Benjamin Franklin Papers
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Editorial Note on Requests to Be Selected a Free Port, 1783

Editorial Note on Requests to Be Selected a Free Port

As soon as the preliminary peace was settled in January, Franklin began receiving appeals from Frenchmen who believed him capable of influencing their government’s selection of free ports for American goods. We summarized those appeals in volume 39,9 and continue here to summarize the letters he received during the period of this volume.

On May 16 a lawyer named Denans from La Seyne sent an eightpage letter extolling the advantages of his city, a port on the Bay of Toulon. He also sent an undated eight-page “Mémoire Instructif” on the same subject.1 Denans observed in his letter that Silas Deane had stayed in La Seyne rather than Toulon when returning to America in 1778.2 The bay not only was a safe refuge from storms but also, because of the fortifications of Toulon, was well defended from any enemy incursion. Franklin wrote, “answd May 30,” on the letter, but his response has not been located.

Writing as the mayor and consul of Saint-Nazaire, a few miles west of Toulon and La Seyne, the sieurs Icard and Monge praised their port in a letter of June 8 and forwarded a now-missing memoir.3 Around the same time, Franklin received a letter referring to several previous communications about ports in the Saintonge region. The original was forwarded to Vergennes by William Temple Franklin; an undated copy in L’Air de Lamotte’s hand survives among Franklin’s papers, with Temple’s draft of a note, written at Versailles on June 10, forwarding the letter. The writer was undoubtedly the chevalier Louis-Honoré Froger de La Rigaudière.4 Finally, on July 22 the director and four syndics of the Chamber of Commerce of Aunis renewed their arguments of January 31 on behalf of La Rochelle.5

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9See XXXIX, 104–6.

1Both are at the APS. The writer was probably Joseph-Romain Denans, an avocat from La Seyne who was killed by a mob in July, 1792: Louis Baudoin, Histoire général de la Seyne-sur-Mer et de son port depuis les origines jusqu’à la fin du XIXe siècle (n.p., 1965), pp. 315–16.

2D’Estaing recommended that Deane and the four American ship captains who accompanied him stay there in order to preserve secrecy before they embarked on his flagship for their voyage: Deane Papers, II, 447–8; III, 184; V, 313.

3Their names appear in Barthélemy Rotger, De Saint-Nazaire à Sanary ([Le Beausset, 1984]), pp. 259, 478. This letter is at the Hist. Soc. of Pa.

4The chevalier’s previous communications are summarized in XXXIX, 105–6. The copy of the present letter with WTF’s draft note is at the APS.

5Hist. Soc. of Pa. For their earlier letter see XXXIX, 107.

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