Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from M——— L———, 12 March 1781

From M—— L——7

AL: American Philosophical Society

ce 12. mars 1781.

Foible Traduction de ce Vers Sur M. francklin.

Eripuit cœlo fulmen et Sceptra tyrannis.

Quel problême il osa résoudre;

que ne lui doit pas l’univers!

aux cieux il arracha La foudre,

et le Scéptre aux tyrans des mers.

par M. L. Rüe de la marche

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7We cannot identify the writer, but for other translations of Turgot’s epigram written around this time, see Nogaret’s one-line offering of March 2, and the French verse translation we discuss in annotation to that letter.

Another letter, undated, unsigned, in English, and in a hand we do not recognize, offers yet a different interpretation. Addressed “To Doctor Franklin at his Hotel,” it reads:


Reading your celebrated Motto I conceived the presumptuous thought of attempting to translate it. I was not so stupid as to think I could render it Justice; it is too pithy; whether I have succeeded, in anywise, tolerably, I leave totally to your Judgment.
Eripuit Fulmen Cœlo, Sceptrumque Tyrannis.
From Heav’n the Thunder, his Great Genius bore;
And usurp’d Sceptre, from proud Tyrants tore.”

This document is filed at the APS along with two small pages of poetry copied by L’Air de Lamotte: Turgot’s epigram (“Vers latin d’un auteur inconnu, pour être mis au bas du portrait de M. franklin”), the two verse translations by d’Alembert (XXVI, 670n), and the opening two stanzas of Morellet’s drinking song (XXX, 48–50).

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