Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Dominique Lefebvre Delagrange, 19 February 1778: résumé

From Dominique Lefebvre Delagrange

ALS: American Philosophical Society

<Brancourt, near St. Quentin, February 19, 1778, in French: An honest family begs your help in its shameful poverty. I must support my wife and five children on an income of 400 l.t., and have only twelve sous a day for food; as for clothes, we are almost naked. My curé will confirm this. The farmers general helped me out six months ago, but I dare not ask them again. You are my only hope for paying the baker, who refuses me bread; we have lived for two days on potatoes and carrots and a bit of salt. My wife and two of the children have been ill for three weeks, and I cannot help them. You will see from the enclosed memorandum that I have been unlucky since early youth, not from fault of mine but because fortune has broken me on its wheel.5>

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5According to the memorandum his father, Louis Lefebvre De la Grange (the son spells the name both ways), had been a professor of mathematics and engineering at the military school in Metz, and in 1724 had lost his money and died of grief. Dominique joined the army, but had to quit when his mother’s death left him impoverished; for the past sixteen years he has been an underpaid comptroller and receiver for the farmers general. On April 12 and May 10 he wrote again to say virtually the same thing; years ago he had sold his clothes and the better part of his furniture, and the family was living on 12 sous a day. It was still doing so many months later, when he sent what seems to have been his last plea on Sept. 29, 1779. APS.

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