Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to the Conde d’Aranda, 7 April 1777

To the Conde d’Aranda

ALS: Archivo Historico Nacional; ALS (draft): Library of Congress

Passy, April 7. 1777.


I left in your Excellency’s Hands, to be communicated, if you please, to your Court, a Duplicate of the Commission from the Congress, appointing me to go to Spain as their Minister Plenipotentiary. But as I understand that the Receiving such a Minister is not at present thought convenient, and I am sure the Congress would have nothing done that might incommode in the least a Court they so much respect, I shall therefore postpone that Journey, till Circumstances may make it more suitable.2 And in the mean time, I beg leave to lay before his Catholic Majesty, through the Hands of your Excellency, the Propositions contain’d in a Resolution of Congress, dated Dec. 30. 1776, viz.

“That if his Catholic Majesty will join with the United States in a War against Great Britain, they will assist in reducing to the Possession of Spain the Town and Harbour of Pensacola, provided the Inhabitants of the United States shall have the free Navigation of the Missisipi, and the Use of the Harbour of Pensacola; and they will (provided it shall be true that the King of Portugal has insultingly expelled the Vessels of these States from his Ports, or has confiscated any such Vessels) declare War against the said King, if that Measure shall be agreable to and supported by the Courts of Spain and France.”

It is understood that the strictest Union subsists between those two Courts; and in case they should think fit to attempt the Conquest of the English Sugar Islands, the Congress have farther propos’d to furnish Provisions to the amount of Two Millions of Dollars, and to join their Fleet with 6 Fregates of not less than 24 Guns each, manned and fitted for Service; and to render any other Assistance which may be in their Power, as becomes good Allies, without desiring for themselves the Possession of any of the said Islands.3

These Propositions are subject to Discussion, and to receive such Modifications as may be found proper. With great Respect, I have the Honour to be Your Excellency’s most obedient and most humble Servant

B Franklin

His Excelly the Comte d’Aranda

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2The commission arrived on March 14, and BF originally hoped that Lee might substitute for him; the hope vanished when Lee’s letters made clear that no emissary would be welcome. See above, the commissioners to Vergennes, March 18; BF to Lee, March 21; Lee to Franklin and Deane, March 16. BF apparently meant what he said about postponing rather than canceling his journey; see the note on Sarsfield to BF below, May 26.

3Congress had made Spain only the quoted offer, and had envisaged joint action with France alone: JCC, VI, 1056–7. Vergennes kept in close touch with Aranda, and had the proposals made to France translated for him; see Doniol, Histoire, II, 322–3, 325.

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