Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Thomas Mante, 22 February 1779

From Thomas Mante7

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Fort L’Eveque 22 Feby. 1779.


When I asked for, and received your bounty,8 I at that time hoped and believed, that a change in my then situation would have precluded the necessity of again having recourse to your humanity: the obduracy of my antagonist, which all the efforts of M. Turgot cannot soften, still exposes me to the wretchedness of the most unjust imprisonment; because that I have not the means of addressing myself to the parliament to obtain justice. I am naturalized, but for want of between 3 and 400 l.t. to enregister my letters of naturalization, they are of no effect, and the law still considers me as a stranger, refusing me the privileges which in fact I have a right to enjoy, and which would procure me my liberty.

To M. Turgot I owe every obligation that is due from one man to another, for aleviation of unmeritted misery; from his humanity I have received frequent relief, ortherways I must have perished.9 In Paris I am almost an entire stranger but amongst those whom I know, I have not found that generosity was their virtue. From England I can have no aid, on account of my attachment to France, and all my resources in that country are stopped; so that in short I am like a single unconnected man in this busy world. Suffering from the most cruel disorder of the stone, perishing as it were from meere want. In this situation Sir, I once more dare to address myself to your compassion; at the same time confessing that my sole claim to your generosity is founded on the nobleness of your own disposition, which I revered long, very long before that I was reduced to the necessity of putting it to a tryal, the result of which perfectly corresponded with the ideas that I had formed of the liberator of America.

Whilst I am soliciting from you, Sir, relief to my most urgent wants, the note which I have the honour to enclose to you, has emboldened me to request of you a favour of another nature. You have seen, you have approved, the table of the principles of political ceconomy of M. Dupont; I have translated it into English, may I be permitted to dedicate it to you, if you grant me this permission, Sir, I shall not in the dedication wound your delicacy by fullsome compliments:1 it will consist in an endeavour to shew the happiness that America has acquired; an exhortation to its inhabitants to persevere in courting liberty, to fix her residence amongst them; to shew the present relation between the Governors and the governed of this growing Empire; and the pursuits which ought to occupy both, to secure in future an uninterruptd happiness; of which when my affairs in this country are settled I shall endeavour to become a partaker, and to render myself a useful member of a society of men whom I ever honoured, whom I left with regret, having projected to pass the remainder of my life amongst them— But Sir, as Shakespear says, “There is a divinity that shapes our actions rough hew them as we will.”2

I have the honour to be with the most unfeigned respect, Sir, Your obliged obedt humble Servt.

Thomas Mante

I beg the favour of you to return M. Turgots letter.

Notation: Thomas Mante Fort L’Eveque 22. Feb. 79

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7For the bizarre misadventures of the British military historian who had undertaken to raise sheep in France and may have been a double agent see XXIII, 255n; XXVII, 348–9; and Claude-Anne Lopez, “Benjamin Franklin and William Dodd: a New Look at an Old Cause Célèbre,” APS Proc., CXXIX (1985), 264–7. On Nov. 3, 1778, the Jour. de Paris announced the publication— without the author’s name—of Mante’s Traité des Prairies artificielles (Paris, 1778).

8BF recorded in his Cash Book (Account XVI, XXVI, 3) that he had sent him 48 l.t. in late 1778.

9Indeed Turgot was still trying. As he wrote Pierre-Samuel Du Pont on Nov. 28, 1778, he had no great esteem for Mante but, seeing how miserable he was, had attempted once more to soften his fate: Schelle, Œuvres de Turgot, V, 575.

1On March 18 Turgot wrote to Du Pont about this translation of his Tableau des principes de l’économie politique: ibid., p. 588. See also Lebègue de Presle’s letter of Nov. 17.

2“There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, Rough-hew them how we will,—” Hamlet, V, ii, 10.

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