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Editorial Note on Franklin’s Accounts, 1783

Editorial Note on Franklin’s Accounts

The following accounts, identified in previous volumes, continue to apply to the current period: VI and VII (XXIII, 21); XVII (XXVI, 3); XIX and XXII (XXVIII, 3–4); XXV and XXVII (XXXII, 3–4); XXX (XXXVI, 3); and XXXI (XXXVIII, 3). We offer here a summary of entries that have not found a place elsewhere in our annotation but provide insights into Franklin’s private and public life.

Account XVII (Franklin’s Private Accounts with Ferdinand Grand, XXVI, 3) reveals the usual mixture of personal and household expenses. A bill from Gabriel-Louis Marignac, Benjamin Franklin Bache’s tutor, was paid on June 14. Franklin’s secretary Jean L’Air de Lamotte received 268 l.t. on May 17, 221 l.t. on June 7, and 466 l.t. on September 12. Mlle Chaumont, who had been leasing a carriage to Franklin, was paid on June 20 and July 8. Two weeks later, on July 26, Franklin purchased a carriage of his own from a certain Louis Loiselle for 1,680 l.t. (Loiselle would later have dealings with William Temple Franklin, arranging to repair and sell for him a cabriolet.1) Franklin’s carriage must have been the diligence de campagne that was thoroughly overhauled and refurbished in August by Veuve Fabre, master saddler, who charged such extraordinary prices to both Franklin and Temple that her bills were not honored until two years later, when Temple insisted on submitting her accounts to arbitration.2 On August 9 Franklin was debited 6,000 l.t. for his draft of “4 Nbre” on Robert Morris; this surely refers to the draft of December 4, which Franklin described in a letter to Morris of December 14, 1782 (XXXVIII, 455).

Franklin was credited with two deposits on July 28. He received 14,583 l.t. 6 s. 8 d. as salary for the last quarter of 1782 and 40 shares of the caisse d’escompte worth 5,200 l.t.

Account XXV (Account of Postage and Errands, XXXII, 3), still being kept by L’Air de Lamotte during these months, reflects a steady flow of letters and packets sent and received, and the “commissions” or errands to Paris, Versailles, and Auteuil run by Jean-Nicolas Bonnefoÿ and, on occasion, Jacques Finck, the maître d’hôtel. Their monthly statements are filed with L’Air de Lamotte’s summary sheets, as are the bills submitted by Berthelot the postman. In addition to letters for himself and the American commissioners, Franklin received mail for people identified as Bancroft, Miss Laurens, Mr. Vaughan, and, on August 22, Mr. Harrison.3

Account XXVII (Accounts of the Public Agents in Europe, XXXII, 4) lists monthly reimbursements to L’Air de Lamotte for postage and errands (the expenses he itemized in Account XXV) and his salary payment on August 9. On August 6 Grand transferred 2,005 l.t. 9 s. 8 d. to William Carmichael out of the public account. Fizeaux, Grand & Cie.’s bills were paid on May 22 and August 7.

Account XXXI (Jacques Finck’s Accounts of Household Expenditures, XXXVIII, 3), with its daily tallies of groceries, shows a variety of fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, and game, which grew more diverse as the season progressed. The cook was paid in May for three months’ wages plus a wine allowance; that same month the cook’s boy, Bouchet, received four months’ wages plus wine. The garçon de cuisine received two months’ salary in July; in August that same garçon de cuisine (we assume), now malade, was attended by a surgeon who charged 7 l.t. 10 s. for the house call. A dishwasher worked ten days in June, at the rate of 1 l.t. per day, and six days in July. In August, Mlle Chaumont supplied herbage of an unspecified nature and sold the household a wine press for 100 l.t. Two quarts of beer were purchased per month, on average. Bottles of wine from Frontignan and Málaga were bought, usually four at a time, and a dozen bottles of “vin de la cottes Rottie” (the côtes du Rhône). Finck also paid the entry duties on two bottles of Madeira and delivery charges on both the Madeira and a pannier of champagne. He purchased wood for the stove, pots for making pickles, four dozen jam jars, paper for the office, lard for greasing the carriages, and materials for assembling a mattress for “jaques.” In August he bought couch grass (used for bladder and kidney stones, among other urinary tract disorders) and licorice.

1Loiselle’s letters to WTF are at the APS.

2Two versions of Veuve Fabre’s “Memoire des Ouvrages faits et fournis Pour Monsieur Francklin,” covering May 28 through Sept. 27, 1783, are at the APS. The first, 12 pages long and labeled by WTF “Fabre’s 1st Acct,” consists mostly of charges for the repair and refitting of a cabriolet and a whiskey (a light, two-wheeled carriage) that belonged to WTF. In addition, there are itemized charges posted on Aug. 16 and 27 for extensive work on a diligence de campagne. WTF marked these as BF’s charges and must have asked her to separate them out. The revised “Memoire” contains only WTF’s expenses; if she supplied a new account for BF alone, it has not been found. Prior to this time, WTF had used the services of the saddler Madlin; see XXXIX, 521. For BF’s previous carriages see XXXVIII, 394n.

The diligence de campagne underwent a top-to-bottom restoration, including new hardware, harnesses, gun holsters, boxes, benches, windowpanes, upholstery, and elegant decorations, for a total of approximately 300 l.t. WTF’s bill was 831 l.t. WTF evidently protested the charges as excessive. The two members of the Saddlers’ Company who conducted an “article by article” examination on May 5, 1785, agreed with him. The sieurs Tarn and Beau, serving as arbitrators, reduced WTF’s bill by approximately 20 percent and BF’s by nearly 30 percent. They wrote and signed their statements on the second version of Fabre’s memoir, her account with WTF. Below their statements, L’Air de Lamotte drafted a receipt for Fabre, who signed on May 27, 1785, acknowledging that she had received the adjusted total from WTF, as well as 18 l.t. toward the arbitrators’ fees.

3Edward Bancroft, Martha Laurens, Samuel Vaughan, Jr., and the Harrison who brought BF an Aug. 19 letter from JW (below).

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