Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Jonathan Williams, Jr., 7 June 1775

From Jonathan Williams, Jr.

ALS: Yale University Library

London June 7. 1775

Dear and honoured Sir

Agreeable to a Message from Lord Shelburn, I waited on the Prince de Masserano spanish ambassador, for a Book which his Lordship informed me was for You.2 After my Name was sent up, his Secretary came and asked if I spoke French, and answering in the affirmative I was immediately admitted into the Princes Chamber, where he was dressing. He then told me that the Infanta of Spain, desires his best regards to you, and requests you will accept a Volume of his Works, as a token of his affectionate Esteem.3 The Prince at the same Time expressed his concern at not having the honor of presenting it to you in Person, and likewise desires his Compliments. I am Your dutifull and affectionate Kinsman

Jona Williams Junr

I should have mentioned, that His Royal Highness has got the Armonica in thorough Repair, and is exceedingly pleased with it.4 I send the Book and some Newspapers by Capt. Miller.

Doctor Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2Almost a decade earlier Shelburne, as secretary of state, had had considerable official contact with the Spanish Ambassador: Edmond G. Petty-Fitzmaurice, Baron Fitzmaurice, Life of William Earl of Shelburne . . . (2 vols., London, 1912), I, 287, 290–1, 324–5. Victor-Amé-Philippe Ferrero de Fiesque, Prince of Masserano (1713–77), was a popular figure at the British court, but for some time had been under treatment in Paris for a serious illness; he did not return to his post until late May: Doniol, Histoire, I, 56–7.

3Don Gabriel Antonio (1752–88), the fourth and favorite son of King Charles III, was a talented classicist as well as a trained musician; see John D. Bergamini, The Spanish Bourbons: the History of a Tenacious Dynasty (New York, [1974]), p. 100. The Infante was sending BF his translation of Sallust, La Conjuracion de Catilina y la guerra de Jugurta ([Madrid, 1772]). BF’s receipt of the present, “beautifully and magnificently printed,” was reported in the Pa. Gaz., Aug. 30, 1775, and in the Pa. Evening Post the next day; yet his acknowledgment below, Dec. 12, indicates that the volume had just arrived. It is now in the Yale University Library, with a note in BF’s hand: “A Present from Don Gabriel Infant of Spain, the Translator. to B. Franklin. Delivered to Mr. Williams for him by Prince Maserano, Ambassador from that Court, in England. 1775.” Years later BF commented that the Sallust was still considered to be typographically superior to the best printing in Paris: Smyth, Writings, VIII, 336.

4We have no other evidence for what seems to be suggested here, that BF had already been in touch with the Infante.

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