Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from William Carmichael, 3 May 1777

From William Carmichael

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Paris May 3rd. 1777


Mr. Deane having promissd to explain my ideas of the Situation In which I could ever be inducd to revisit Berlin, and Mr. Lee knowing from me what I expected on that Subject, are the reasons which have prevented a personal explanation with you on my part. I do assure you I feel infinitely more pain in solliciting a mode of serving my country than in risquing everything dear and valuable to render it services. But as the time of Mr. Lees departure approaches, I would not wish to appear to start difficulties at the moment when every arrangement is made for his journey. I have explained myself fully to your Collegues permit me to mention to you, that I cannot go with Mr. Lee or any individual without being jointly employd by the representatives of America here.3 Perhaps my feelings may be too refind on the Occasion but they influence me in such a manner, that I am obligd to Submit to them. When I ask to be commissioned by you and the other Gentlemen, I mean not to derive any pecuniary claim or subject you or your colleagues to censure from having perhaps exceeded your orders in appointing a secretary untill the pleasure of Congress is known. My Sole view in wishing to have your sanction to my appointment is that I may feel myself the Servant of the Public and not of any Individual. To give the Strongest proof possible that I have no interested views in the matter I offer to come under any obligation to refund from my little estate in America, any advances made even for my Expences while on this or any other service I am Employ’d in. Should it not appear to the Commissioners that I have fully comply’d with their Orders and instructions, I beg you to excuse the Liberty of this address, to tell me with the Candor that distinguishes your Character what I ought to do and to beleive me with much respect Sir your Most Obedient humble Servant

Wm. Carmichael

Addressed: A Monsr / Monsieur Le Docteur Franklin / À Passy

Notation: W. Carmicael 3d May 77

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3For Lee’s mission to Prussia see the headnote on his power of attorney below, May 12. Carmichael speaks of revisiting Berlin because he had gone there the year before, and that trip may help to explain his insistence here on having a recognized position: in 1776 he had been Deane’s representative, empowered to make contracts for him and for Congress; see his instructions in Elizabeth S. Kite, “Revolutionary Correspondence of Charles Carroll of Carrollton with William Carmichael,” American Catholic Hist. Soc. Records, XLII (1931), 2–3. Since then he had made a good impression on all the commissioners, but until now they had been unable to find him enough to do. “I have been so tired of a state of uncertainty and inglorious inactivity,” he wrote Dumas on April 21, “that I had determined to embark instantly for America; but these gentlemen think I can serve my country better in Europe, and have detained me on that account. I go again to Germany among the anthropophagi.” Deane Papers, II, 49; see also above, XXIII, 621. But he insisted on official status, which the commissioners had no authority to give; when he stuck to his position, they replaced him. Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, II, 320.

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