Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from the Baron de Bissy and Dangeul, 13 January 1777

From the Baron de Bissy1 and Dangeul

AL: American Philosophical Society

Paris ce 13. Janvier 1777.

Comme Mr. le Baron de Bissy en faisant ressouvenir Monsieur le Docteur francklin, aura peut être oublié de lui parler de l’heure de diner chez M. de Dangeul, laquelle sera Two o’clock precisely Tomorrow.2On lui en renouvelle l’avis: Mr. le Docteur n’y trouvera que quatre ou cinq amis de M. de Dangeul et des Insurgens, y compris le Baron de Bissy. M. de Dangeul fancied that it would be more convenient and agreeable to him, to whom he present his best compliments. Moonday, 14 Jany. 1777.

M. francklin.

Addressed: A Monsieur / Monsieur franckelin / à l’hotel d’ambourg / Rue Jacob.

1Most of what we know about Stephano, Baron de Bissy, is in a memorandum that he addressed to the U.S. “Senate” on Dec. 15, 1776 (University of Pa. Library); a duplicate, dated Feb. 6, 1777, is in the APS and bears a notation by BF: “Memoire from a Person who has some Ingenuity, but seems at present a little extra. I was oblig’d to promise a Friend that I would send it to Congress. [In another hand:] B. Franklin.” Bissy, according to his memorandum, came of a Lombard family and was in his late forties, with an English wife and four children. He was an inventor and artilleryman who had served on land and sea; he claimed to have a secret weapon, as yet untested in action but of enormous power, and gave no hint of what it was. He asked to be a lieutenant general (he was then a captain) with a staff of fifty, all captains or higher, whom he would recruit; Congress would pay their expenses from the day of enlistment, and each would receive a land grant proportioned to his rank. This was the bizarre document that BF reluctantly forwarded. Bissy later invited him to witness a demonstration of his weapon: below, Sept. 14, 1777. It was probably a new kind of oar for warships. Bissy had been pestering the Academy with this idea since 1774; three successive committees investigated it, and it was gently but firmly rejected. Archives de l’Academie royale des sciences, procès-verbaux, XCVI (1777), July 19, Nov. 23, Dec. 23.

2The note to this point is in an unidentified hand; the rest is in Dangeul’s.

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