Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Robert Morris, 27 May 1783

From Robert Morris

LS: American Philosophical Society; copy: Library of Congress

Office of Finance 27th. May 1783


It was my earnest Desire from the first Moment when it was known that the Troops of his most Christian Majesty were intended for this Continent to promote his Service and forward the Views and Interests of his faithful Servants— It would appear like an empty Boast to say that I was early and frequently useful to them nor would I hint any thing of that kind or of the improper Returns I have met with. My present Object is meerly to possess you of facts as far as they relate to the Kings Service. Shortly after the Commencement of my Administration I proposed supplying the Kings Troops by Contract but found Obstacles were raised and objections were made by such as I was induced to suppose were interested in opposing œconomical Arrangements and therefore I desisted—4 Very slight enquiry will determine whether the Expences of this Army have been Moderate or excessive— The enclosed Letter from me to the Intendant will explain one Transaction—5 I shall add to it only that the Intendant having refused to pay, a Suit was commenced against Mr. DeMars by Solomons the Broker for all the Bills which he sold to DeMars and to Debrassine. On the Trial it appeared not only that Mr. Debrassine was employed by Mr. De Mars in public and private Business but that the Monies obtained by Sale of all those Bills of Exchange were applied to private Purposes— The Jury were but a few Minutes out of Court and brought in their Verdict for the Principal Interest &ca.6 Indeed had the Intendant thought proper to enquire into the facts stated in my Letter to him I have no Doubt but that they and others of equal Importance would have appeared— Enclosed you have the Copy of a Letter which has fallen into my Hands and which will shew you Something of the Business which has been transacted by the French Administration—7 The original of this Letter is now in my Hands and can (at any Time) be delivered if necessary to the Minister or Consul of France here—

I am to request Sir that you will have a Conference on the Subject of this Letter with General de Chattelleux. That Gentleman always appeared to me extremely Zealous and attentive to the King’s Interest, desirous of introducing Œconomy and opposed to Plans which entailed a profuse Expence— Should you after a Consultation with him think it would at all conduce to the Kings Interests I shall be glad that you would bring the Matter regularly before his Ministers who will I perswade myself cause the proper Investigations by which means the Crown will be better served on Subsequent Occasions.

With perfect Respect I have the Honor to be Sir Your Excellency’s most obedient & humble Servant

Robt Morris

His Excellency Benjamin Franklin Esqr.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4See Morris Papers, II, 7–9, 77–9, 82–3; III, 519–20. Morris also had been unable to comply with BF’s plan for furnishing supplies to Rochambeau’s army: XXXIV, 36–8, 97–9; XXXV, 301–2; XXXVI, 139, 149–50.

5The enclosed letter, dated March 12, was addressed to pay commissioner Benoît-Joseph de Tarlé (1735–1797), who served as intendant of Rochambeau’s army: Etat militaire for 1783, p. 17; Bodinier, Dictionnaire. Morris appealed to Tarlé for justice, detailing a complicated story of bills of exchange obtained from him under false pretences by Jean-Baptiste de Mars (Demars de Grandpré), directeur des hôpitaux for Rochambeau’s army, and his agent Fontaine de Brassine, garde-magasin des hôpitaux. This letter is published in Morris Papers, VII, 564–9; see the text and annotation there. De Mars’s full name is given in Howard G. Brown, War, Revolution, and the Bureaucratic State: Politics and Army Administration in France, 1791–1799 (Oxford, 1995), pp. 292, 294.

6Morris’ broker Haym Salomon (ANB) won the suit on April 26: Morris Papers, VII, 568, 603–5, 755; VIII, 124n.

7Not found.

Index Entries