Benjamin Franklin Papers

The American Commissioners to Jonathan Williams, Jr., 1 May 1777

The American Commissioners to Jonathan Williams, Jr.

Copy and transcript: National Archives; copy: Harvard University Library

The commissioners had been plagued from the start by the lack of regular and reliable communication with America. On April 1 they had signed a contract with Chaumont for establishing a packet service; now, a month later, the service was ready to start as soon as the first packet arrived from Morlaix and took on her cargo.4 The commissioners put Williams in charge of this new operation, as the first step in making him their sole agent in Nantes. They had lost confidence in Penet, Gruel, and especially Thomas Morris, and at this time apparently washed their hands of them all.5 Williams’ promotion may well have brought greater efficiency, for the young man was competent; but the decision subsequently opened Franklin to the charge of nepotism.

Paris May 1. 1777.

Mr. Williams

Mr. Cornic of Morlaix6 will order to your Care a small Vessel design’d as a Packet for America. You will see by the Contract Copy inclosed, we are to load goods to a certain amount, as she is instantly to be dispatched. We desire you would put the quantity of Goods to be sent in her out of the Bales on hand. We have order’d that future Packets coming from America or else where to Nantes for us shall be under your direction, of which we have informed Mr. Penet and Mr. Moris. You will therefore on the arrival of any Vessel from America with Dispatches for us inform the Captains or Persons charged with them of your appointment receive the Letters and send them to us in the most safe and expeditious manner, plan for which of Mr. Chaumont is inclosed.7 We advise you to charge the Person bringing Dispatches to say not a Word of his errand to any one, and we confide in your prudence to conduct the receiving as well as the expedition of the Packets with all possible Secrecy. We are sir yours &c.

(signed) B. Franklin
S. Deane
Arthur Lee

Copy of a Letter from the honble the Commissioners at Paris to Mr. Jonn. Williams at Nantes.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4For the contract see above, XXIII, 543–5. The packet was La Mère Bobie, the nickname of one of Chaumont’s daughters: Lopez, Mon Cher Papa, p. 321. She was not ready to sail until the first days of June: JW to the commissioners below, May 31.

5They were also withdrawing business from Sollier, who had been for a time their banker; see Penet to the commissioners below, May 6.

6For Cornic, Veuve Mathurin & fils, Chaumont’s correspondent in Morlaix and a firm that the commissioners were using, see Almanach des marchands, p. 336; Deane Papers, II, 30–1. Henry Johnson was enthusiastic about Cornic’s discretion and efficiency: to the commissioners below, under Aug. 19.

7This was a plan, in which Montaudoüin was somehow involved, for forwarding dispatches to Paris with maximum efficiency: JW to Chaumont, May 5, 1777, JW letterbook, Yale University Library.

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