Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Robert R. Livingston, 2 January 1783

From Robert R. Livingston

Two LS and L:6 University of Pennsylvania Library; AL (draft): New-York Historical Society; transcript: National Archives

Philadelphia 2d Jany. 1783


I was honored with your Letters by the Danae—7 I congratulate you upon the promising State of our negotiations, since peace begins to be no less desirable here than elsewhere.— But I will not enter into that subject at present as I mean to write very fully both to Mr Jay & you by Mr Jefferson who will sail in company with this frigate in the Romulus, a ship of 44 guns—8 Lest however any accident should prevent his arriving so soon as the Emerald,9 I enclose a resolution of Congress, which was suggested by the proposition you mention to have been made by Mr Oswald on the subject of commerce—1 For my own part I presume that it is already included in your propositions, but as we have yet been favoured only with that short note of them which has been transmitted by you, we can form no accurate judgment on the subject; you can hardly conceive the embarrassments that the want of more minute details subjects us to.

You will learn from the Count de Rochambeau that the french Army sailed the 24th ulto. perhaps it were to be wished that they had remained here at least till New York or Charlestown were evacuated, or rather till the peace— Congress have however given them a good word at parting as you will see by the enclosed resolves—2 Not being consulted, they could interpose no objections to their departure, tho’ they were not without many reasons for wishing to detain them— Our finances are still in great distress, if the war continues, a foreign loan in addition to those already received will be essential— A plan for ascertaining what shall be called contingent expences is under the consideration of Congress, as well as the objections you have stated with respect to the mode of paying your salaries, which will, I believe, be altered.3 The allowance to Mr T. Franklin has been confirmed, & your moderation & his upon this point have done you both honor in the opinion of Congress—4 I have the honor to be, sir With great respect & esteem Your most obedt. humble servant

Robt R Livingston

No. 24

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6A note on the transcript indicates that the LS from which we print, the original, was carried by the Emeraude; the other LS (marked “2plicate”), by Col. Ogden; and the L (marked “duplicate” and signed by a secretary), by the packet Washington.

7The Danaé, 26, sailed from France on Nov. 8 and reached Philadelphia by Dec. 28; she carried BF’s Oct. 14 letters to Livingston and Morris (above): Morris Papers, VII, 223n, 229n. Her arrival was reported in the Jan. 1 Pa. Gaz.

8The French frigate Romulus was trapped by ice in the Delaware and was unable to sail before news arrived of the impending peace. This led Congress to excuse Jefferson from joining the other peace commissioners and he returned to Virginia: Jefferson Papers, VI, 210–11, 228–31, 236–7, 245–6, 253–4, 259–60.

9The Emeraude, 26, then at Annapolis, which soon carried the comte and vicomte de Rochambeau, Chastellux, and other French officers to France: Rice and Brown, eds., Rochambeau’s Army, I, 84n.

1The Dec. 31 congressional resolution ordered the commissioners “to endeavour to obtain for the citizens and inhabitants of the United States a direct commerce to all parts of the British dominions and possessions, in like manner as all parts of the United States may be opened to a direct commerce of British subjects, or at least that such direct commerce be extended to all parts of the British dominions and possessions in Europe and the West Indies, and the said ministers are informed that this stipulation will be particularly expected by Congress, in case the citizens and subjects of each party are to be admitted to an equality in matters of commerce with natives of the other party”: JCC, XXIII, 838. The resolution was sent to BF in cipher; one copy is at the University of Pa. Library, and another, deciphered by either BF or WTF, is at the APS.

Livingston may have meant “to Mr Oswald” rather than “by Mr Oswald.” BF’s letter of Oct. 14 (above) reported that Oswald had approved and forwarded the preliminary draft treaty that the Americans had drawn up.

2On Jan. 1, Congress approved two resolutions thanking Louis XVI and Rochambeau and praising the conduct of Rochambeau and his troops: JCC, XXIV, 1–2. One of the copies Livingston enclosed has survived; it is at the APS. A draft French translation by L’Air de Lamotte is at the Hist. Soc. of Pa.; BF endorsed it “Minute of Congress respecting the Departe. of the French Army / Jan. 1. 1783”.

3BF’s objections were in his Oct. 14 letter.

4BF had informed Livingston on Sept. 3 (above) that he was allowing WTF 300 louis (7,200 l.t.) per annum. On Dec. 27 Congress approved continuation of that allowance: JCC, XXIII, 832.

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