Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Francis Dana, 6 April 1781

From Francis Dana

Copies:3 National Archives (two), Massachusetts Historical Society; transcript: National Archives

Paris April 6th. 1781. Hotel Valois, Rue Richelieu


Having agreably to my Instructions,4 as well as my own inclinations, laid before your Excellency all the papers which I have received from Congress, relative to my Mission for the Court of  ,5 and my correspondence with his Excellency the Comte de Vergennes, in consequence of the same, for the benefit of your good Counsel; and as you were so kind, at my particular request, as to introduce me to the Comte at the Conference we had last Wednesday upon the subject of my Mission,6 and heard the whole, I hope you will not think I give you any unnecessary trouble, when I request you to favour me, in writing, with your opinion upon the following matters.

Whether, on the whole, you conceived the Comte to have any objections to the Mission itself? Or,

Whether you considered his Reflections upon the Subject, rather intended as Cautions and Advice to me, respecting the conduct he wou’d wish me to hold in the business?

Whether you supposed him finally to make any real objections to my going to  , in the Character only of a private American Gentleman; and there waiting for the favourable moment for opening my eventual Character? And,

Whether, all circumstances considered, your Excellency thinks it expedient for me to proceed to  , in a private Character only, and there to wait as abovementioned?

You will not, I presume, think I mean any thing particular in my request, when I assure you, I shall likewise ask of Mr: Adams his opinion in writing, upon the same Subject.7 Being directed by Congress to consult you and him, I am desirous only to have it in my power, in case of the death of either of you, to show them I have done so, as well as the result itself; and that I have paid, as I shall do, proper respect and attention to your opinions and advice, in the whole of this business. I am with the greatest Respect & Esteem your Excellency’s most obedient & most humble Servant

F M Dana

P.S. I shall set off for Holland on Sunday morning, and shall chearfully take your Commands.8

First copy

His Excellency Dr: Franklin Minister Plenipotentiary &c.

Notation in Dana’s hand: (8.) Letter from Fra: Dana to Dr: Franklin

Notation: April 6. 1781

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3All three are in Dana’s hand and the two at the National Archives bear his signature.

4As minister designate to the Russian court Dana was ordered to communicate his instructions and powers to BF and JA and avail himself of their advice. The instructions had also advised him that it might be prudent “through them to obtain the sense of the Court of France thereon”: JCC, XVIII, 1168–73.

5Blank in the manuscript, as are two other references to Russia, below. The copy at the Mass. Hist. Soc. says “Petersbourg” for each of the three.

6The preceding Wednesday was April 4. On that morning BF and Dana met with Vergennes, whose cautious response prompted the present queries to BF: Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, IV, 349–51. Vergennes’ implied skepticism was more than justified by the rashness of Dana’s mission, which proved fruitless.

7See Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, IV, 367–70.

8On April 5 BF had given him a passport, illustrated on the facing page.

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