Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Robert R. Livingston, 13[–14] September 1782

From Robert R. Livingston

LS and L:5 University of Pennsylvania Library; AL (draft): New-York Historical Society; copy and transcript: National Archives

Philadelphia, 13th[–14] Septr. 1782


I have nothing to add to mine of the 5th instant, but to congratulate you on the safe arrival of two Vessels from Holland, having on board the goods left by Commodore Gillon,6 & to present you in the name of Mr Paine with three copies of a late work of his, addressed to the Abbé Raynal, in which he takes notice of some of the many errors with which this work abounds—7 The Abbé has a fine imagination, & he indulges it— The enclosed resolution contains an important fact which I am using every means to ascertain, but from the ill Success I have hitherto met with in every similar attempt I am fearful that it will be very long before I can effect it.8

I have the honor to be, Sir with great respect & esteem Your most obt. humble Servt.

Robt R Livingston

No. 17
His Excellency Benjamin Franklin


Since writing the above, I have received the enclosed resolutions of Congress— I have already anticipated all that can be said upon the subject of the last—1 The2 Melancholy Tale of our Necessitys Is sufficiently known to you. It has been too often repeated to need reiteration. The SuperIntdt. who writes from an empty treasury amidst perpetual duns will speake most feelingly. In short Money must be had at any rate whether we have Peace or War.}3 France haveing all ready done much for us & it not being probable that we shall extend our demands beyond the present she may think it wise not to let us open accounts with a new banker since the debtor is always more or less under obligations to the Creditor.

I have the honor to be sir With great respect & esteem Your most obt humble servt.

Robt. R Livingston

No. 18

Endorsements: No 17 & 18 Mr Secry. Livingston Sept. 13. 1782— Abbé Raynal’s Work— Extreme Want of Money / No 44

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5Sent by the packet Washington. The duplicate, listed here as an L, was signed for Livingston by a secretary (University of Pa. Library) and sent by the ship Nonsuch, and the now-missing triplicate by the ship Heer Adams. The National Archives copy and transcript, both of which are misdated Sept. 12, list the conveyances.

6One of these vessels, the Heer Adams, arrived on the evening of Sept. 10, bringing goods worth £22,677 sterling: Morris Papers, VI, 351, 371–3; Smith, Letters, XIX, 149. The other probably was the neutral ship mentioned by Barclay as being bound for Philadelphia: XXXVII, 494.

7Paine’s Letter Addressed to the Abbe Raynal, on the Affairs of North-America: in which the Mistakes in the Abbe’s Account of the Revolution of America are Corrected and Cleared Up, which was dated Aug. 21 and published in early September: Philip S. Foner, ed., The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine (2 vols., New York, 1945), II, 211–63, 1211n; Charles Evans et al., comps., American Bibliography … (14 vols., Chicago and Worcester, 1903–59), VI, 179 (no. 17651).

8Livingston enclosed (as one item) the related resolutions of Sept. 10. The first instructed him to compile accurate figures of “the slaves and other property which have been carried off or destroyed in the course of the war by the enemy,” and to transmit this information to the peace commissioners. The second instructed him, “in the meantime,” to inform the commissioners that “many thousands of slaves and other property to a very great amount have been carried off or destroyed by the enemy.” JCC, XXIII, 562–3. Livingston’s enclosure is now missing, though L’Air de Lamotte copied it into the legation letterbooks of the peace negotiations. BF enclosed a copy in his letter to Oswald, Nov. 26, below.

9This postscript must have been added on Sept. 14, the date of the congressional resolutions it discusses.

1There were three resolutions of Sept. 14. The first informed all American ministers in Europe that Robert Morris would henceforth be in charge of managing all funds obtained in Europe. The second indicated that “a sum not exceeding four millions of dollars, exclusive of the money which Mr. Adams may obtain by the loan now negotiating in Holland, be borrowed in Europe on the faith of the United States of America, and applied towards defraying the expences … for carrying on the war.” The third instructed BF to communicate that resolution to Louis XVI, along with assurances of gratitude and an explanation of the necessity of a new application to him: JCC, XXIII, 576–9.

Individual copies of the latter two resolutions are with BF’s papers at the Hist. Soc. of Pa. He endorsed the first, “More Money to be borrowed.” He endorsed the second, “Necessity of the Application for more Money.” Robert Morris enclosed copies of these resolutions in his letter of Sept. 27, appending the latest resolution of Sept. 23. BF endorsed that sheet, “Money! Money!” (University of Pa. Library.)

2The remainder of this paragraph is in cipher, except for a few scattered words. We print BF’s decipher.

3BF had L’Air de Lamotte copy the text of this postscript down to the brace (which he added). He sent that extract to Vergennes on Nov. 8.

4A reference to Cipher No. 4: XXXVI, 262.

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