Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Frantz Nicolaus Gustav Becker, 27 February 1778: résumé

From Frantz Nicolaus Gustav Becker3

ALS: American Philosophical Society

<Bayonne, February 27, 1778: A young man pours out his heart, on a matter affecting his whole life, in order to ask your advice. I am a native of Lübeck, from a family esteemed in Germany for its services to the church and the law. As the youngest of five brothers I have been trained in commerce: eleven years’ experience in Germany and almost three in France, a knowledge of English, French, Dutch, German, and Spanish. Since the beginning of this war I have wanted a part in it, to share the colonists’ danger and enjoy their liberty, but have hitherto had to care for my old mother. Now that she and my father are dead, I shall be free within a year of all commitment to Europe. But I do not want to cut my ties here without knowing what difficulties I may meet in a strange land.

Can I be assured of establishing a trade profitable to my new countrymen and myself? The contacts I have and could readily make in Germany, especially on the Baltic, should help to expand the commerce of America. Lübeck furnishes its products to Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and part of Muscovy, and in peacetime would be an ice-free port for your vessels; Hamburg exports the manufactures of Silesia and upper Saxony. I am well known in both cities and could further a trade with them if I were in an American commercial center— Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland? I do not know, and should be grateful if you would tell me. I will come to Paris to see you before I embark, which unfortunately cannot be until March of next year, and shall hope for your protection and for recommendations to your countrymen.>

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Born 1750. His father, a pastor and professor of theology in Lübeck, had two sons by his second wife: Hermann Carl, who by this time was chargé d’affaires in Madrid for the Elector of Saxony, and Gustav. The plan outlined here eventually materialized, for Gustav became a merchant in New York. From information kindly supplied us by the archivist of the Archiv der Hansestadt Lübeck. Gustav sent this letter to Hermann, who forwarded it on March 10 with a covering letter of his own (APS). He repeated much of what his brother says, mentioned that members of their mother’s family were highly placed in the law courts of Swedish Pomerania, and concluded by assuring BF that his works went everywhere with the writer and were his favorite reading.

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