Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Robert Morris, 27 July 1783

To Robert Morris

AL (draft): Library of Congress

Passy, July 27. 1783


I have been honoured by your Letters in the Washington, of the 3d. 11th. 13th. 19th of January, and the 26th & 31st of May.1 Till that Ship arriv’d, we had been totally in the dark respecting American Affairs for near 6 Months. The Correspondence may henceforth be more regular, as 5 Pacquet Boats are now ordered here, to depart from LOrient for N. York the middle of each Month,2 which with those that I understand will continue to depart from England the Beginning of each Month,3 will give Opportunities of Writing every Fortnight. The first from hence is to sail the 3d Tuesday in September.— I have received also your Dispatshes per Col. Ogden; and also a Sett that had been in England, and were opened.4 They contained all your Correspondence with Gen. Washington & the Contractors relating to the Difficulties in supplying the Army;5 and I am afraid have had an ill Effect on the Negociations, the conciliating Views of the Ministry respecting our Commerce with their Islands seeming by their late Proclamation6 to be entirely changed.—

I am happy to find that you had agreed to continue the Exercise of your Office for some time longer:7 Your Reputation as well as your Abilities is necessary to our Affairs.— I am amaz’d at the Quantity of Business you so well go thorough.

The Affair between you & the Intendant of the French Army, respecting the irregular Transactions of de Mars & de Brassine, is not, as I understand from Gen. de Chatellux, at all spoken of here; and he is of Opinion, that as it is settled by the Event of the Suit, there can be no Use in taking any farther Notice of it at present. I shall therefore say nothing of it to the Ministers, unless you shall hereafter think proper to direct it.8

Mr Grand and myself were for a long time in a most anxious Situation here. Our Funds nearly absorbed, fresh Drafts continually appearing, more foreseen, and all our Worrying of the Ministers with Applications for farther Aids from Government proving ineffectual.9 We at length however after many Difficulties obtain’d what was wanted from the Loan in Holland.—1 Upon the Receipt of your Letters I made the fresh Application directed, but without Success; as you will see by the Letters inclosed;2 and I hope in God that no more such Orders will be sent me. If our People who neither pay Rents nor Tythes, would only pay honestly in Taxes half what other Nations pay in those Articles, our whole Debt might be discharg’d in a Twelvemonth.—3 But I conceive the great Difficulty lies in the Collection of our Taxes, thro’ the dispers’d Situation of our Inhabitants; and the excessive Trouble of going from House to House many Miles to collect a few Shillings from each, often oblig’d to repeat the Calls. Might not this be help’d by some Laws, such as one4 disabling a Man to take out any Writ or commence any Action, for recovering any Debt, Damage, Legacy, &c. or to receive any other Benefit or Protection from the Laws of the Society, who does not prove that he has duly contributed to its support, by producing the Collector’s Receipt for his last Taxes.—

The Farmers-General, who have been extreamly kind & favourable to us, in never urging a Compliance with our Contract or a Repayment of the Million they advanc’d to us, nor demanding any Interest, have lately been with me & intimated that they hop’d now we were in Peace, it might not be inconvenient to us to proceed in discharging the Debt. After some Conversation on the Means, they agreed to write me a Letter, of which I send a Copy.5 You will understand a Part of it, by knowing that I recommended you warmly to them as a proper Correspondent, after this Affair & your Office should be finished.6 I ought & do as warmly recommend to you the doing them Justice as speedily as may be, and favouring them where it is practicable, for we are really under great Obligations to them. Inclos’d is a Copy of their Acct. It was sent before, but probably miscarried.7

I am content with the Method established respecting the Salaries,8 and am with sincere & great Esteem, Sir,

honble. R. Morris Esqr

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

1Morris wrote on May 30, not May 31, and BF neglected to acknowledge the letter of May 27, to which he also responds here. Otherwise, all the letters mentioned are published above.

2The packet service was established by a June 28 arrêt of the Royal Council of State, printed on July 22 in the Gaz. de Leyde and on July 25 in the Courier de l’Europe. (An undated copy in L’Air de Lamotte’s hand is at the APS.) The arrêt provided that the packet boats would carry mail, passengers, and luxury goods, and depart Port Louis (adjoining Lorient) for New York on the Tuesday of the third week of every month. The service would be administered by Le Couteulx & Cie. and begin in September.

3On the first Wednesday of every month, as Todd wrote to BF on June 25.

4For the dispatches that arrived with Matthias Ogden on July 12 see the American Commissioners to Livingston, July 18, and BF to Livingston, July 22[–26]. For the letters that were forwarded from England see John Vaughan to BF, June 10; Falconer to BF, June 23; Morris Papers, VII, 698n.

5See XXXVIII, 575n.

6The Order in Council of July 2.

7See Morris to BF, May 26, letter (I).

8See Morris to BF, May 27. De Brassine, imprisoned as a result of the lawsuit, was released in 1787 at the request of France: Morris Papers, VII, 568n.

9At this point in the draft, there is a passage which BF crossed out: “We apply’d to Mr Adams, who alledg’d that the Disposition of Money in Holland was taken out of his Hands, at which he seem’d offended, but agreed to write a joint Letter with Mr Jay & me, to advise the Bankers there to furnish Mr Grand wth what they could; their Answer was that they likewise expected Bills from you, but would do it if we would engage to replace what they should furnish, in case they should want it, which we could not do. I apply’d also to Messrs Le Couteulx who we understood had Money of yours in their Hands, but with as little Success. In fine we were on the point of failing, we lost our Sleep, & Mr Grand grew visibly thinner.” The letters to and from the Dutch bankers are above, May 22 and May 29, while those to and from Le Couteulx & Cie. are above, July 2.

1Grand himself wrote to Morris on July 20 that as a result of JA’s letter and one of his own, the consortium promised 1,500,000 l.t. within a month’s time and indeed had already begun remittances: Morris Papers, VIII, 315–16; and see Grand to BF, July 5.

2These were BF and Jay to Vergennes, June 28; BF to Vergennes, July 4; Vergennes to BF and Jay, July 5; and Vergennes to BF, July 18. Morris forwarded copies of these and other documents to Congress on Sept. 15: Morris Papers, VIII, 519.

3BF contemplated substituting “easily in a very short Period” for “in a Twelvemonth”, but then reinstated his original phrase.

4Here BF drafted but deleted “requiring the People to bring in their Taxes to the Collector”.

5Above, July 17.

6See BF’s memorandum to the farmers general, [before July 17].

7The Nov. 17, 1781, account (XXXVI, 145n) was signed by BF and representatives of the farmers general; a copy in French is at the National Archives along with an English translation. BF may have sent a copy with his Sept. 26, 1782, letter to Morris, of which only an extract survives (XXXVIII, 142–3).

8Which Morris explained in his letter of Jan. 13 (XXXVIII, 581–2).

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