Benjamin Franklin Papers

French Loan Certificate, [15 May 1781]

French Loan Certificate3

Passy, printed by Benjamin Franklin. Forms with MS insertions in blanks, signed:4 American Philosophical Society; Perc S. Brown, Orinda, Cal. (1956) (two)

[May 15, 1781]

11 Pour 750,000 livres

Nous Benjamin Franklin Ministre Plenipotentiare des ETATSUNIS de l’Amerique Septentrionale, en vertu du pouvoir dont nous sommes revetus par le CONGRES desdits Etats, promettons en son nom et solidarement pour lesdits Treize ETATS-UNIS, faire payer & rembourser au Tresor royal de sa Majesté très chretienne le premier Janvier mil sept cent quatre-vingt huit, au domicile de M. Grand, Banquier a Paris, la somme de Sept cent cinquante5 mille livres, argent de France, avec les interets a raison de cinq pour cent, l’an, valeur reçu comptant, a Paris ce 15 Mai— 1781—


La presente ne devant servir que d’une seule & même piece, avec l’ampliation que nous en avons delivrée aujourd’hui.6

B Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3The second installment of the 4,000,000 l.t. loan from the French government whose first payment of 750,000 l.t. was made on Feb. 15: XXXIV, 72n, and see BF’s letters to Washington, May 6, and to Huntington, May 14, above. The remaining 2,500,000 l.t. was paid in three installments. The official dates of those payments are written on the loan certificates: 750,000 l.t. on Aug. 15 (no. 12), 1,000,000 l.t. on Oct. 1 (no. 16), and 750,000 l.t. on Nov. 15 (no. 13). The irregularity in BF’s numbering of those certificates, and certain striking discrepancies between their dates and the dates on which Ferdinand Grand recorded in his accounts having received the sums from the French treasury (Account XXVII), reveal two things: (1) that BF predated and numbered the four certificates for 750,000 l.t. at the moment of the first payment, a time when he still believed that the loan was for three million, and (2) that the loans were in fact transferred to Grand’s care according to a vastly different schedule. The second installment, for which the present certificate is the record, was in fact delivered on March 20, and the “August” payment was made on April 28. This reflects the desperate situation that BF would describe to Vergennes on June 10 (below), where he revealed the degree of the U.S. debt, and the fact that his banker had already secured August’s loan payment in order to meet the flood of bills coming due.

The French government made three additional payments during the period of this volume. BF, believing that the sums were given according to the same terms as the other loans, filled out loan certificates for them. The now-missing certificate no. 14 was undoubtedly for the first of these, 416,000 l.t. on May 30, which was intended for replacing part of the clothing lost on the Marquis de Lafayette (JCC, XXI, 1004). On May 25 (below), BF promised to send Durival a certificate for this payment. On July 18 BF signed certificate no. 15 for 800,000 l.t., which was to help him pay bills of exchange (JCC, XXI, 1004). Certificate no. 17, dated Oct. 30, was for 600,000 l.t. In early 1782, however, when Vergennes reviewed the record of loans for the previous year, he informed BF that these three payments were never meant as French loans, but rather, sums that would be deducted from the Dutch loan. If BF wanted his loan certificates returned to him, that could be arranged: BF to Vergennes, Feb. 15, 1782 (AAE); Vergennes to BF, Feb. 20, 1782 (AAE).

Either drafts or what appear to be final versions of the certificates numbered 12, 13, 15, 16, and 17 are at the APS. Other copies of numbers 12, 13, 15 and 16 were owned by Perc S. Brown (1956).

4For a printing history of these duplicate certificates, printed on either side of a central band of marbling, see XXX, 345n. This is the left-hand side of the pair; the other half is one of the two owned by Perc S. Brown. On this form, BF himself filled in all the blanks, but having made a mistake in the amount of the payment, he retained this as a copy. On the other half, BF filled in the top two lines and the date, and signed his name; all other blanks were filled in by L’Air de Lamotte. The third version we list, also signed by BF, was filled in completely by L’Air de Lamotte.

5BF had originally written “six” and crossed it out.

6This sentence was added by hand to the bottom of each loan certificate beginning with this one.

Index Entries