George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Jacques Michel Guillaume Bénière, 29 July 1790

From Jacques Michel Guillaume Bénière

Paris, 29. July 1790.

Mr President—Gentlemen,1

We have learned that Franklin, the man of all nations, is no more2—having enlightened them all, and in every species of knowledge, they ought to share in a loss, which is common to them all.

The august Legislators of our nation have hastened to set the example;3 but the assembly of representatives of the Commons of the Capital believed it their duty to add to this universal mourning a new tribute of honor, in decreeing that the virtues and the talents of this true Philosopher should be transmitted to posterity, in a public and solemn eulogium, the first that has been rendered among us to civic virtue—The assembly charges me to transmit it to you.4 I felicitate myself in having this occasion to render homage to men who are free, and are truly worthy to be so—May that homage be acceptable, as well as the sentiments of brotherhood and respect, with which I am Mr President, Gentlemen, Your very humble and very obedient Servant.


Copy, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

Jacques Michel Guillaume Bénière (1737–1794), a native of Rouen, was a clerical deputy in the Estates General that met in May 1789 but never took his seat. He was later executed by the revolutionary tribunal of Paris.

1The letter was addressed to “Messrs The President and Members of the American Congress.” For further action on this letter, see Jefferson to GW, 9 Dec. 1790 (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

2Benjamin Franklin died on 17 April 1790 (see William Temple Franklin to GW, 9 July 1790, n.4; for an extended consideration of the “Death of Franklin: The Politics of Mourning in France and the United States,” see Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 19:78–106).

3For the French National Assembly’s 11 June 1790 resolution to mourn Franklin’s death and to communicate its official actions to the U.S. Congress, see the National Assembly of France to GW, 20 June 1790 and notes.

4For the enclosed eulogy of the Paris Commune, given at the Rotonde by Claude Fauchet on 21 July and published as Eloge civique de Benjamin Franklin (Paris, 1790), see Carl Van Doren, Benjamin Franklin (New York, 1941), 781, 807, n.72.

5Bénière signed himself as: “Doctor in Theology of the house and Society of the Sorbonne⟨—⟩honorary Canon of the metropolit⟨an⟩ church of Rouen—Pastor of the Parish of St Peter of Chai⟨llon⟩ One of the Electors of Paris—Supplying Deputy to the National Assem⟨bly⟩ President of the Commons of Paris.”

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