), XLIII, 234, 304. After his liberation he turned to BF once again, and BF, moved by the man’s plight and persistent idealism, printed the plan for peace on his Passy press: Conciliateur de toutes les Nations d’Europe ou Projet de Paix perpétuelle . . . par P.A.G. (Passy, 1782). The letters and later publications of Gargaz have been collected and published by George Simpson Eddy, A Project of Universal and Perpetual Peace . . . (New York, 1922). See A. Aulard, “Le Forçat Gargaz, Franklin et la Société des Nations,” La Revue de Paris, XXX (Sept., 1923), 45–55. Later he corresponded with Jefferson and sent him his pamphlet: Boyd, Jefferson Papers, IX, 99–100, 175.

8His plan, which reflects a faith in human nature all the more remarkable in one who had spent so many years at hard labor, calls for an association of all countries under the name of union framaçone to serve as a conference for mediating international conflicts. Its president, the representative of the oldest hereditary sovereign, will prevail in case of an equally divided vote. (Gargaz listed the hierarchy of sovereigns, finding their birth dates in the Etrennes mignonnes de Paris.) If such a pattern of deference to the senior sovereign had already been established, England and France would not be at loggerheads right now, with all the suffering such a conflict entails.

Along with this memoir, whose hopeful message presupposes a spirit of true enlightenment and fair play, Gargaz sent a second, shorter one, addressed to “Messeigneurs les Ministres d’Etat,” which deals with the war between England and America. This one advocates three policies: 1) give up sea trade in time of war and rely only on agriculture and overland commerce; 2) convert trading ships into armed corsairs and use them to attack British shipping; 3) invite all merchants from neutral nations to come into French or American ports and trade there as much as they wish. Better opportunities will lure them away from England, and that country, so much poorer than France and America combined, will eventually see the light, seek peace, and become a friend.

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