Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Arthur Lee, 21 February 1779

From Arthur Lee

LS:3 American Philosophical Society; copy and transcript: National Archives

Chaillot. Feb. 21st. 1779—


Yr. Grandson delivered to me between 12 and 1 O’Clock on the 19th. your letter dated the 18th., in which you desire I will send by the Bearer all the papers I have belonging to this department.

I have no papers belonging to the department of Minister Plenipotentiary at the Court of Versailles. But if you mean Sir, the papers relating to the transactions of our late joint Commission, I am yet to learn; and cannot conceive on what reason or authority any one of those, who were formerly in that Commission can claim or demand possession of all the papers, evidencing their joint transactions, in which if they shoud appear to have been equally concernd, they are equally responsible.

Of these papers Mr. Deane, by his own account, has taken & securd such as he chose. The rest, a very few excepted, you have. Many of those I have never even seen, but have been favord with Copies. Of the few originals in my possession there are I know duplicates of the most part at Passy, because it was for that reason only that I took them. The rest are necessary evidence to answer Mr. Deane’s accusations, which you know to be the most base & false, that ever the Malice and wickedness of man invented.

If it were agreed, that all the papers belonging to our late Commission, shoud be brought together, numbred, docketted, and deposited where the late Commissioners, and they only, might have access to them; I woud very readily contribute the few I have. But on no other terms can I part with them; and I must therefore desire you to command me in some other Service.

Still however I am in the judgment of Congress; and if upon our mutual representations, shoud you think it worth troubling them with it, they shoud be of a different opinion; I shall abide by their decision, and obey their orders.

I hope your gout is better; and have the honor to be with great respect Sir your Mo. obt. Humble Servt.

Arthur Lee

Endorsed: Mr. Lee4

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3In Ford’s hand, as is the copy.

4On the verso of the notation sheet is the same autographed name and address that had been inscribed in BF’s visitors’ book (XXVII, 341): “Hemery fondeur en Caractere rue st jaques ché monsieur Canon Cordonié vis à vie monsieur dépré.” J.-Fr. Héméry was a preeminent Parisian typefounder. He had worked for thirty years as directeur des fonderies for the Fourniers before taking over his own foundry in 1760. When he paid BF a visit in February, 1779, it was to discuss the latter’s plan to establish a foundry in the Valentinois. BF engaged him and, according to the Cash Book (Account XVI, XXVI, 3), the shop began operation in April. A list in Héméry’s hand of fonts cut at Passy as of July 22, 1780, is at the APS. For the founder see A.-M. Lottin, Catalogue chronologique des libraires et des libraires-imprimeurs de Paris . . . (Paris, 1789), p. 241; Marius Audin, Les Livrets typographiques des fonderies françaises créées avant 1800 (Paris, 1933; reprint, Amsterdam, 1964), p. 102.

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