Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Vergennes, 7 September 1780

To Vergennes

LS: Archives du Ministère des affaires étrangères; two copies: Library of Congress

Passy, Sept. 7. 1780


I received the Letter your Excellency did me the Honour of Writing to me the 4th Instant, on the Appointment of Consuls.— I have not yet received any Orders or Instructions from the Congress relating to that Object. I shall transmit to that Body a Copy of your Excelly.’s Letter;4 but as the Office of Consul has not been heretofore in Use in America, and they may therefore not be so well accquainted with the usual Functions & Powers of such an Officer in Europe, as to send me Instructions equally compleat & perfect with those your Excelly. could send to M. de la Luzerne, if the Convention were to be treated there, I would submit it to your Judgment whether that Method may not be the best and shortest.—5 As it is a Matter of the same general Nature with others that are enumerated among the Powers of Congress in the Articles of Confederation tho’ not particularly mentioned:6 And as the Grant in the 29th Article of the Treaty is to the States United, and not to each separately and farther, as the having a Consul for each State, or thirteen American Consuls in each port of France, would be of more Expence & Inconvenience than of real Utility, I cannot imagine that the Authority of Congress to make the necessary Convention will be disputed by the particular States.

With the greatest Respect, I have the honour to be, Sir, Your Excellency’s, most obedient & most humble Servant

B Franklin

His Exy. Ct De Vergennes.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4He does not appear to have done so.

5In July, 1781, La Luzerne proposed a consular convention: JCC, XXI, 792–804.

6This was an issue still to be decided, even after the Articles of Confederation were ratified on March 1, 1781; see our annotation of Vergennes to BF, Sept. 4.

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