Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from the Abbé Raimondo Niccoli with a Note by Franklin, 26 May 1777

From the Abbé Raimondo Niccoli7 with a Note by Franklin

AL: British Library

Du petit Luxembourg Lundy 26 may 1777

L’abbé Niccoli prie Monsieur franklin de luy faire l’honneur de venir dejeuner chés luy Mercredy matin 28 de ce mois à 9 heures du matin. Il luy donnera une bonne tasse de chocolat.

Il l’assure de son respect.

[Note in Franklin’s hand:] The above is a Note from Abbé Niccoli Minister of the Grand Duke (of Tuscany). The Intention of it was to give the Emperor an Opportunity of an Interview with me, that should appear accidental. M. Turgot et L’abbé [blank in MS8] were there to be present, and by their Knowledge of what pass’d, to prevent or contradict false Reports. The Empr. did not appear, and the Abbé since tells me that the Number of other Persons who occasionally visited him that Morning of which the Emperor was inform’d, prevented his Coming: that at 12 understanding they were gone, he came; but I was gone also.

Addressed: à Monsieur / Monsr. le Docteur Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7The secretary of the Tuscan legation since 1767. Over the years he made many acquaintances, among them Choiseul, Mirabeau, Du Pont de Nemours, and the duchesse d’Enville. He must have met BF during one of the latter’s French visits, for when he heard of the American’s return he remarked that he had already known and loved him; the two were in touch from almost the moment that BF reached Paris. The abbé had expected colonial independence before hostilities began, and was the only one of the diplomatic corps who made no bones about where his sympathies lay. He was also, according to Arthur Lee, the one “who has always the best intelligence.” Lee Jour., p. 124; see also Mario Mirri, “Per una ricerca sui rapporti fra ’economisti’ e riformatori toscani-L’abate Niccoli a Parigi,” Istituto Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Annali, II (1959), 57, 61, 65–72, 86–90; Antonio Pace, Benjamin Franklin and Italy (Philadelphia, 1958), pp. 99–103.

8The omission was unquestionably the abbé Joseph-Alphonse de Véri (1724–90), a close friend of Niccoli, Morellet, and Turgot; he was an admirer of BF, and in later life cherished as his choicest possession a portrait of him by Greuze: Charles C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture (New Haven and London, 1962), pp. 114–16. The abbé explained why Joseph II, visiting incognito, did not appear: “M. Franklin qui est à Paris pour les intérêts du Congrès est le seul personnage célèbre que l’Empereur n’ait pas recherché. Il a eu le désir de le rencontrer par un effet du hasard: mais les égards raisonnés pour la Cour de Londres l’ont empêché d’aller au delà .” Baron Jehan de Witte, ed., Journal de l’abbé de Véri (2 vols., Paris, [1928]), II, 40. Stormont told a different story. Niccoli was zealous in the American cause, the Ambassador reported on May 22, and was doing all he could to persuade the Emperor to receive BF and Deane. Joseph would have none of it. He reluctantly accepted a memorandum in which the commissioners explained their position and their resources, but in conversation took “that side of the Question which is very unpopular here.” Stevens, Facsimiles, XV, no. 1538.

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