Benjamin Franklin Papers
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https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-41-02-0126

To Benjamin Franklin from William Alexander, 6 November 1783

From William Alexander7

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Nantes 6 November 1783

My Dear Sir

I left St Germains Sunday Morning & got here on Tuesday.8 The post since come in, brought me your most acceptable letter of the 2d which Cover’d a packet for the President of the Congress, to be forwarded immediatly on my arrival—9 You also hand me two letters from a Woman calling herself widow to Mr Sprowl of Norfolk— In fact she was widow to his nephew James Hunter, whose Children are one of the three families, to whom he bequested his Estate. She herself is a very bad Woman, with I am assured no Mean talents of Insinuation & address—1 I leave the letters with Mr Williams, to be returnd to you, if Called for— I most heartily thank you for your recommendations to your friends, & will be obliged to you for mentioning me to Mr Morris when you write Him—2 I expect to Sail in two days,3 & quit Europe without reluctance, in Hopes that my absence may be of Some benefit to my Family, a Consideration to which It is no great Compliment to them, to say I am willing to devote my remaining days— I beg my Compliments to your Son—and That you will believe me with unvaried Attachment My Dear Sir Your most Devoted humble Ser,

W: Alexander

Addressed: A Son Excellence / Le Docteur Franklin / Ministre plenipo: des Etats / Unies de L’amerique / a Passy / pres / Paris

Notation: W. Alexander 6 Nov. 1783

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7In early September, Alexander proposed to the farmers general a plan whereby he and JW would supply France with American tobacco: Alexander would establish himself in Virginia and arrange for the shipments, while JW would remain in France and receive them. The farmers general drew up a nonexclusive contract that did not preclude the arrangement they had proposed to Robert Morris in July, whereby the United States would repay its debt through tobacco shipments. Vergennes approved the Alexander-Williams contract on Oct. 3. For detailed overviews of this plan, which eventually included Morris as a partner, see Price, France and the Chesapeake, II, 741–6; Morris Papers, VIII, 739–41; IX, 150–9. JW’s letter to WTF of Sept. 1, 1783 (APS), asking for names of farmers to whom they could address their proposal, helps establish the chronology.

8Nov. 4. In preparation for emigrating, Alexander swore an oath of allegiance to the United States before BF at Passy on Oct. 30 (APS). The oath, in the hand of BFB, is essentially identical to that published in XXXIV, 581–2, except that it lacks the final sentence, “So help me God.” Once in Nantes, Alexander signed articles of agreement with JW on behalf of their respective firms, William Alexander & Co. and Jonathan Williams & Co. The text of that agreement is in Morris Papers, IX, 156–7.

9BFs letter of Nov. 2 is missing. It undoubtedly enclosed BF to Boudinot, Nov. 1.

1Alexander was obviously among those who did not believe that Katherine Sproule Douglas had been legally married to Andrew Sprowle (Sproule). It is possible that Alexander knew of her first husband, James Hunter, in Scotland. For Mrs. Douglas’ marriages, allegiances, and claims, see her letter to BF of Nov. 28 and the annotation there. The letters BF forwarded have not been located.

2Among the now-missing letters of recommendation was one to RB dated Nov. 2, which asked him to introduce Alexander to Robert Morris: RB to BF, March 7, 1784 (Yale University Library). BFs letter to Morris of Dec. 25 includes an explanation of Alexander’s mission and a recommendation.

3Contrary winds delayed his departure until Nov. 22. He sailed aboard JWs ship Mariamne: JW to Alexander. J. Alexander, Dec. 6, 1783 (Yale University Library).

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