Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Stephen Sayre, 12 June 1782

From Stephen Sayre3

ALS: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Paris 12th. June 1782—


As the English Commissioners of peace may probably demand the Island of Porto Rico, either as a preliminary article, or endeavour to obtain it in the course of negotiation;4 I beg leave to offer the following Idea to your Excellency’s consideration.

Whether you cannot, with the aid of the French Minister who must see, clearly, the national Interest greatly benefited, turn this object so as to let the Island, hereafter become free, & open to a commerce with all the world.

If the powers in treaty say to England “we cannot suffer this Island to be monopolized by you; but we have no objections to your profiting by its Market &c &c.” The object remains still extremely important to her & worth her pursuit.

I need not state any arguments as to the advantages America would gain by such a measure. We all know them to be of high importance. Your Excellency may be assured of having the thanks & praise of every person now living, & of all posterity for opening such a profitable Market for us.

It is an object of so much weight, that I am persuaded your Excellency will do well to write for Instructions respecting it; should there be time for them, even before a definitive Treaty.

I hope you will not impute this Letter to any impatient desire of medling in public affairs, but to the ardent desire of serving my Country. If you please—myself: for if adopted, I should hope to have your Excellency’s support in recommending me to the Government of it—most certainly, there is some merit in promoteing an Affair, by which, all the world must be benefited: for even Spain will not be injured by it.

I am with great Respect & Consideration your Excellency’s most obedient Servant

Stephen Sayre

To his Excellency Benjamin Franklin Esqr &c &c

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Who spent most of 1782 in Paris: John R. Alden, Stephen Sayre: American Revolutionary Adventurer (Baton Rouge, La., and London, 1983), pp. 132–6. We have no record of a response to the present letter, Sayre’s last to BF as far as we know.

4The Spanish island eventually did figure in the negotiations. Shelburne suggested it as a partial equivalent for Gibraltar: Dull, French Navy, p. 321.

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