Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Lewis Littlepage, 1 September 1783

From Lewis Littlepage5

AL: American Philosophical Society

Monday 1st. September 1783—

Mr Littlepage presents his most grateful & respectful thanks to his Excellency doctor Franklin for his polite & friendly acquiescence in Mr Littlepage’s request of being sent with the definitive Treaty to Congress, but as Mr Jay has declared himself decidedly in favor of Mr Adams’s Clerk,6 Mr Littlepage request’s his Excellency not to take the trouble to propose him—

Mr Littlepage will ever retain the warmest sense of gratitude for this generous instance of friendship from doctor Franklin, & will with the greatest pleasure inform the Marquis de La Fayette of the deference which his Excellency has been pleased to pay to his recommendation—7

Addressed: His Excellency / doctor Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5Littlepage, a Virginian, sailed to Europe in 1780 anticipating the patronage of John Jay, with whom he stayed in Spain: XXXI, 476–7, 489; XXXII, 52–3. He served under the duc de Crillon at the sieges of Minorca and Gibraltar, joined Lafayette for his proposed expedition to the West Indies, and traveled to Paris with Lafayette in the spring of 1783, where he met BF and attended his Independence Day celebration. The antagonism that developed in Spain between Jay and Littlepage escalated during this stay in Paris and continued long afterward: DAB; Morris, Jay: Peace, pp. 218–20; Idzerda, Lafayette Papers, V, 96; and see the note below.

6JA proposed John Thaxter, Jr., on Aug. 27, above.

7If BF ever intimated to Lafayette that he would support Littlepage’s candidacy, knowing the impossibility of its success, it might have been at the dinner Lafayette hosted on Aug. 30. (The invitation is cited in the annotation of Lafayette to BF, June 6.) Whatever BF may have said, the impression he created had unforeseen consequences and was a matter of public dispute in an acrimonious exchange of pamphlets years later between Jay and Littlepage.

Littlepage had been angling for the honor of carrying the treaty since mid-July, when Jay told him that it would be decided by vote. According to Jay’s account, on Sept. 1 Littlepage told him that he had secured BF’s support and asked Jay to cast the deciding vote in his favor. Jay insisted that there had to have been a misunderstanding: BF had told JA (when the latter delivered his letter of Aug. 27, above) that “he had no objections” to Thaxter, whom Jay also preferred. The next day, Littlepage sent Jay a letter accusing him of lying and challenging him to a duel. Shortly thereafter, he appeared at Jay’s chambers, where he found Jay and JA together. JA confirmed Jay’s account, and Littlepage withdrew the challenge. In Littlepage’s version, after his initial conversation with Jay on Sept. 1, he went straight to BF, who denied supporting Thaxter and assured him that he would be pleased to have an occasion to show “deference to [Lafayette’s] request.” Littlepage then confronted Jay, who “confessed” that he had already declared his support for Thaxter. The rest of Littlepage’s account, including his challenge and its retraction, is similar to what Jay had written: [John Jay], Letters, being the Whole of the Correspondence between the Honorable John Jay, Esq. and Mr. Lewis Littlepage … (New York, 1786), pp. 40–1; [Lewis Littlepage], Answer to a Pamphlet, Containing the Correspondence between the Honorable John Jay, Secretary for Foreign Affairs; and Lewis Littlepage, Esquire, of Virginia … (New York, [1787]), pp. 20–2.

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