Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Jonathan Williams, Jr., 7 March 1780

From Jonathan Williams, Jr.

ALS: University of Pennsylvania Library; copy: Yale University Library

Nantes March 7. 1780.

Dear & hond Sir

Doctor Bancroft gave me your Favour of the 26 Feb.3 & Mr Chaumonts Letters desiring me to send as much as I could of the Cloathing to Rochelle with the greatest Expedition. I accordingly went to Work to Bale up what was ready & had loaded two Waggons after a deal of Trouble & Difficulty with the Custom House. When the Waggons went to the Barrier there was a Demand of 1/30th of the Whole value for les Droits dominal of the Duc de Fitz James4 this would have been a Sum of near 2000 Livres only for those two waggon loads. I consulted with Doctor Bancroft & we determined to prefer water Carriage rather than submit to this exorbitant Demand. I was obliged to allow a Dedomagement to the Waggoners for their expences & loss of Time. I have now got those & a few Bales more on board a small Vessell which goes away to night & I hope will be at la Rochelle in Time.5 I have done all that was possible to do & have got away but a small quantity at last but I expect it will be as much as the Frigate will take, for Ships of War have in general but little Room. I am convinced of the old proverb “the more haste the worst Speed.”6 This hurrying away a Part of the Supplys delays the remainder. It is in general best to give reasonable Time for An Operation & I believe in the End it turns out more expeditious.— I did not mistake Socks for Stocks for it is mentioned in the Order “of the same Quality with the Feet of the Stockings.” Being in suspence about the Buckles & knowing the necessity of Dispatch I had ventured to order them. I have since countermanded the Order but I have agreed to take all that are ready, which is reasonable. I have issued but few Bills yet & those only to procure Cash to replace the advances I had made for the Shoes Linnen & workmanship which all require Cash: you have inclosed a List of what I have hitherto issued.—7 I will keep on the shoemaking but as it goes slowly, when it goes on well I will have Leather ready for the Time of Shipping. I inclose you a Letter for Mr Poulze as you desire it is a Copy of my last, but I have altered the Date.8

I will take care of the Boxes of Types as you direct as soon as they arrive.9

Mr Gridly one of my arbitrators had desired me to request you to order him a Passage in the Alliance as his Health requires his immediate Return.1 I told him I would write to you & I wish you may oblige him but I wish more that you may favour my uncle with a Passage out. I have many Reasons for wishing he was with his Family but his long absence is of itself a sufficiently strong one.2

I have a few Pounds of Babery or myrtle Wax of which I will send you some by the return of Doctor Bancroft. I shall be obliged to you if you will give me a Receipt how to make Crown Soap of it,3 I want to try the Experiment & it may serve to make this Wax an Article of Commerce here, at present it is not known.

I am ever with great Respect Your dutifull & affectionate Kinsman

Jona Williams J

My Wife joins in Duty & Love to you. Bien des Excuses a M. Chaumont pour n’avoir pas repondu ses derniers par ce Courier. Je le ferois par l’ordinaire prochain.

Notation: J Williams Mar 7. 80

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]


4Charles, duc de Fitz-James (1712–1787): DBF.

5After paying the wagoners 268 l.t., JW shipped 48 casks, bales, and trunks on the Union, Capt. Bureau, who was given 100 l.t. to “depart directly.” Bureau later sued JW when orders came to redirect the goods to Brest; they were relanded at Paimboeuf (see JW’s letter of March 27). Account XXIV (XXXI, 3); JW to the Committee for Foreign Affairs, March 7 (Yale University Library).

6A proverb that Poor Richard never uttered, but that BF undoubtedly had heard. Introduced by Plato, it was first rendered in English in the fourteenth century and became commonplace thereafter. John Heywood used it in Proverbs (1546): Burton Stevenson, ed., The Home Book of Proverbs, Maxims and Familiar Phrases (New York, 1948), p. 1085.


8JW had written to Farmer General Jacques Paulze requesting that he not charge duty on the goods being shipped for the army. JW sent the letter to BF on Jan. 10, asking him to write a supporting note and deliver it. Having heard nothing, JW asked BF on Feb. 19 whether or not it had ever been forwarded: XXXI, 376, 506.

9This was a font of brevier cast at BF’s foundry at Passy for the American printer James Watson, and packed in three boxes. It was to join the two boxes of type for him that JW had placed on the Alliance in May, 1779: XXIX, 347; JW to “the commanding officer on board the Alliance,” April 23, 1780, Yale University Library.

1Joseph Gridley reminded BF of his request on March 28, below.

2John Williams had been in France for sixteen months: XXVIII, 136. By the end of March, his travel plans changed; see Gridley’s letter of March 28.

3Crown soap was a Franklin family secret. BF had given the recipe to Jane Mecom, and at the end of 1778 had advised her son-in-law to make it. BF did not have the recipe with him in Paris, and JW would have to wait until 1785, when he visited Jane Mecom in Boston, for the recipe and a demonstration: I, 348; XXVIII, 364; XXX, 149–50; Van Doren, Franklin-Mecom, p. 242 et seq.

Index Entries