Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from ——— St. Juste, 29 May 1778: résumé

From ——— St. Juste

ALS: American Philosophical Society

<Rodez, May 29, 1778, in French: I have a project that you will doubtless approve, for a corps to be raised, trained, and ready for action within a year. It will have a new kind of discipline and way of fighting, along with weapons of my invention that are far more effective than cannons. I want to use it for particular purposes that suit my skills and the men’s courage. If we fail, I and my eight immediate subordinates will atone with our heads and the men with half their pay; the same penalty will apply if the corps does not make a predetermined number of forays in each campaign. Authorization from the French government is prerequisite, for I have not the means to act on my own. I must have sufficient funds, and be permitted to give my men distinctive training, uniforms, and weapons, more pay than in the rest of the army, and the right to booty and prisoners’ ransoms. You have nothing to fear from high station, which I do not claim, or from a brilliant reputation, which I claim still less. All I have is the boldness of my scheme, the means to carry it out, and the willingness to lose my head if I fail. Let me have your answer; I shall not leave Rodez for some days. Please communicate my letter to no one except the other commissioners.3>

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3BF added a note: “Ansd. That we are not authorized to engage in such Propositions of raising Troops, and cannot give him the least Encouragement; but thank him for his Good Will to the Cause of Liberty.”

A somewhat similar proposal, unsigned and undated, is in the University of Pa. Library in two slightly different versions. It was probably written after the spring of 1779, for it suggests that the Minister of Marine choose, from those nominated by the U.S. Minister, 200 Frenchmen to compose the two companies of a corps designated as the “volontaires de Franklin.”

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