Benjamin Franklin Papers

The American Commissioners to John Ross, 22 April–23 May 1778: résumé

The American Commissioners to John Ross

Copies: Massachusetts Historical Society, National Archives (two); incomplete drafts: Library of Congress2

<Passy, April 22–May 3, 1778: You wrote us that you would, if desired, send the invoices of goods shipped for the public. We asked for them, to account for the money advanced you. Your reason for refusing, in yours of the 18th, is inadequate; send us all the accounts,3 and a copy of our order for buying the Queen of France.4

When you first asked our assistance, to maintain your credit and that of the committee of Congress, we furnished the sum you needed on your promise to repay. After almost a year you have not redeemed the promise. You should not have made new commitments, which the committee did not expect you to make and we did not expect to discharge. If we were responsible for debts that we do not control, we should soon become bankrupt ourselves. We therefore cannot allow you to draw on our bankers.>

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2The copies are dated May 3; the first one is published in Butterfield, John Adams Diary, IV, 89–90. Adams said (p. 88) that he wrote it himself and, when he and Lee insisted on sending it, that BF reluctantly consented to sign as well. But one of the incomplete drafts, undated, of the long final paragraph, is in BF’s hand. The other incomplete draft is in Lee’s hand; it is what we summarize in the first paragraph, and is dated April 22.

3Ross’s offer was on March 28 and its acceptance on April 13; his later refusal has apparently been lost.

4For this purchase see above, vol. XXV and Taylor, Adams Papers, VI, 80.

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