Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Giacomo Francisco Crocco, 15 July 1783

From Giacomo Francisco Crocco8

LS and press copy of copy: American Philosophical Society; three copies and transcript: National Archives

Cadiz 15th. July 1783—


His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Morroco9 did me the honour to appoint me to be the bearer of his Answer to the United Provinces of North America with whom he is willing to sign a Treaty of Peace & Commerce,1 & in conseqce. has already given orders to his captains of Men of Warr not to molest on the open Seas the American Vessells, which agreable News I have already given to Richard Harrison Esqr.2 According to my instructions I am to accompany to the Court of Morroco the Embassador that will be appointed to conclude the Treaty of Peace. I presume that your Excellency is already acquainted that the travelling expences & other charges of Embassadors or Envoys Sent to Europe by the Emperor of Morroco, are to be paid by the Court or Republick that demands his friendship. In a few days I intend to sett out for Madrid where I will remain till I receive your Excellency answer to this letter directed to the Honorable William Carmichael Esqr. The United States Chargé d’Affaires at the Court of Spain, who I make no doubt shall receive orders to supply me the Money I may want on the occasion. As soon as I arrive at Paris I will have the Satisfaction to entertain at large your Excellency on the present negociation, not doubting it will be soon concluded to the advantage of both Courts, in the mean while I remain most truly Sir, Your most obedient & humble Servant

Giacomo Franco: Crocco

I was obliged to value on a friend to write you this letter in English otherwise I could only do it in the Italian Language.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8Crocco, a Genoan, had been the secretary of Etienne d’Audibert Caille, a French merchant living in Morocco who in 1779 (not 1778, as we stated in XXVI, 285n) was named consul for unrepresented foreign nationals. Caille wrote BF in 1778 volunteering to negotiate a treaty between America and the sultan of Morocco. In 1779 he wrote directly to Congress, this time in an official capacity, extending the sultan’s offer of friendship. BF had reason to distrust Caille and did not respond to either overture. Caille fell out of favor at court in April, 1782, and left the country; his whereabouts in 1783 are unknown, but he was back in Morocco as consul for various countries in 1784 and visited BF in July of that year. Crocco, meanwhile, performed commissions for the sultan in 1783: XXVI, 285–6; XXIX, 558; XXXIV, 84; XXXVIII, 293; Priscilla H. Roberts and James N. Tull, “Moroccan Sultan Sidi Muhammad Ibn Abdallah’s Diplomatic Initiatives Toward the United States, 1777–1786,” APS Proc., CXLIII (1999), 233–65.

9Sidi Muhammad ibn Abdallah. Since assuming the throne in 1757, he had reorganized the army, developed a navy, and negotiated commercial treaties with Britain, France, and at least 11 other European countries: Roberts and Tull, “Moroccan Sultan,” pp. 234–5; Roberts and Roberts, Thomas Barclay, pp. 197–8.

1The sultan was responding to an unauthorized letter of Jan. 4, 1783, from Robert Montgomery, an American merchant at Alicante (XXVI, 242n; XXIX, 746n), who claimed to be writing on behalf of Congress, “sovereign” of a nation that was “now declared independent by the Great & Principle Powers of Europe.” Presuming that the “several letters” Congress had written to the sultan had miscarried, Montgomery had been ordered to repeat Congress’ offer to send an ambassador to Morocco to negotiate a treaty of amity and commerce (National Archives). This unauthorized overture and the puzzling references it contained angered and embarrassed the American commissioners: Adams Papers, XIV, 502n; BF to Crocco and to Carmichael, both of Dec. 15, 1783 (National Archives).

The sultan sent word to Montgomery on April 23 that he was ordering the protection of American ships, would welcome an American ambassador, and was dispatching Crocco (who was already in Spain on another commission) to deliver his message to the American commissioners at Paris. He acknowledged having received one previous letter on the part of Congress: Secretary to the Sultan Eliahu Levy to Montgomery, April 23 and July 6, 1783 (National Archives).

2The American agent at Cadiz: XXII, 447n; XXXVI, 247n. In April, 1782, when Caille was in Cadiz, he told Harrison about the letter he had sent to Congress on behalf of the sultan. He wondered whether it had miscarried, as they had received no reply: Harrison to Robert R. Livingston, April 24, 1782, National Archives.

Index Entries