Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from William Dodd, 29 January 1777

From William Dodd8

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Jan. 29. 1777.


I make no Apology for troubling you with a request I have heretofore made, of conveying the inclosed Letter, if possible, to a worthy young Woman, who in an unfortunate Hour, went to America; and to whose fortunes and situation there I am a stranger.9 Anxious for the success of the grand struggle in which you are engag’d, I cou’d have been happy in conversing with you, when I was at Paris; but you was not then arriv’d. If you shou’d see or converse with Mr. Mante who resides at Diepe, but is frequently at Paris, He knows my sentiments, and wou’d be happy to communicate with you.1 I am Sir with very great Esteem Your obedient humble Servant

W. Dodd

It is not possible to effect a reconciliation? How happy cou’d I be to be any way instrumental in it!

Addressed: Docr. Franklin / Paris.

Notation: Dr Dodd Jan 29. 77.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8An Anglican clergyman well known in London for his writings, philanthropies, sermons, and high living. Although his tone here suggests a previous acquaintance with BF, we have no evidence of it. Three days after writing this letter Dodd embarked on the forgery that led him to the scaffold in June, 1777. James H. Warner, “The Macaroni Parson,” Queen’s Quarterly, LII (1946), [41]–53; Gerald Howson, The Macaroni Parson: a Life of the Unfortunate Dr. Dodd (London, [1973]), p. 108 et seq.; DNB.

9We are convinced in our bones (in other words without proof) that this was Ann or Anna Brodeau, who emigrated to Philadelphia with a small baby in 1775 and started a school that was recommended by BF and Robert Morris: above, XXII, 282. Dodd, according to a long-lasting rumor, was the father of the baby. She grew up to marry William Thornton, and at her death a newspaper described her, on her husband’s authority, as the clergyman’s daughter; her friends denied the statement but gave no evidence. National Intelligencer, Aug. 18, 22, 1865.

1Dodd had strange friends. Thomas Mante, or de Mante as he sometimes signed himself, was a writer on military affairs (DNB), an Englishman who had become a French citizen and been—and perhaps still was— a secret agent for both countries. He was certainly a French spy, Stormont reported in January, 1777, and the French believed that he was also working for the British. Frank Monaghan, “A New Document on the Identity of ‘Junius,’” Jour. of Modem History, IV (1932), 69–70; Stevens, Facsimiles, XIV, no. 1413, p. I. Mante did not see BF at this time. In September, 1778, when he was in prison in Paris, he wrote as a stranger to ask for money; BF obliged, and Mante continued intermittent pleas for help. See his letters in the APS of Sept. 3, 1778; Feb. 22, March 12, June 14, 1779; Jan. 10, 1780; and Jan. 1, 1781.

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