Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Martha Laurens, 29 December 1781

To Martha Laurens

AL (draft): Library of Congress

Passy, Dec. 29. 1781


I received your very sensible Letter of the 14th past.3 Your Brother Col. Laurens being here when I received the former,4 I informed him of the Steps I had then taken respecting your good Father, and requested him to answer your Letter for me. I did suppose he had done it; but his great and constant Occupation while here, might occasion his omitting it. The Purport was, that on a Report of your Father’s being harshly treated, I wrote in his Behalf to an old Friend, Sir Grey Cooper, Secretary of the Treasury, complaining of it;5 whose Answer was, that he had enquired, and found the Report groundless; and he sent me enclos’d a Letter he receiv’d from the Lieutenant of the Tower, assuring him that Mr Laurens was treated with great Kindness, was very sensible of it, thankful for it, & frequently express’d his Satisfaction.6 On this I became more easy on his Account; But a little before I receiv’d your Letter, I had one (from Mr Benja Vaughan, who is connected with the Family of Mr Manning) which inform’d me that Mr Laurens was really in Want of Necessaries; and desired to know if no Provision was made for his Subsistence.7 I wrote immediately to Mr. Hodgson, in whose Hands I had lodg’d some Money, requesting him to hold 100£ of it at the Disposition of Mr Laurens, & to acquaint Mr Vaughan with it.8 About this Time I received two Letters; one from Mr Burke, Member of Parliament, complaining that his Friend Gen. Burgoyne, (in England on his Parole) was reclaim’d & recall’d by Congress, and requesting I would find some means of permitting him to remain.1 The other was from the Congress inclosing a Resolve that impowered me to offer General Burgoyne in Exchange for Mr Laurens.2 Perceiving by Mr Burke’s Letter that he was very desirous of obtaining his Friend’s Liberty, & having no immediate Intercourse with the British Ministry, I thought I could not do better than to enclose the Resolve in my Answer to his Letter, & request him to negociate the Exchange.3 When I received yours, I was in Expectation of having soon an Answer from Mr Burke & Mr. Hodgson, which would enable me to give you more Satisfactory Information. I therefore delay’d writing to you from Post to Post till I should hear from them; and fearing from the length of time, that my Letters had miscarried, I sent Copies of them.4 It is but yesterday that I received an Answer from Mr Hodgson, dated the 21st Instant in which he writes me, “I received your favour of the 19th ultimo. I immediately acquainted Mr Vaughan with your Directions concerning the Supplying Mr Laurens. He has been acquainted therewith; but hitherto no Application has been made to me for the Money: Whenever it is, you may be assured it shall be complied with.”— No Answer is come to my hands from Mr. Burke; but I see by a Newspaper Mr Hodgson sends me, that he has endeavoured to execute the Commission.5 I enclose that Paper for your Satisfaction, together with a Copy of your Father’s Petition to Parliament, on which I do not find that they have yet come to any Result:6 but observing that he makes no Complaint in that Petition, of his being pinch’d in the Article of Subsistance, I hope that part of our Intelligence from London may be a Mistake. I shall however, you may depend, leave nothing undone that is in my Power, to obtain his Release; and I assure you that the thought of the Pleasure it must afford a Child, whose Mind is of so tender a Sensibility, & fill’d with such true filial Duty & Affection, will be an additional Spur to my Endeavours. I suppose Mr. Adams has inform’d you that he has order’d another 100£ Sterling to be paid Mr Laurens: and I hope you will soon have the Happiness of hearing that he is at Liberty. With very great Regard, I have the Honour to be, Madam,

[In William Temple Franklin’s hand:] Miss. Lawrens.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Nov. 14, above.

4Presumably BF is referring to her former letter of April 28: XXXIV, 578–9.

5XXXIII, 506–7.

6XXXIV, 87–8.

7We date it [before Nov. 19].

8Above, Nov. 19.

1XXXV, 362–5. BF did not receive it until October: XXXV, 594.

2The June 14 resolution was enclosed with Samuel Huntington’s July 5 letter to BF: XXXV, 221–2; JCC, XX, 647–8.

3XXXV, 594.

4He sent copies to Burke and Hodgson with covering letters dated Dec. 15, which are above. In the interim Laurens’ unwillingness to accept a parole preparatory to the exchange ruined the plan: Laurens Papers, XV, 391–3.

5In a Dec. 17 speech to the House of Commons. Hodgson sent BF the newspaper with his letter of Dec. 21, above.

6At Burke’s suggestion, Laurens on Dec. 1 drafted a petition asking for his freedom: Laurens Papers, XV, 390–1, 394, 456–8; Stevens, Facsimiles, X, 981.

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