Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from the Abbés Arnoux and de Chalut, [late 1777?]

From the Abbés Arnoux and de Chalut

AL:2 American Philosophical Society

This is the first extant communication, if we are correct in our guess at its date, from an inseparable pair of abbés. They were “elderly but spritely enthusiasts for the American cause,” in Lyman Butterfield’s words, and the following spring they tried to serve it by teaching John Adams French.3 Arnoux was fifty or sixty (guesses differed) and Chalut, the brother of the farmer general, Chalut de Vérin, was about seventy-five. They lived near Franklin in Passy, and also had the run of the farmer general’s house on the Place Vendôme.4 Franklin may have met them through Chalut de Vérin5 or through mutual friends in Passy; in any case the relationship continued for years.

[Late 1777?]

M. d’Armand officier françois au service des Etats unis a passé en amerique sur le vaisseau commandé par Anderson. Ce vaisseau après une resistance opiniatre contre des forces superieures, dans la crainte de tomber sous le pouvoir des Anglois se fit sauter. M. d’Armand et quelques personnes qui avoient été envoyées a terre dans une chaloupe furent les seuls sauvés de l’Equipage.6

M. d’Armand et ceux qui étoient avec lui dans la chaloupe, arriverent à philadelphie, le Congrès leur donna de l’emploi.7 La mere et l’oncle de M. d’Armand en demandent des nouvelles.

Les abbés de chalut et arnoux prient Monsieur franklin de demander dans les premieres depeches qu’il enverra en amerique, des nouvelles de M. d’Armand. Ils prennent le plus grand interest au sort de cet officier.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2In Arnoux’s hand.

3Butterfield, John Adams Diary, II, 317 n; IV, 59–60; see also Boyd, Jefferson Papers, VIII, 92 n. No one now seems to know either man’s first name.

4An undated and unaddressed note from Arnoux (APS) announces that they are staying with Chalut de Vérin.

5To whom he had apparently been introduced in July, 1777: above XXIV, 348.

6Charles Armand Tuffin, marquis de La Rouërie (1750–93), was a Breton who resigned from the French army and left for America at the end of 1776. His ship, commanded by Capt. Anderson, was chased and ran aground in Delaware Bay. Anderson gave his dispatches to Armand, who got ashore with the crew, and then blew up his ship and himself with it. Butterfield, Adams Correspondence, II, 209, 210 n, and the references there.

7This remark does not help to date the letter because Congress gave Armand “emploi” by stages: it commissioned him a colonel in May, 1777, furnished him two months later with $2,000 for recruiting, and then in June 1778, supplied another $5,000 and authorized him to create a corps of “free and independent chasseurs,” which became known as Armand’s Legion, out of Hessian deserters and other foreigners. JCC, VII, 346; VIII, 543; XI, 642–5. We assign undated letters to the earliest plausible date. The commission in 1777 would have qualified as “emploi,” and we assume that word of it reached his family before the end of 1777.

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