Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from George Arnold, 27 December 1777: résumé

From George Arnold8

ALS: American Philosophical Society

<Mainz, December 27, 1777, in German: Germany in general and this region in particular wait impatiently for news of the brave Arnold’s exploits. He may be a native of this city. If he is the son of a butcher here, if he was once a Franciscan monk, if he went to America with Montgomery in 1773 and wrote me then, if he got a papal dispensation to leave his order, I am his father; late in life I have raised a son to defend American freedom. I have heard nothing from him, but Arnold’s campaigns as described to me sound like his, and a copperplate of General Arnold made in 1776 strongly resembles him. Many say, however, that the General was born in New England.9 Much hangs on the issue: my children’s inheritance will be complicated unless their sibling’s whereabouts can be determined.>

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8We have supplied the Christian name from a second letter, of May 13, 1778 (APS), in the fluent French of, we presume, an amanuensis. It repeats this inquiry without mentioning it, and adds that the local newspaper had often described Benedict Arnold as the son of a Mainz butcher; the nobility and even the Elector himself are eager to know the truth. “George Arnold Butcher of Mentz,” BF endorsed the second letter, “Would know of Gen. Arnold as his Relation.”

9Where his family had lived for generations.

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