Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Elias Boudinot, 13 September 1783

To Elias Boudinot

LS,1 press copy of LS, and transcript: National Archives; ALS (draft) and transcript: Library of Congress

Passy, Septr. 13. 1783.


I received a few Days since the Private Letter your Excellency did me the honour of writing to me of the 18th. June. I regret with you the Resignation of the late Secretary. Your present Cares are encreased by it, and it will be difficult to find a Successor of equal Abilities.

We found no Difficulty in decyphering the Resolution of Congress. The Commissioners have taken Notice of it in our Public Letter.2

I am happy that both the Device and Workmanship of the Medal are approv’d with you, as they have the good Fortune to be by the best Judges on this side the Water. It has been esteem’d a well-timed as well as a well-merited Compliment here, and has had good Effects. Since the two first which you mention as received, I have sent by different Opportunities so many as that every Member of Congress might have One. I hope they are come safe to hand by this time.3

I wrote a long Letter to Mr. Livingston by Barney,4 to which I beg leave to refer, inclosing a Copy.

We had before signing the Definitive Treaty received the Ratification of the Preliminary Articles by his Britannic Majesty, exchanged with us by Mr. Hartley for that of the Congress. I send herewith a Copy of the first & last Clauses.5

In a former Letter I mentioned the Volunteer Proceedings of a Merchant at Alicant towards obtaining a Treaty between us & the Emperor of Morocco. We have since receiv’d a Letter from a Person who says, as you will see by the Copy inclosed, that he is sent by the Emperor to be the Bearer of his Answer to the United States, & that he is arrived in Spain in his Way to Paris. He has not yet appear’d here, and we hardly know what Ansr. to give him. I hope the sending a Minister to that Court, as recommended in my last, has been taken into Consideration, or at least that some Instructions respecting that Nation have been sent to your Minister in Spain, who is better Situated than we are for such a Negotiation.6

The Minister from Denmark, often speaks to me about the proposed Treaty, of which a Copy went by Barney.7 No Commission to sign it, nor any Instructions from Congress relating to it are yet arrived: And tho’ press’d I have not ventur’d to do any thing farther in the Affair.

I forward herewith a Letter to the Congress from the City of Hamburgh.8 I understand that a good Disposition towards us prevails there, which it may be well to encourage.

No Answer has yet been given me from the Court of Portugal, respecting the Plan of a Treaty concerted between its Ambassador here & me. He has been unwell and much in the Country, so that I have not seen him lately. I suspect that the false or exaggerated Reports of the distracted Situation of our Government, industriously propagated thro’out Europe by our Enemies, have made an Impression in that Kingdom to our Disadvantage, and inclined them to hesitate in forming a Connection with us. Questions asked me, and Observations made by several of the foreign Ministers here, convince me that the idle Stories of our Disunion, Contempt of Authority, Refusal to pay Taxes &ca. have been too much credited and been very injurious to our Reputation.

I sent before a Copy of the Letter I wrote to the Grand Master of Malta, with a present of our Medal; with this you will have a Copy of his Answer.9

I send also a Copy of a Note I recd from the Pope’s Nuncio.1 He is very civil on all Occasions and has mentioned the possibility of an advantageous Trade America might have with the Ecclesiastical State which he says has two good Ports, Civita Vecchia and [blank].2

This Court continues favourable to us. Count de Vergennes was resolute in refusing to sign the Definitive Treaty with England, before ours was signed. The English Ministers were offended but comply’d. I am convinced that Court will never cease endeavouring to disunite us. We shall I hope be constantly on our Guard against those Machinations, for our Safety consists in a steady Adherence to our Friends, and our Reputation in3 a faithful Regard to Treaties, and in a grateful Conduct towards our Benefactors.

I send herewith sundry Memorials recommended to my Care by M. le Comte de Vergennes, Viz.

One respecting a Claim of Messrs. Forsters of Bordeaux.

One Do— of M. Pecquet; &
One— Do— of M. Bayard.4

The Congress will take such Notice of them as they shall think proper.

With great Esteem & Respect I have the honour to be, Sir, Your Excellency’s most obedt & most humble Servant.

B Franklin

His Excellency Elias Boudinot Esqre: President of Congress.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

1In WTF’s hand, with minor corrections by BF.

2Above, Sept. 10.

3By mid-September Boudinot had received and distributed about 20 Libertas Americana medals: Smith, Letters, XX, 675n.

4Above, July 22[–26].

5BF here drafted but deleted “the rest consisting merely of those Articles [interlined: word for word,] is omitted for the present; but may be”.

6See Crocco to BF, July 15, and BF to Livingston, July 22[–26]. The minister in Spain was acting chargé d’affaires William Carmichael.

7Neither Jay nor JA had been shown BF’s proposal or the Danish counterproposal. The day after Walterstorff delivered the latter to BF, Jay wrote to JA (in Holland) that he believed a draft treaty had been prepared and would be sent to America with Barney: Adams Papers, XV, 172. This enraged JA, who confronted Walterstorff at Versailles on Aug. 12, shortly after his return. Upon learning that a proposal for a commercial treaty had been delivered to BF two weeks earlier, JA asked whether it was addressed to BF alone (as it had been) or to all the American commissioners. Within earshot of the entire diplomatic corps, he then berated the Danes for conducting diplomacy in such a deaf (“sourde”) and clandestine manner, insisting that BF had no authority to treat (a point he had made months earlier; see Walterstorff to BF, May 18). Walterstorff defended his country’s actions but revealed no details, having no orders to discuss anything with JA. He then informed BF of the exchange; BF made excuses for not having shown JA the counterproposal and assured Walterstorff that he would do so, adding that they would discuss the matter on the carriage ride back to Paris: Walterstorff to Rosencrone, Aug. 15, 1783 (Statens Arkiver, Rigsarkivet). JA wrote a strong letter of protest to Livingston the next day, Aug. 13, urging that all the American commissioners be consulted on such treaties. He feared a conspiracy to limit American power and saw the commercial treaties under discussion as a way for European powers to increase their trade at American expense. He made the same point in several private letters he wrote to members of Congress on Sept. 10: Adams Papers, XV, 223–5, 276–80.

8Of March 29; see XXXIX, 417–18.

9XXXIX, 436, and Rohan-Poulduc to BF, June 21; see also BF to Livingston, July 22[–26].

1See Pamphili to BF, July 28.

2The other main port in the Papal States was Ancona. BF here drafted the start of a new paragraph, but then deleted it: “The Congress will probably instruct me what Answer I should give to his Note”.

3We have corrected this word (which WTF copied as “is”) from the draft. At the end of the paragraph BF wrote but deleted the following passage: “The Malignity of the Refugees in England, is outrageous. They fill the Papers with Falshoods to exasperate that Nation against us, & depreciate us in the Eyes of all Europe. They may do us some present Mischief, but Time & Prudence will draw their Teeth, pare their Claws, & heal the Scratches they are making upon our National Character”.

4BF enclosed Forster frères’ June 28 letter to Vergennes, their undated memoir to Louis XVI, and Vergennes’ July 29 covering letter to BF, above. For the enclosures regarding Pecquet and Bayard see Vergennes’ second letter of July 31 and his letter of Aug. 5.

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