Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Le Roux, 25 February 1779

From Le Roux6

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Paris 25. fev. 1779.


C’est à Mr. Le coeur, mon ami, et au précepteur de m. votre petit-fils, que j’ai l’obligation d’avoir pu vous voir et vous communiquer quelques papiers qui peuvent être utiles au public. Je vous prie instamment, Monsieur, de me faire le plaisir de remettre à Monsieur Necker le Mémoire intitulé Plan d’un Nouvel Etablissement patriotique et désinterressé &c.7 J’aurai l’honneur de vous en presenter une autre copie pour Vous, si ce Plan peut mériter votre estime.8

J’ai l’honneur d’être respectueusement Monsieur Votre très humble et très obéissant Serviteur

Le Roux

Addressed: A Monsieur / Monsieur Franklin / à Passi./

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6The educator who had requested an interview on Feb. 18.

7The “papiers,” we assume, are a five-page memorandum entitled, on a separate sheet, “Lettre a Monsieur Franklin. Par m. c. J. Le Roux auteur du Journal d’Education et Maître de Pension au Collège royal de Boncourt à Paris”. APS. We suspect that it was accompanied by detailed and separable descriptions of each of its five parts; hence the request to send one of them on to Necker. Its stated purpose was to provide BF, who had listened to Le Roux discuss some of these projects, with a detailed summary of all of them to glance at in his spare time. If he thought fit to recommend anything in them to those in power, Le Roux would be amply recompensed.

The first project was for a royal academy of national education, which had been endorsed by Buffon, d’Alembert, and other scholars. The second was for an “Etablissement patriotique et désinterressé,” an impartial group to examine the best means of relieving the weak, the unfortunate, and the oppressed in ways that would also serve the public good. The third was for the continued publication of the Journal d’éducation; the fourth proposed a temple to the glory of the great men of Europe and of the three other parts of the world. Finally, he proposed a royal patriotic and benevolent order that would establish a fund to raise and educate poor children, put beggars and vagabonds to work, constructing highways at no expense to the sovereign or people, and help poor but honest families.

The proposal to continue the Journal d’éducation may have been a version of the fifteen-page prospectus Le Roux published in 1778, a copy of which is at the Bibliothèque nationale, and may also have been what Le Roux presented to BF in May (XXVI, 440). Our interpretation of the sequence of events is that his May letter was a trial balloon; when it got no response he engineered an introduction and, finding some interest in BF, sent him the full corpus of his projects. Publication of the Journal d’éducation ceased in 1778; Le Roux’s hope of continuing it apparently came to nothing.

For a discussion of the many proposals for reforming schools or creating a “national education,” see R. R. Palmer, The Improvement of Humanity: Education and the French Revolution (Princeton, 1985), pp. 53–9 and passim.

8Le Roux wrote again on Sept. 1 to ask BF to return the second proposal (“Etablissement patriotique et désinterressé”), if he thought it would get nowhere with Necker. APS.

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