Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Coder, 16 June 1777

From Coder

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Hotel d’angletere rue de seine faubourg st.g[ermain]
ce Lundi 16e juin 1777.


Hier m. dubourg, m’ayant mené ches m. daliban son ami8 au sujet des fusils, 9 il fut decidé que m. daliban, viendroit me prendre ce matin a 8 hures pour allér ensemble a passi. M. daliban n’etant pas arivé ches moi a 8 hures trois quarts, je me suis mits en route pour passi, et vous ayant apercu dans votre voiture au pont royal, je suis retourné ches moi, ou m. daliban etoit passé allant a passi. Ne vous y ayant pas trouvé, je pense qu’il repassera ce soir. Pour moi je serai certenement a passi demain matin a 8 hures. Je vous prie, en attendent de prendre conoissence des deux nottes si jointes.10 Mdme. dubourg, est a l’agonie et sans ressoursse. Je suis avec veneration Monsieur votre tres humble et tres obeissent scerviteur


Copie des 4 vers que m. dubourg a faits pour metre au bas de votre graveure qui ne sera rendue publique que judi.1 Je crains la publicité de ces vers, d’apres ma fascon de voir et surtout d’après toutes les orreurs que le gouvernement anglois debite, contre les plus zellés defenseurs de la liberté ameriqaine.

benjamin franklin

C’est l’honeur et l’appui du nouvel hemisphere

Les flots de l’ocean s’abaissent a sa voix

il reprime, ou dirige a son grai le tonnerre

qui desarme les dieux put il craindre les rois?

M. Le docteur franklin a passi

Notation: Coder Paris 15 juin 1777.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8Their host was Claude-Henri Watelet, author of an Essai sur les jardins, a wealthy patron of the arts and himself a painter and poet of sorts; he had created at Moulin-Joli, an island in the Seine, one of the first English gardens in France: Larousse, Dictionnaire universel; Lopez, op. cit., pp. 49–52. BF had dined there in May; this second invitation was apparently postponed, for his next recorded dinner on the island was in July: the Pillets’ accounts (above, XXIII, 20), entries of May 22, July 3.

9BF’s old acquaintance, Thomas-François Dalibard, the electrical scientist, was interested in procuring muskets. In a draft contract in his hand in the APS, unsigned and undated but presumably drawn up at about the same time as this letter, he promises to deliver to Nantes, with no charges for transportation, 1,000 guns called fusils de Grenadiers from the royal manufactory at Maubeuge, at 19 l.t. 5 sols each; and the commissioners promise to pay 19,250 l.t. on delivery if the weapons are approved by experts. It is not clear whether Coder was directly involved in the project or was merely offering advice, as he had in his first approach to BF through Dubourg.

10One of Coder’s enclosed notes, though undated, was written at the same time as this letter, for it refers to visiting his friend the day before and examining a model of the gun that Dalibard was taking to Passy. Coder finds it good, and urges purchasing the 12,000 that are available; after that Dubourg can deliver 2,000 a month, and in these Coder recommends certain modifications along the lines recently approved for French infantry weapons. APS. Another note in Coder’s hand, also undated and in the APS, insists that the uniforms he can furnish are vastly better than those the commissioners have hitherto obtained from others; but this could scarcely be the second enclosure because the timing seems wrong: Montieu was not yet delivering the uniforms for which he had contracted on June 6, and to the best of our knowledge neither was any one else.

1The engraving, by St. Aubin after Cochin, is the frontispiece of this volume. Dubourg’s quatrain was apparently included in a trial proof, but was deleted from the print as published because the censor found it blasphemous: Robert Fridenburg, “Catalogue of the Engraved Portraits of Franklin” (3 MS vols., Grolier Club, N. Y., 1923), I, no. 101; Maurice Tourneaux, ed., Correspondance littéraire, philosophique et critique de Grimm, Diderot, Raynal, Meister, &c.... (16 vols., Paris, 1877–82), XII, [3]. Turgot had already written a verse for BF’s portrait, and the last line is strikingly similar to Dubourg’s: Wilmarth S. Lewis et al., eds., The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, (48 vols., New Haven, 1937–83), VI, 413 n.

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