Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Robert R. Livingston, 21 November 1782

From Robert R. Livingston

Two LS and L: University of Pennsylvania Library; transcript:1 National Archives

Philadelphia 21st. Novr. 1782


Congress a few days since passed the enclosed Resolution No. 1. by which they have added Mr Jefferson to the Commission for concluding a peace;2 the established character of this Gentleman gives me reason to hope, that his appointment will be very acceptable to you, and the other Gentlemen in the Commission, I have not yet learned, whether he will take the task upon him, but I have reason to beleive he will, the death of his Wife having lessened in the opinion of his friends the reluctance which he has hitherto manifested to going abroad—3 I think it would be proper to make a formal anunciation of this Resolution to the Court of France. You will naturally give such a representation of Mr. Jefferson’s character as will secure to him there, that esteem and confidence which he justly merrits— The Resolution No. 2. needs no comment, or if it does Mr Morris will prove the abler Commentator, I resign the task to him.4

For what end is the shew of Negotiation kept up by England, when peace upon the only terms he can possible expect to obtain it is far from her heart— Her Ministers I suppose, like some ministers of the Gospel, who are unwilling to quit the pulpit, when they have tired out their hearers, expect to keep the People together by calling out at every period “now to conclude” while they continue the same dull tale for want of skill to wind it up. The French Army are at Providence at a loss which Way to move ‘till they receive further orders from home: all of them seem prepared to embark except the Legion which is to remain for the present. The fleet are still at Boston.5 By accounts from Jamaica we learn that the British have recovered most of their settlements on the Bay6—some attention will I hope be paid in the treaty of peace to secure to us the share we formerly had in the Logwood Trade it was a valuable remittance to us, and the low price at which we were enabled to sell renders it important to other nations that we should not be excluded from furnishing it as usual— You will find by the enclosed paper, that Mr. Burgess an English Merchant was not permitted to settle at Boston and obtain the rights of Citizenship upon the principles which must be alarming to England, it shews at the same time the respect that is paid to the resolutions of Congress notwithstanding all that has been said and written to prove the contrary—7 I am, Sir with great Respect and Esteem your most obedt. humble Servant

Robt R Livingston

PS I forgot to mention that I am solicited by Mr. Barlow to transmit you proposals for printing a work of his, which you will find described in the enclosed proposals, as they are accompanied with a specimen of his poetry which is as much as I have seen of it8—you will judge yourself how far it deserves the patronage he wishes you to give it.

The Honorable Benjn. Franklin
No. 21.

1Which indicates that the two LS (the original and duplicate) and the L (marked triplicate) accompanied, respectively, the original, duplicate, and triplicate of Livingston’s Nov. 9 letter, above.

2A resolution of Nov. 12, made on the motion of James Madison: JCC, XXIII, 720–1; Jefferson Papers, VI, 202. Two copies of it are among BF’s papers at the APS.

3Jefferson wrote Livingston on Nov. 26, accepting the post. Jefferson’s wife, Martha, had died on Sept. 6: Jefferson Papers, VI, 196n, 199–200n, 206.

4Probably a reference to the Nov. 18 selection of Thomas Barclay to liquidate the accounts of Americans in Europe entrusted with the expenditure of public money: JCC, XXIII, 728–30.

5The preceding two sentences were written in code, which BF decoded on the original. Rochambeau’s army began leaving Providence on Nov. 16 after a week’s stay and began arriving in Boston three days later. Except for Lauzun’s Legion and a few smaller detachments, it sailed with Vaudreuil for the Caribbean on Dec. 24 (in preparation for the invasion of Jamaica): Rice and Brown, eds., Rochambeau’s Army, I, 76n, 81, 256; II, 192.

6The Gulf of Honduras. Governor-General of Jamaica Archibald Campbell recently had sent an expedition to the Black River on its southern shore: Mark Mayo Boatner III, Encyclopedia of the American Revolution (New York, 1966), p. 510.

7According to Samuel Adams, the Mass. General Court refused the petition for naturalization of William Burgess (XXXVII, 702) even before learning of Congress’ recommendation that the states admit no British subjects: Smith, Letters, XIX, 640n. Some years later, however, Burgess was successful: Harold C. Syrett et al., eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (27 vols., New York and London, 1961–87), VII, 194.

8Among BF’s papers at the APS are two copies of Joel Barlow’s undated manuscript description of his work in progress, “The Vision of Columbus, A Poem in Nine Books,” with selections from it. Barlow had gone to Philadelphia to secure subscribers for this long poem: Charles Burr Todd, Life and Letters of Joel Barlow, LL.D. … (New York and London, 1886), p. 40. Published in 1787 (with BF among its subscribers), it made Barlow famous: DAB; ANB.

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