Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Samuel Huntington, [27 December 1780]

From Samuel Huntington

LS: American Philosophical Society; draft:9 National Archives; copy: South Carolina Historical Society

[December 27, 1780]

Additional Instructions to the honorable Doctr. Benjamin Franklin.


Since your last Instructions1 Congress have thought it expedient to send Col. John Laurens with powers to negotiate specially the important Affairs to which they more immediately relate.2 This gentleman from the nature of his services & situation has had opportunities of information which peculiarly qualify him for giving to his most Christian Majesty a more lively idea of our circumstances of our indispensible wants and of the great advantages which must result to the Allies from his Majesty’s complying with our requests.3

The negotiation is besides so critically important that it was deemed highly requisite by the Mission of this special Minister to guard against the accident of your want of health and the consequent delay making the application.

Notwithstanding this appointment should the duplicates of the dispatches reach you before this Minister’s arrival you will consider it as the desire of Congress that you take with all possible expedition every step in your power for effecting the business or at least for disposing his most Christian Majesty and his Ministers to take a favorable impression from the representations which Col. Laurens from his advantages of fuller information, may be better able to make.

He is instructed and it is well known to be his own disposition to avail himself of your information & influence. And Congress4 doubt not that the success of the measure will be much promoted by the Assistance he will derive from you. And they desire you to consider your Attention to him as a matter which will be very satisfactory to Congress & advantageous to your country.

Done in Congress at Philadelphia the twenty seventh day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred & Eighty, and in the fifth year of our Independence.

Saml. Huntington President

Attest Chas Thomson secy.

Endorsed: Additional Instruction to BF. Dec. 27. 80

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9In the hand of North Carolina delegate Thomas Burke, who with Thomas McKean and James Duane had been appointed the previous day to prepare it: JCC, XVIII, 1193, 1197–9.

1Above, Nov. 28.

2On Dec. 9 John Laurens, Alexander Hamilton, Alexander McDougall, and Jonathan Trumbull, Jr., were nominated for the post of envoy extraordinary. Two days later Laurens was elected unanimously and on the 21st he accepted reluctantly, having preferred that the post be given to Hamilton. That day Congress voted to change his title to minister and dropped any reference to his acting in conjunction with BF (for which see our headnote to Huntington’s Nov. 28 instructions): JCC, XVIII, 1138, 1141, 1177–8; Idzerda, Lafayette Papers, III, 252, 254, 257–8, 267; Smith, Letters, XVI, 437, 443, 459; “Mission of Col. Laurens,” I, 14–15; Laurens to Huntington, Dec. 21, 1780 (National Archives). BF’s supporters in Congress fought a losing battle to substitute appointment of a secretary for that of an envoy: Smith, Letters, XVI, 406–7n, 461, 475, 542. They, however, did prevent a vote on recalling him, a move which had been discussed in committee: ibid., 452, 454n.

3The implication is that a military officer was best qualified to ask for military supplies. Washington states this explicitly in his letter of Jan. 15, below. Lt. Col. Laurens had been an aide-de-camp to Washington and, after refusing an appointment as BF’s secretary, fought at Charleston, where he was captured. Exchanged in November, he wished to return to service with the southern American army: XXX, 544n; Richard K. Showman et al., eds., The Papers of General Nathanael Greene (9 vols. to date, Chapel Hill and London, 1976–), VI, 462–3.

4The draft originally contained an additional passage at this point: “having a high Sense of your Experience, Wisdom, Love of your Country, and the Esteem entertained for you by the Court at which you reside.” At the end of the previous sentence, BF wrote “Counsels” above the word “influence.”

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