Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from David Hartley, 15 June 1781

From David Hartley

ALS: American Philosophical Society; copy: Archives du Ministère des affaires étrangères1

London June 15 1781

My Dear friend

My Cousin Mr Samuel Hartley has thoughts of taking a journey to Paris upon some mercantile business2 and having myself a month or two without engagements to dispose of it has occurred both to him and to me that I shd like very well to accompany him. However I think it best to inform you of this, that I may know whether it wd be proper for me to come to Paris in the present situation of things.3 I wd not do any thing secretly or unbecoming my situation in life. I have been in Parliament & probably may again.4 The public Sentiments wch I have held there are known. I am an Englishman and must carry that character with me whereever I go, upon those principles of honour & justice wch are due between all nations. Considering myself therefore in some degree still upon the line of public concerns tho not actually in Parliament, I wd not take any step by surprize and therefore I wd not wish to go to Paris without the knowledge of the ministers in france, but if with their consent it wd make me extremely happy to see you as an old friend whom I love and esteem, and with whom I shd be glad to converse, & if possible to think of some means of putting a Stop to the horrors of universal wars. I have the honour of being known to Monsr de Maurepas, & to Monsr de Vergennes (as well as to a late Minister Monsr Neckar) if I might trouble you with my respects to one or both of them for their consent (and a passport if necessary) I shd be infinitely happy to see you again.5 My thoughts are still set and ever will be upon peace, just and honorable to all parties. You may perhaps have heard or seen by the votes of the House of Commons that in my absence out of Parliament, my brother has moved a Conciliatory bill in the same form as I did last year, viz so as to give full scope for an honorable and universal accommodation and peace.6 I do not know that there can be any harm in my taking a jaunt to Paris, I shd at least have the happiness of seeing you and perhaps some thing might arise by personal communication, for the public peace.— Pray favour me with an answer as soon as convenient. My Cousin’s business will require him to set out soon but he will wait till I can receive your answer. God bless you and prosper all your endeavours for peace. I am Ever Your affectionate friend


To Dr Franklin &c &c &c

Addressed: To Dr Franklin / at Passy / near Paris

Notation: Ostende 19 juin 1781 Sous couvert de v: T: h: S. frans. Bine. / attaché à ma Personne icy en France

1BF forwarded a copy of this letter to Vergennes immediately after receiving it. The copy bears a notation in BF’s hand,” Copy of a Letter from Mr D. Hartley to BF”: to Vergennes, June 27, below.

2Samuel Hartley, who had shipping interests in the West Indies, had also visited Paris the preceding year on business: XXXI, 353–4, XXXIII, 207–8, 332n, 369. His present concern was apparently the seizure of a ship carrying drygoods and 205 blacks that had sailed from St. Eustatius in February. All the documents concerning the case were being gathered so that claims could be made in Paris: Samuel Hartley to WTF, July 3 and Aug. 18 (both at the APS), and WTF’s reply, July 17 (Library of Congress).

3In 1778 he had made an unofficial visit to discuss the possibility of reconciliation. Later that year he offered to come again: XXVI, lxv, 334–6, 345, 371; XXVII, 503.

4He was defeated in his bid for reelection to the House of Commons in September, 1780: XXXIII, 320.

5Presumably Hartley met Maurepas, the King’s chief minister (XXVIII, 80n), and Necker, who had resigned in May as minister of finances, when he met Vergennes in 1778: XXVI, 334–5, 345.

6Hartley proposed a conciliatory bill in Parliament on June 27, 1780; it was defeated. On May 30, 1781, his half-brother Winchcombe Henry Hartley (XXII, 260n) moved for peace with America: XXXIII, 82; Cobbett, Parliamentary History, XXII, 336; Frank O’Gorman, The Rise of Party in England: the Rockingham Whigs, 1760–82 (London, 1975), p. 439.

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