Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to the Chevalier de La Luzerne, 5 March 1780

To the Chevalier de La Luzerne

AL (draft): Library of Congress

Passy, March 5, 1780


I received with great Pleasure the Letter you did me the Honour of writing to me from Boston.8 I rejoiced to hear of your safe Arrival, and that the Reception you met with in my Country, had been agreable to you.9 I hope its Air will suit you, and that you while you reside in it, you will enjoy constant Health and Happiness.

Your good Brother does me sometimes the Honour of calling on me, and we converse in English, which he speaks very intelligibly.1 I suppose that by this time you do the same. M. de Malesherbes did me lately the same Honour. That great Man seems to have no Wish of returning into Publick Employment, but amuses himself, with Planting, and is desirous of obtaining all those Trees of North America that have not yet been introduc’d into France.2 Your sending him a Box of the Seeds, would, I am persuaded, much oblige him. They may be obtain’d of my young Friend Bartram living near Philadelphia.3

You will have heard that Spain has lately met with a little Misfortune at Sea, but the Bravery with which her Ships fought a vastly superior Force, have gain’d her great Honour.4 We are anxious here for farther News from that Coast, which is daily expected. Great Preparations are making here for the ensuing Campaign, and we flatter ourselves that it will be more active & successful in scope than the last.

One of the Advantages of great States, is, that the Calamity occasion’d by a foreign War falls only on a very small Part of the Community, who happen from their Situation & particular Circumstances to be expos’d to it.— Thus, as it is always fair Weather in our Parlours, it is at Paris always Peace. The People pursue their respective Occupations, the Playhouse, the Opera, & other publick Diversions, are as regularly & fully attended, as in Times of profoundest Tranquility, and the same small Concerns divide us into Parties.— When you left us, we were Gluckists and Piccinists.5 Within these few Weeks we are for or against Jeannot, a new Actor.6 This Man’s Performance, & the Marriage of the Duke de Richelieu fills up much more of our present Conversation, than any thing that relates to the War.—7 A Demonstration, this, of the Publick Felicity.

My Grandson joins with me in best Wishes for your Health & Prosperity. He is much flatter’d by your kind Remembrance of him. We desire also that M. de Marbois would accept our Assurances. I have the Honour to be, with the greatest Respect, Sir, Your &c,

M. de la Luzerne

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8XXX, 281–2.

9For La Luzerne’s reception see XXX, 199n.

1César-Henri, comte de La Luzerne (1737–1799), chevalier de Saint-Louis, maréchal de camp, known for his wit and learning, shared his uncle Chrétien-Guillaume de Lamoignon de Malesherbes’ passion for natural history. He became governor of St. Domingue (1786–87) and minister of the Navy (1787–90): Pierre Grosclaude, Malesherbes témoin et interprète de son temps (Paris, 1961), pp. 613–14, 621, 629; Nouvelle biographie générale. For the La Luzerne brothers see also Butterfield, John Adams Diary, II, 394.

2Malesherbes displayed a keen interest in North American trees and plants: Grosclaude, Malesherbes, pp. 477–80.

3John Bartram, Jr. (1743–1812), apparently assumed the responsibility for most of his father’s nursery and plantation there in 1771: XVIII, 89. Marbois visited in October, 1779, and found the garden sadly neglected. By the early 1780’s John and his brother William (XVI, 9n) had restored the garden and resumed the seed business: DAB; Edmund Berkeley and Dorothy Smith Berkeley, The Life and Travels of John Bartram: From Lake Ontario to the River St. John (Tallahassee, 1982), pp. 15, 301–2. On Oct. 2, 1780, Malesherbes asked WTF to ship three packets of seeds unknown in America, from his own garden. APS.

4Rodney’s fleet had outnumbered the Spanish fleet he defeated by twenty-one ships of the line to eleven: Dull, French Navy, p. 178.

5The rivalry between the partisans of Gluck and Piccinni, which continued into 1780, has been described in XXVII, 432n.

6Volange, a French actor, attracted a large following at the popular théâtres des boulevards in the role of Janot in Les battus payent l’amende. The royal family sent for him at Versailles. His bust was sculpted as Janot at Sèvres, and fashions, hairstyles, and soups were “à la Janot.” Although Volange’s debut at the Théâtre Italien was a success, in other roles his performance was not up to expectations, and he returned to the boulevards: Larousse. For contemporary appreciations of “Janot’s” talent and descriptions of the controversy see Jour. de Paris, Feb. 23, 28, March 2; Bachaumont Mémoires secrets, XV, 54–7, 59–60, 81–2, 107; Maurice Tourneux, ed., Correspondance littéraire, philosophique et critique par Grimm, Diderot, Raynal, Meister, etc. (16 vols., Paris, 1877–82), XII, 379; Métra, Correspondance secrète, IX, 86–8, 288–9.

7Louis-François-Armand de Vignerot, maréchal duc de Richelieu (1696–1788), married Jeanne-Catherine-Josèphe de Lavaulx de Sommerécourt, comtesse de Rothe (1738–1816), the widow of Edmond de Rothe, on Feb. 15. A military man and dedicated libertine, this friend of Voltaire had long provided matter for conversation: Walpole Correspondence, VII, 204n; Jacques Levron, Un libertin fastueux: Le maréchal de Richelieu (Paris, 1971), pp. 409–10. See also Bachaumont, Mémoires secrets, XV, 40, 41–2, 48–50, 61; Métra, Correspondance secrète, IX, 224–5.

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