Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from John Jay, 1 April 1781

From John Jay

ALS (draft): Columbia University Library; copy: Library of Congress

Madrid 1 April 1781

Dr Sir

Notwithstanding my repeated and earnest applications to the Count D Florida Blanca I have as yet been able to obtain only, 34880 dollars of the 150,000 Dollars expressly promised me in Decr. last. He has on the contrary assured me that this promise could not be complied with in less than six Months, it therefore became necessary to communicate my Embarrassments to the Embassador of France and to request his friendly aid & Enterposition. You will perceive by the enclosed Acct. that the Bills I have accepted5 & which still remain to be paid (exclusive of those at 2 Months Sight for the paymt of which you authorized me to draw upon you) amount to 231,303 Dollrs. of which

89,083 will be payable this Month
96288 in May
18027 in June
9,025 in July
15,086 in Augt.
3794 in Septr.

The Embassador was very sensible of the pernicious Consequences which wd follow a protest of these bills and I must do from [for?] him the Justice to say interested himself warmly in endeavouring to extricate me from that Necessity. He has had different Conferences with the Count D F B. on the Subject & yesterday he promised the Embassador positively to pay the 89083 which will be due in April in the Course of six Months in six equal paymts. reckoning from next May—but as this Money still left me without Relief as to the April Bill, he engaged the Marquis DYranda to advance the Sums necessary to pay them, & which I shall accordingly receive from him— thus my dear Sir I have been as it were reprieved by the kind offices of the french Embassador from the Necessity of protesting any of these Bills due this Month, but every ensuing month will bring with it new Dangers and Sollicitudes, & particularly the Month of May in the Course of which I shall be called upon for no less than 96,288 Doll.— I am in a cruel Situation, and without the least Expectation of Succour except from france. I therefore think it necessary to inform you of the delicate State of our Affairs here by Express— and to entreat you to use your utmost endeavours to provide me by his Return with Funds adequate to the Bills accepted and which at present amount to 142,220 without including either those which may yet arrive or the 89083 due this Month & for the paymt of which I expect to reimburse the Marqs. DYranda with the Money promised by the Minister on the monthly payments before mentioned.

The Marqs DYrand whom I saw Yesterday at the french Embassadors has further agreed at the Embassadors Request to furnish me with the further Sum of 142,220 Doll. as I shall have occasion for it, provided Mr Grand will accept his Drafts to that Amount. It is therefore of the last Importance that Arrangements for this purpose be immediately taken with that Gent. & that I receive by the Return of the Express his order on the Marquis to furnish me, at least with this Sum of 142.220 Dollrs.— without which it will be impossible for me to pay these Bills—

The Embassador will also write by this Courier and I have little Doubt but that Your Court will generously interpose on this as they have on several other Occasions, to prevent Events so prejudicial to america in particular and the Common Cause in gen.

I am also constrained to add that our Situation here is daily becoming more disagreable from the Want of our Salaries—to be obliged to contract Debts, & live on Credit is terrible— I have not to this Day recd a shilling from am. and we should inded have been greatly distressed had it not been for your good offices. Endeavor I beseech you to provide us with supplies on this account, and deliver me if possible from the many disagreable Sensations to which such a Variety of unpleasant Circumstances naturally create. Remember that new Bills are still arriving.—

Be pleased to communicate this Letter to Mr Laurens who I am persuaded will chearfully afford you all the Aid in his power—

I have directed the Courier to wait your Orders & then return without further Delay—6

I am dr. Sir Your friend & humble Servt.

J. J

P.S. You will perceive from the inclosed acct. that I shall be under a necessity of drawing upon you for 10 or 12000 Dollars on acct of the 25000—before it will be possible to hear from you on the Subject.—7

Note in Jay’s hand?: To Dr Franklin 1 April 1781 sent 2d Inst. by Express

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5Jay did not accept all the bills presented to him. Congress on July 19, 1780, had resolved to draw a bill of exchange on Jay for £1,000 sterling so that the Board of Admiralty could purchase and import duck and ship chandlery: JCC, XVII, 645. When a M. Chantel presented part of the bill (for $4,444) to Jay he refused it because it did not bear Henry Laurens’ endorsement. Chantel then brought or sent it to BF, who accepted it on April 20 after John Laurens approved the arrangement. Chantel apparently signed a statement that he was transferring the bill and described the circumstances, a draft of which (in BF’s hand) is at the APS. It indicates that the statement was signed in Nantes and that Chantel was leaving for Turin on April 28 or 29; undoubtedly he was the friend of Giambatista Beccaria who had visited BF in 1779 (XXXI, 128, 246).

6Jay’s courier was Robert Rougeolle, to whom BF paid 600 l.t. on April 12: Account XXIII (XXIX, 3).

7For the $25,000 see BF to Jay, Jan. 27. The copy contains an extra paragraph in the postscript: “I have requested the Favr. of your Grandson to execute some little Commissions for me & you will oblige me by furnishing him with money for the purpose.” On April 1 Jay and Carmichael sent shopping lists to WTF (APS). Among the items they requested were 28 yards of fine fringe edging for mourning ruffles, embroidered patterns of white and pink shoes for Jay, gauze handkerchiefs with borders suitable to the shoes, gentlemen’s lace ruffles, and, for Mrs. Jay, a repeating watch and chain, a summer fan, and a lady’s English pocket book with the necessary implements. An invoice (April 12–July 27, 1781, attested by BF on the latter date) of the purchases he made is also at the APS.

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