Benjamin Franklin Papers

The American Commissioners to Gérard, 14 January 1777

The American Commissioners to Gérard

AL: Archives du Ministère des affaires étrangères; copy:8 Harvard University Library

The commissioners are here acknowledging, on the surface, the King’s message that Gérard had transmitted to them the day before. Their gratitude, however, had little to do with the message, which offered them nothing beyond a vague promise, at the end, of help in purchasing supplies. What they are in fact acknowledging is Gérard’s verbal definition of that promise, not to be mentioned on paper by either side, as a loan of two million livres under the guise of contributions from well-wishers in France.9

Paris. Jany. 14th. 1777.

We thank Monsr. Gerard, for the polite and explicit manner in which he has communicated his Majesty’s Message.

We beg to return our most grateful sense of the gracious intentions, which his Majesty has had the goodness to signify towards our States; and to assure his Majesty, that we shall ever retain the warmest gratitude for the substantial proofs he has given us, of his regard; and that we will, in due time, endeavour to impress our Constituents, with the same sentiments.

We feel the strength of the reasons, his Majesty has been pleasd to assign for the conduct he means to hold; and the magnanimity of his motives. We beg leave to assure his Majesty, that we shall at all times, and in all things endeavor to conform ourselves to the views he has opend to us; as nothing is farther from our intention, than to precipitate his Majesty into any measures which his royal wisdom and justice may disapprove. And if in any thing we shoud contravene these purposes, we shall always be happy and ready to amend it, according to the advice and direction of Government.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8Both are in the hand of Arthur Lee; the differences in wording and punctuation are inconsequential.

9“Jan. 14, 1777. Commissioners returned Thanks to Mr. Gerard for the 2 Million granted by his Majesty.” Notes compiled by WTF for BF “Relative to the 2 Millions granted in Jany. 1777,” Jan. 14–Dec. 18, 1777, Library of Congress. The loan was in quarterly installments, without interest or date of termination; see the commissioners to the committee of secret correspondence below, Jan. 17. Price suggests that the government made this decision only after Vergennes learned on the 13th that the commissioners and the farmers general had failed to reach agreement on a tobacco contract; the loan was thus a substitute: France and the Chesapeake, II, 710–12. The commissioners implied the same thing in their letter below of March 12 to the committee of secret correspondence. Although the loan might not have been made if a tobacco contract had been signed in early January, the decision was reached while negotiations were still under way. The King’s answer to the commissioners was approved on the 9th, and on the 12th Vergennes, in writing to his ambassador in Madrid, defined precisely the secret aid mentioned in it. AAE, Correspondance politique, Espagne, DLXXXIII, 40–2.

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