Benjamin Franklin Papers
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To Benjamin Franklin from Robert Morris, 17 September 1783

From Robert Morris

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Philada Septr. 17th. 1783

Dear Sir

You have above an extract of a letter from the Honble Mr. Jefferson, to me6 by which you will perceive that he wants one of your late invented Machines for Copying Writings, he desires me to write to England but if I am not much mistaken France is the place.7 You however will know where his order can be best executed, and give orders accordingly, shou’d it be shipped from France Messrs LeCouteulx & Co will supply the Money to pay Cost on my acct. If you think it best to order it from London Messrs Herries & Company of that place will pay for it,8 or in either case if it will suit you to draw on Mr. Jefferson or me payable in America for the Cost the bill shall be punctually acquitted. You will excuse this trouble it is occasioned by the opinion which I entertain, that this is the most likely way to have our Friend Jefferson well Served.9 With sincere Attachment I ever am Dear Sir Your most Obedient & Most humble servant

Robt Morris

His Excy Benjn. Franklin Esqr Minister Plenipy a Passy—

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6The extract, copied by a secretary at the top of Morris’ sheet, is the only surviving record of TJ’s letter. Dated Aug. 15 from Monticello, it begins, “Being desirous of getting from England as soon as possible one of those copying Machines invented there not long since, and of which I dare say you have seen Specimens of it’s Execution in Doct. Franklin’s Letters, I take the Liberty of asking the favor of you to write thither for one for me, with half a dozen Reams of the Paper proper for it.” TJ asked that Morris order it as soon as possible and have the machine shipped to Philadelphia, “as I shall be there in November to continue some Time.” The extract and Morris’ brief reply of Sept. 9 are in Jefferson Papers, XV, 608–9.

7BF had ordered three copy presses from James Watt, the inventor, in 1780. The following year, when Congress asked him to send some to America, he had them replicated in Paris: XXXIII, 115–18; XXXIV, 371n; XXXV, 174, 249–50, 476; XXXVI, 5. We have not found any record of their having been shipped nor of their having arrived, but Morris seemed to know that such presses could be obtained in France.

8Morris had longstanding relationships with both banking firms: XXXV, 136; Morris Papers, 1, 124n; VIII, 613n.

9It was WTF who took care of this order. In a now-missing letter of April 3, 1784, he sent Herries & Co. a copy of Morris’ letter and asked the firm to ship the requested machine and paper to TJ, debiting Morris’ account. They answered on April 13 that they would do so “by the first Opportunity to Virginia”: APS. (WTF had obviously neglected to mention TJ’S request that it be sent elsewhere.) The copy press had still not arrived by the time TJ left for Europe in early July: Jefferson Papers, VII, 362.

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