Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from James Lovell, 9 March 1781

From James Lovell

ALS: Historical Society of Pennsylvania; copy and transcript: National Archives

March 9. 1781

Honble. Sir

I forward Gazettes Journals & some particular Resolves, by Way of Amsterdam.

The Arrival of the Ariel has given us Dispatches from you long expected—of June 1st. Aug 9. Decr. 2d & 3d.3

Congress had, before the Receipt of your Letters Feb. 19th, written to Mr. Adams Jany. 10, and signified their Concurrence in Opinion with Ct. de Vergennes as to the Time & Circumstances of announceing his (Mr. A’s) Powers to Gr. Britain.4 They had also on Decr. 12th. expressed their Sentiments upon his Letter of June 26th. inclosing to them his Correspondence relative to the Act of the 18. of March for calling in the old Paper Money.5 I send you Extracts from the Journals for your further Information on those Points. And I shall forward, yet for a Time, all Acts of Congress intended for your Guidance whenever they are finished. But I most earnestly look for the Appointment of a Secretary for foreign Affairs, agreably to their Determinations of Janry. 10.6 Such an Officer may authoritatively communicate his Opinions, and in many Ways make your Station more easy & reputable to you than it can have been under great Want of Information of our Circumstances.

Your most humb Servant

James Lovell

Honble. Doctr. Franklin

Addressed: Honorable / Doctor Franklin / Minister plenipotentiary / of the United States of America / France

Endorsed: Mr Lovel with Copies of Resolves March 9 1781

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3John Paul Jones’s Ariel reached Philadelphia on Feb. 18: Morison, Jones, p. 308. BF had written Lovell on Dec. 2, 1780 (above), and Huntington on June 1 (XXXII, 457–8), Aug. 9 (XXXIII, 160–6), Dec. 2 and 3 (both above). The letters were received on Feb. 19, 1781: JCC, XIX, 174.

4JA’s disputes with Vergennes over, among other things, his announcing his powers as peace commissioner had led him to leave France for the Netherlands in July, 1780: XXXIII, 52n, 128n. Informed of the disagreement, Congress issued a mild rebuke to JA: JCC, XVIII, 1194; XIX, 41–2; Adams Papers, IX, 519; Irving Brant, James Madison: the Nationalist 1780–1787 (Indianapolis and New York, 1948), p. 136.

5In this case Congress had expressed its satisfaction about his conduct: JCC, XVIII, 1147. In June, JA and Vergennes had begun a dispute over the March, 1780, devaluation of American currency, which had harmed French creditors and currency holders: XXXII, 573n.

6The date on which Congress had resolved to establish a Department of Foreign Affairs: JCC, XIX, 42–4; Smith, Letters, XVI, 458. On Jan. 17 Arthur Lee and Robert R. Livingston were nominated for the position of secretary for foreign affairs (JCC, XIX, 65), but it took seven months and four ballots for the latter to be elected: Brant, Madison, pp. 122–4.

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