Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Ferdinand Grand, [before 1 February 1778]

From Ferdinand Grand

ALS: American Philosophical Society

This letter deals with a projected public loan in France and Holland. Congress had instructed the commissioners in December, 1776, to borrow if possible two million sterling; Vergennes, willing to help with short-term expenses but not with a loan of this magnitude (the equivalent of 46 million l.t.), had encouraged them the following March to try the private sector.3 Their efforts to do so during the next eight months came to naught. News of Saratoga prompted them to make another effort that resulted in the manuscript loan certificate reproduced here. It was followed by a printed specimen, dated in pencil Feb. 1, 1778; another printed version, without date, was for a ten-year loan.4 Soon afterward the commissioners paid the printer, Boudet, for what we presume was printing samples.5 The loan was not floated, however, perhaps because the French government refused permission.6 But the need remained pressing, and the commissioners did not abandon hope; in late August they delicately sounded out Vergennes on whether they still might be allowed to tap, or try to tap, private French investors.7

Paris ce mercredy soir [before February 1,8 1778]

J’abuse peut etre de votre Complaisance Monsieur par la frequence de mes observations sur le meme sujet mais vous les excuserés en faveur du motif. La diversité des sommes pourroit causer du désordre et et des difficultés dans la Comptabilité et ne feroit qu’augmenter les Embarras sans faciliter L’operation. Une persone qui voudra placer mille Guinées prendra aussy bien dix promesses qu’une seule. Mr. Boudet vous remetra le modelle pour La hollande, mais il me semble qu’il ne convient pas de changer le Lieu parcequ’il est Indifferent, en lui meme. Mais il ne l’est pas de faire un faux, quelqu’inocent qu’il soit puisqu’etant a Paris le premier vous ne pouvez pas datter et signer à Amsterdam ce jour la. Nous voullions fixer L’Epoque ce matin au premier fevrier mais comme le Corps de la promesse et des Coupons le fixe au premier Janvier je ne vois point d’Inconvenient de le laisser de meme pour ne rien changer a l’Epreuve que le folio.

Je vous reitere Monsieur qu’il ne se peut rien ajouter aux tendres et respectueux Sentiments avec lesquels J’ay L’honneur d’etre Monsieur votre tres humble et tres obeissant serviteur


Addressed: A Monsieur / Monsieur Franklin / A Passy

Notation: Grand

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3JCC, VI, 1036–7; above, XXIII, 470. According to Arthur Lee, at some point Versailles sent BF the sketch of a plan for borrowing the two million. BF did not act on it and the sketch cannot be found. Lee, Life of Arthur Lee, I, 353–4.


5240 l.t.: Account XI (above, XXIV, 3), entry of March 10.

6Lee, in mid-February, was opposed to the whole idea (Lee, Life of Arthur Lee, I, 396–7); but it seems unlikely that he could have persuaded his colleagues to drop it after specimen certificates had been printed.

7Taylor, Adams Papers, VI, 403. At some point when such a loan was in prospect Ferdinand Grand drafted a letter to some one who was clearly in high place and needed persuasion. The banker recalled BF’s comparison between the credit of Great Britain and the U.S. (above, XXIV, 508–14), and pointed out that the latter had since risen markedly in public esteem, whereas the former had shrunk in consequence of an enormous loan at ruinous interest; French businessmen were glad to sell on credit to America at half the British interest rate. The letter (APS) is unfinished and undated. The British loan to which it refers was for six million sterling, on terms that even Lord North admitted were exorbitant; it was apparently raised before the matter came before Parliament in early March. Fortescue, Correspondence of George Third, IV, 47; Cobbett, Parliamentary History, XIX (1777–78), 870–1; A. Francis Steuart, ed., The Last Journals of Horace Walpole . . . (2 vols.; London and New York, 1910), II, 128–9.

8The pencilled date on the printed specimen which we presume elicited Grand’s suggestion to predate the loan certificates to Jan. 1.

9Other undated notes from Grand relating to the loan survive in the APS. One asks BF to examine and comment on a new proof; the folio number should be repeated on each coupon. Another requests BF to return when ready the copy of the ten-year certificate that Grand had sent to the royal treasury.

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