Benjamin Franklin Papers

The Duc de La Rochefoucauld to Franklin and Silas Deane, 20 January 1777

The Duc de La Rochefoucauld1 to Franklin and Silas Deane

ALS: American Philosophical Society

This is the first communication from a man who, with his mother, soon became part of Franklin’s circle, and who corresponded with him intermittently for the rest of the Doctor’s life.2 Franklin had met the mother, the duchesse d’Enville, on one of his earlier visits to Paris, and the son at a dinner in London in 1769; but the connection seems to have been casual.3 It was renewed as soon as the American arrived in France. He brought with him, and forwarded to Vergennes in early January, the draft Articles of Confederation.4 They were promptly translated for publication, probably by La Rochefoucauld himself; and he forwarded the copies mentioned here. Later, as will be seen, he and Franklin collaborated in translating a number of state constitutions.

20th January. [1777].

Le Due de la Rochefoucauld presents his compliments to Mr. franklyn and Mr. dean and has the honour to send them 50. Exemplars of the American Confederation translated: this traduction will be publicated in the Journal Des Affaires de l’Amérique,5 but these 50. have been separately tied for being offerred to the two honourable Gentlemen.

1Louis-Alexandre, duc de La Roche-Guyon et de La Rochefoucauld (1743–92), whose great-great-grandfather was the author of the Maximes, was prominent among the enlightened nobility. “He is the pearl of all the Dukes,” Crèvecoeur said of him years later, “a Good Man and an most able Chemyst.” Boyd, Jefferson Papers, VII, 376. He later played a part in the reforms of the National Assembly, and was one of the liberal aristocrats whom the Revolution destroyed; a mob stoned him to death in 1792.

2For BF’s relations with the mother and son see Lopez, Mon Cher Papa, pp. 185–9. The Duchess, in a note of Jan. 18 (APS), invited BF to dinner on the 23rd; her son was a widower and living with her.

3Above, XIX, 127, where the mother appears as the Duchess of Rochefoucauld; XVI, 33 n.

4BF’s memorandum above under Jan. 5.

5Affaires de l’Angleterre et de l’Amérique, III, cahier XIV, clxxix–cxcii. For a description of this periodical, which was closely connected with the government and is a bibliographer’s nightmare, see Butterfield, John Adams Diary, II, 354–5 n. BF paid for his subscription on Feb. 8: entry of that date in the Waste Book.

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