Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Robert R. Livingston, 18 September 1782

From Robert R. Livingston

Three LS and L:7 University of Pennsylvania Library; AL (draft): New-York Historical Society; transcript: National Archives

Philadelphia 18th. Septr. 1782


Just after closing my dispatches, I was favoured with yours of April and the 25th. & 29th. of June—8 The ships that brought them were so unfortunate as to be chased into the Delaware by a superior force— The Eagle was driven a shore and sunk— The Papers and Money were however hapily saved, and part of the Crew, but Captain Latouch not having been since heard of is supposed to be taken— The other ship has arrived safe with all the Passengers of both Ships.9

As I am just about to leave town for a short time, I will not touch upon the important subjects mentioned in your Letters, which will on account of my abssence be committed to a special Committee—1 I would only observe to you, that the Resolution in my last shews the sense of Congress on the subject of money matters2 and will urge you to follow their Instructions at all Events: on their success depends being able to go on, if the War continues or to set down in Peace if Peace should come. An Army is not to be disbanded without Money nor is Money to be got in a Country distressed as ours is untill we have had a little breathing spel.

You will see by the anexed Resolutions, that Congress have refused to accept Mr Laurens’s resignation, and that they have made some alteration in your powers—3 I send the paper which contain the little news we have, and am Sir with great Respect and Esteem your most obed. humble Servant,

Robt R Livingston

His Excellency Benjamin Franklin
No. 19.

Endorsed: No 19 Mr Secry. Livingston Sept. 18. 1782 Extreme Occasion for Money

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7We publish the first LS, whose enciphered passage (discussed below) was deciphered by WTF. The other two LS (neither of which was deciphered) are both marked “triplicate,” and the L is marked “duplicate.” According to the transcript the present text was carried by the packet Washington, while the duplicate was carried by the ship Nonsuch.

8Livingston was confused about the date of the April letter; in his draft, he first wrote “25” but amended that to “18th.” The duplicate retains the first date, while the triplicates contain the second. BF’s only extant letters to Livingston in April are dated April 8 and 12 (XXXVII, 112–14, 137–9). The June letters are in XXXVII, 535–9, 565–7.

9The frigates Aigle and Gloire crossed the Atlantic together: XXXVII, 539–40n. The captain of the former, Louis-René-Madeleine Le Vassor de La Touche (XXVII, 78n; XXXIII, 151n), was taken prisoner to New York and then to England: Six, Dictionnaire biographique; G. Rutherford, “The Case of M. de la Touche,” Mariner’s Mirror, XXXIV (1948), 34–41. Most of the 70 barrels of specie (a total of 1,000,000 l.t.) carried by the Aigle were saved: Lee Kennett, The French Forces in America, 1780–1783 (Westport, Conn., and London, 1977), p. 67. See also Gaz. de Leyde, Nov. 15, 1782 (sup.).

1In his June 25 letter, BF had mentioned Sweden’s desire for a commercial treaty with the United States (XXXVII, 538). A congressional committee consisting of Arthur Lee, Ralph Izard, and James Duane considered the proposal, and on Sept. 19 Congress approved the idea and appointed the same delegates to draft a treaty, commission, and instructions: XXXVII, 567n.

2The resolution, ordering BF to obtain a new loan of $4,000,000, was enclosed with Livingston’s letter of Sept. 13, above. The remainder of this paragraph was encoded, and WTF noted next to his decipher “C. No 4.” We silently correct from the draft one minor deciphering mistake.

3The enclosed resolutions were passed on Sept. 17. The first responded to Laurens’ letter of May 30, 1782, informing him that “his services in the execution of that trust [serving as peace commissioner] cannot be dispensed with.” The second instructed BF, JA, Jay and Laurens to “punctually attend and assist in the negotiations for peace,” and that “upon receiving information of the time and place appointed for opening the negotiations, [they were] immediately to give notice thereof to the rest that may be in Europe, in order that each may have a seasonable opportunity to take part in the trust reposed by the said commission, and earnestly enjoined by this act.” JCC, XXIII, 584, 585.

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