Benjamin Franklin Papers

Franklin’s Notes for Replying to Two Letters from Ralph Izard, [on or after 1 February 1778]

Franklin’s Notes for Replying to Two Letters from Ralph Izard

AD: American Philosophical Society

This is a rare example of Franklin’s thinking on paper for his eye alone. Some of the notes are now beyond understanding and the meaning of others can only be conjectured; but what he is thinking about is clear: how to answer Izard’s letters above of January 28 and 30. All of his few identifiable references, down to the word “Personals,” are to the first letter, all thereafter to the second. He made his jottings at least a day or two after the latter reached him, for “Wrote so to Ministery / Their Answer” can only refer to his and Deane’s note to Gérard and the reply, both on February 1. Our guess is that Franklin was setting his thoughts in order for the conversation that he had promised Izard in his note of the 29th. The South Carolinian had had from him by then only a precept that he took, with some justification, to be condescending, and wanted to know where the other man stood. An interview might conceivably have cleared the air between them. But it never took place, as far as we know, and their relations grew steadily worse.

[On or after February 1, 1778]

The terrible Ideas form’d of the Mellasses Article as express’d in your Letter

  • quote the passages
  • express’d by Mr. Arthur Lee
  • by Mr. W. Lee

Give the History of it

  • In the Congress Treaty
  • Preamble proposes the Principle of Reciprocity
  • Ministers proposed that on our side Tobacco should not be taxed on Export.
  • Mr. Lee objected to this on Behalf of the Tobacco Colonies.
  • I propos’d the General Clause
  • My Reasons.
  • As affecting the Colonies more equally so less liable to Objections. Reasons.
  • As I have always been against such Duties and think them of no Use.
  • Yet I offer’d to join. Mr. Lee agreed to this.
  • But finding that such terrible Ideas—
  • I was willing to strike both out
  • Wrote so to Ministry
  • Their Answer
  • Answer Mr. Iz.’s Arguments

French may lay Duties on their European Exports—no Check

Can we not then lay Duties on their Imports?

Not the least Probability. Interfere with Brandy.

If they wish us to take their Brandy may it not be their Interest to discourage our making Rum? Why might they not chuse to have that Manufacture themselves? And sell us the Rum instead of the Mellasses; they may indeed yet do it.

Contrary to the Principles of the Treaty, Instructions, &c.


Not a Word—&c. Insincere

2d Letter—Extraordinary Inattention.

  • My Practice.
  • The only Gentleman I have visited for 50 Years
  • His Distance3
  • Much Business } all devour my time.
    Many Visitors
    Many Letters
    • Poor Understanding was the favourable Construction.
    • Differences prevailing
      • Thanks for his Endeavours
      • Did not expect that having prevailed on that Gentleman to be more reasonable he would have taken his place4
      • Exacted Respect of no Value
      • Respect a voluntary Thing
[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3The only gentleman who kept his distance?

4Izard is becoming as unreasonable as Arthur Lee had been?

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