Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Robert R. Livingston, 9 May 1783

From Robert R. Livingston

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

Philadelphia 9th. May 1783


We have yet had no information from you subsequent to the signature of the Preliminary Articles by France, Spain and Britain, tho’ we have seen a declaration for the cessation of Hostilities signed by you, Mr. Adams, and Mr Jay—7 We grow every day more anxious for the definitive Treaty, since we have as yet discovered no inclination in the Enemy to evacuate their Posts—and in sending off the Slaves they have directly infringed the provisional Treaty,8 tho’ we on our part have paid the strictest regard to it— This will be more fully explained by the enclosed Copy of a Letter from General Washington containing a relation of what passed between him and General Carleton at a late interview—9 let me again intreat that no doubt may be left in the Treaty relative to the time and manner of evacuating their Posts here— Without more precision and accuracy in this, than we find in the provisional Articles, we shall soon be involved in new disputes with Great Britain—

Our Finances are still greatly embarrassed—you may in part see our distress, and the means Congress are using to releive themselves from them, by the enclosed Pamplet, which I wish you and your Colleagues to read but not to publish—1

The enclosed Resolution imposes a new task upon you,2 I hope you will find no great difficulty in procuring the small augmentation to the Loan, which it requires—be assured that it is extremely necessary to sett us down in Peace—

None of the States tho’ frequently called upon have sent me the Estimates of their losses by the Ravages of the British, except Connecticut and Rhode Island, and their Accounts are extremely imperfect, such as they are I enclose them;3 For my own part I have no great expectation, that any compensation for these losses will be procured, however if possible it should be attempted— Commissioners might be appointed to assertain them here—great part of the Prisoners are on their way to New York, and the whole will be sent in a few days—4 they will amount to about six thousand Men— Our Ports begin to be crouded with Vessels,5 there is reason to fear that a superabundance of foreign Articles will in the end produce as much disstress as the want of them has heretofore occasioned—

I have the honor to be—sir, with great Respect and Esteem your most obedt humble servant,

R R Livingston

Honble Benj: Franklin
No, 27.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7Above, Feb. 20.

8The seventh article of the provisional treaty (XXXVIII, 386). In 1782–83 the British evacuated nearly 3,000 black people from Savannah and nearly 8,000 from Charleston, the vast majority of whom were enslaved to Loyalists. Moreover, at least 4,000 free blacks departed on evacuation ships from New York: Cassandra Pybus, “Jefferson’s Faulty Math: the Question of Slave Defections in the American Revolution,” W&MQ, 3rd ser., LXII (2005), 262–4; Sylvia R. Frey, Water from the Rock: Black Resistance in a Revolutionary Age (Princeton, 1991), pp. 174–9, 192–3.

9This was undoubtedly Washington’s May 8 letter to President of Congress Boudinot, enclosing a copy of his May 6 letter to Carleton and the minutes of their meeting earlier that day in which the subject of slaves was discussed: Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, XXVI, 402–6, 408–9, 410–12. Copies of all three documents are with BF’s papers at the APS.

1The pamphlet, Address and Recommendations to the States, by the United States in Congress assembled (Philadelphia, 1783), consisted of a circular letter Congress adopted on April 26 concerning the national debt (JCC, XXIV, 277–83) and supporting documents. Among the latter were excerpts from BF’s letter to Robert Morris of Dec. 23, 1782, announcing the new French loan, and a copy of the July 16, 1782, financial contract between BF and Vergennes. Appended to the contract was Congress’ ratification, signed by Elias Boudinot on Jan. 22, 1783. When answering the present letter on July 22, 1783, BF informed Livingston that the pamphlet was his first indication that the contract had been ratified, as the document itself had not arrived: Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, VI, 585.

2A May 5 resolution directing that an application be made to Louis XVI for an additional 3,000,000 l.t.: JCC, XXIV, 328.

3The enclosures are missing. The peace commissioners had requested the estimates the previous December: XXXVIII, 452.

4A number of British officers had come to Philadelphia to conduct them: Smith, Letters, XX, 229.

5During May there was a dramatic rise of ship entries into the port of Philadelphia: Richard Buel, Jr., In Irons: Britain’s Naval Supremacy and the American Revolutionary Economy (New Haven and London, 1998), p. 246.

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