Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Richard Desglanières, 27 March 1778

From Richard Desglanières4

ALS: American Philosophical Society

The plan enclosed in this letter, for taxation and local government, is one of several schemes submitted to Franklin for the purpose, at least ostensibly, of furthering the best interests of the United States. On March 30 Lambert, in Paris, sends with a covering letter a long memorandum on the best means to suppress begging.5 On April 21 the directors and syndics of the Aunis chamber of commerce expatiate on the advent of the United States as a great power; this astonishing revolution will change all political systems and create strong Franco-American commercial ties. Would Franklin like to know about the origin and growth of local trade with America?6 On June 4 Moucherel, in Nancy, explains that for more than half his forty-eight years he has made a comparative study of the laws of France and Lorraine, and has published two works on the subject.7 He is going on to devise a new criminal and civil code, drawn from the same two sources but clearer than they are, more enlightened, and less costly to the litigants. This system of uniform law would be suitable for the new American republic; it is arranged under forty-one headings for the civil law and twenty-eight for the criminal. The code would have to be adapted to local conditions, which cannot wisely be evaded though their evils may need correcting.8

Grande Rue de chaillot a chaillot vis a vis l’orengerie ce 27 mars 1778.

L’amour de la liberté Americaine Dediée a Son Excellence Monseigneur Franklin ministre plenipotansier Des provinces unies americaines.

Oui, Monseigneur, c’est sur les pas de votre Excellence que l’on voit Renaitre Le patriotisme, qui conduit a L’amour de la liberté si cherie par Les nations. Quel bonheur vos Soins et vos peines ne viennt ils pas de rendre aux treize provinces, habitans de vos Concitoyens, bonheur qui couronera a jamais La carrier [carrière] de vos beaux jours. Vous courutes les meres, et par consequent ses dangers, pour pouvoir brisser les liens d’une Chaine d’esclavage q’une nation, la plus fiere, et la plus turbulante de Toute l’europe, avoit forgée, pour enchainer vos braves Americains en foulant aux pieds le precieux droit de la nature, et celui de leur Ancestres. Daignez Monseigneur recevoir mon allegresse, que je joins a celle de toutes les nations sous l’heureuze protexion par laquelle vous etes parvenu a mettre vos trese provinces Belliqueuze.

Oui Monseigneur j’ose le dire mille fois heureuze, avec l’aprobation de tout l’univer, sous la protexion d’un Grand Roy, qui est adorée de ses fideles sujets, et qui est toujours prêt a tendre la main aux opprimés, sans avoir aucune Envie de s’agrandire par aucune voie illicite.

J’esaine [j’essaime?] a toutes Les nations, La Confirmations de ce que j’avance en me renferment dans le profond Respect avec Lequel j’ai l’honneur d’etre, Monseigneur De Votre Excellence Votre tres humble et tres obeissant serviteur

Le vrai citoyen

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4A would-be financial reformer, who had provoked a controversy a few years before by a pamphlet on taxation, Plan d’imposition économique et d’administration des finances, présenté à Mgr. Turgot . . . (Paris, 1774). It made extremely radical proposals: to abolish the farmers general, internal customs duties, and almost all taxes, and to substitute a levy proportionate to income. His views, which some attributed to Turgot himself, drew strong rebuttals, which he answered in Réplique générale pour le présent et l’avenir . . . aux observations faites et à faire sur son “Plan d’imposition économique” (Paris, 1775). Schelle, Œuvres de Turgot, IV, 273–6. The whole question of tax reform was much to the fore at the time, and BF had discussed it with Turgot the previous summer: above, XXIV, 261–2.

5The memorandum had been delivered the previous autumn to the Académie de Châlons-sur-Marne; it is with his letter in the APS.

6A duplicate of the letter, dated June 30, has different signatures. With it is an incomplete covering letter, the purport of which is explained in an undated memorandum to the King; the latter asks that La Rochelle be made one of the free ports promised in the Treaty of Amity and Commerce; the city’s close American ties (exemplified in the founding of New Rochelle) are emphasized, as are the commercial advantages to both countries. All these documents are in the Hist. Soc. of Pa.

7Stile criminel sur les ordonnances de Lorraine, et de maréchaussée (Nancy, 1776) and Commentaire sur les mêmes ordonnances, rapprochées de celles de France de 1667 et 1670 (Bouillon, 1778). Quérard, France littéraire, lists only the latter and under a slightly different title.

8There followed a long précis of his plan, which was essentially an application of his earlier ideas to the American scene, with a system of local government thrown in for good measure. The country was to be divided into provinces, the provinces into intendances, they into généralités, and they in turn into elections or groups of towns and villages; the officials of each unit were to be elected. Revenue was to come from graduated income tax and from another on real estate, both of which were to be based on the individual’s declaration of his or her worth.

On Sept. 13, 1778, Moucherel wrote again (APS) to say that the Keeper of the Seals had ordered him to submit to the censor the Commentaire cited in the preceding note (it had hitherto been published only abroad); he assumed that BF had forwarded his earlier letter to the Keeper, and hoped that this intervention would procure him “des Censeurs éclairés.” We have, however, found no trace of a French edition.

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