Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to the Committee of Secret Correspondence, 4 January 1777

To the Committee of Secret Correspondence

ALS and copy: National Archives

Paris Jan. 4. 1777.


I arrived here about two Weeks since, where I found Mr. Deane. Mr. Lee has since join’d us from London. We have had an Audience of the Minister, Count de Vergennes, and were respectfully receiv’d.3We left for his Consideration a Sketch of the propos’d Treaty. We are to wait upon him tomorrow with a strong Memorial requesting the Aids mentioned in our Instructions.4By his Advice we had an Interview with the Spanish Ambassador, Count d’Aranda, who seems well dispos’d towards us, and will forward Copies of our Memorials to his Court, which will act, he says, in perfect Concert with this. Their Fleets are said to be in fine Order, mann’d and fit for Sea. The Cry of this Nation is for us; but the Court it is thought views an approaching War with Reluctance. The Press continues in England.5As soon as we can receive a positive Answer from these Courts we shall dispatch an Express with it. I am, Gentlemen, Your most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin

The Committee of Secret Correspondence

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3This audience, which the commissioners had requested in their letter above of Dec. 23, took place secretly in Paris on the 28th. According to Vergennes, it was neither long nor very interesting. BF apparently did the talking for his colleagues; he presented the plan of a commercial treaty and promised a memorandum on the state of American affairs. “Le personnage paroit intelligent, mais très circonspect, cela ne m’etone pas.” Vergennes to Aranda, Dec. 28, 1776; Archivo Historico Nacional. What did surprise him was how little the Americans were requesting; he correctly interpreted this modesty as confidence that close commercial ties with France and Spain would by themselves bring those countries into war with Britain. Doniol, Histoire, II, 114–5. The Minister for his part assured them that their commerce would receive all the facilities compatible with Anglo-French treaties; to make clear what he meant he read them the article restricting the access of privateers to French ports and barring the sale of their prizes. Vergennes to the commissioners below, July 16, 1777.

4Their first letter to Vergennes below of Jan. 5; as explained in the headnote there, they were not allowed to present it in person.

5The French navy was far from ready. The British, nevertheless, were sufficiently alarmed to have inaugurated a general press the previous October. Dull, French Navy, pp. 66–8; Gruber, Howe Brothers, p. 165.

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