Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Robert Morris, 23 December 1782

To Robert Morris

Copies:9 Connecticut State Library, New Jersey State Library, Virginia State Library, New Hampshire Division of Records Management and Archives, Delaware Public Archives Commission, National Archives

Passy Decemr 23rd: 1782


When I wrote to you on the 14th: I expected to have dispatch’d the Washington immediately, tho’ without any Money. A little misunderstanding prevented it. That was after some Days happily got over, and Friday last, Order was given to furnish me with six hundred thousand Livres immediately to send in that Ship, and I was answered by Mr. de Vergennes that the Rest of the Six Millions should be paid us quarterly in the Course of the Year 1783.1 If your Drafts make it necessary, I believe we can have it advanced, at least on paying Discount. Mr. Grand has been ever since busy collecting the proper Species to send it in, and it will go I suppose to morrow or next Day. I am glad to make use of this Opportunity, and wish the Sum could have been larger, as we have got a Pasport from England for the Ship Washington, Capt: Barney, sign’d by the King’s own hand, the more curious as it acknowledges us by our Title of the United States of America.2 We should not however, imagine ourselves already in Peace. The other Powers are not yet agreed, and the War may still continue longer than we expect. Our Preliminaries have not yet been communicated to Parliment, and I apprehend there will be great Clamours against them when they appear. Hints are already thrown out that the King has gone beyond his Powers, and if the new Ministry do not stand their Ground perhaps the Ratification may be prevented. A little more Success in the W. Indies this Winter may totally turn the Heads of that giddy Nation.

I pressed hard therefore for the whole Sum demanded; but was told it was impossible; the great Efforts to be made this Campaign in the East & West Indies, (the Armies for which are now afloat)3 and the enormous Expence engaged in, having much embarrass’d the Finances.

Our People certainly ought to do more for themselves. It is absurd the pretending to be Lovers of Liberty while they grudge paying for the Defence of it. It is said here, that an Impost of 5 per Cent on all Goods imported, tho’ a most reasonable Proposition had not been agreed to by all the States; and was therefore frustrated;4 and that your News Papers acquaint the World with this, with the Non Payment of Taxes by the People, and with the Non Payment of Interest to the Creditors of the Public.5 The Knowledge of these things have hurt our Credit & the Loan in Holland, and would prevent our getting any thing here but from the Government. The Foundation for Credit abroad should be laid at home; and certain Funds should be prepared and established before hand, for the Regular Payment at least of the Interest.

With sincere Esteem and Respect, I am, Sir, Your most Obedient and most Humble Servant

(signed) B Franklin

Honble: Robt: Morris Esqr.

Notation: No. 5. 23d— Decemr 1782 Dr B Franklin To Office of Finance— Copy recd— 7th— April, seqe

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9These were copies Morris sent to governors of various states; see our annotation of BF to Morris, Dec. 14.

1On “Friday last,” Dec. 20, BF met with Vergennes. The following day JA wrote in his journal that BF had been to Versailles “and was assured of the Six millions, and all is fair Weather—all friendly and good humoured”: Butterfield, John Adams Diary, III, 98. Vergennes wrote to La Luzerne on Dec. 21 about the meeting, saying that it had been amiable. BF told him that both Congress and the American commissioners would prefer to renounce peace rather than neglect their obligations and their gratitude to the King; they would be “inconsolable” if their conduct had displeased him. Vergennes informed La Luzerne of the decision to grant a new loan, emphasizing that it would be the last one. He noted that the departure of the General Washington had been delayed, and he predicted that France would know the success of her peace negotiations by the end of the following week: Giunta, Emerging Nation, I, 731–2.

2For the King’s passport see our annotation of BF to Vergennes, Dec. 15.

3The Brest squadron for the Jamaica attack was still on its way to Cadiz. French forces in the East Indies were outnumbered during the 1783 campaign, which continued until June, when news of peace arrived from Europe: Dull, French Navy, pp. 319, 334.

4The impost, needing the consent of all the states, was blocked by Rhode Island: Ferguson, Power of the Purse, pp. 152–3.

5Congress on Sept. 9 had stopped the issuance of bills of exchange drawn on American ministers abroad to pay interest on loan office certificates; see our annotation of Morris to BF, Oct. 5. For a sample of the public outcry over the decision see Morris Papers, VI, 53–4.

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