Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Rudolphe Ernest Hartmann, 15 June 1778: résumé

From Rudolphe Ernest Hartmann

ALS: University of Pennsylvania Library

<Amsterdam, June 15, 1778, in French: Please write for me to General Washington about Baron Hermann von Zedwitz. What has become of him? Is there hope of recovering any part of what he owes me? He took from me in London some cut diamonds in a setting, to sell because I was a stranger there, and disappeared. The loss put me and my wife and children in a sad situation, and forced me to leave my business in Germany in order to bring Zedwitz to justice. A merchant here passed on the matter to his brother-in-law in New York, a well known merchant named James Le Ray. The latter wrote me last May that the Baron had become a lieutenant colonel under Schuyler, had distinguished himself at Quebec, and had been given command of a fort that he tried to sell to the English for £41,000. The letter containing his offer was intercepted; he was arrested and condemned to be hanged, but the sentence was commuted to imprisonment. I have had no further news, and beg your Excellency’s help.8>

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8Herman von Zedwitz had been a Prussian cavalry captain in the Seven Years’ War, and was later employed to recruit Germans. He brought them to England but received no pay; embittered, he left for the American army. He was injured at Quebec and promoted to lieut. col. In August, 1776, according to him, he concocted a scheme for getting the money due him by selling the British false information through Gov. Tryon; in his letter to him he asked for command of three forts on the Hudson. Exposure led to his court martial and imprisonment. Congress eventually released him, and paid his and his family’s way home as far as the West Indies. Force, Amer. Arch., 5th ser., I, 645, 1159–62; JCC, XIV, 826.

On June 25 Hartmann sent a reminder, in which he enclosed a letter to Washington (University of Pa. Library). He heard nothing, and tried again on the following Feb. 8 and March 6: APS. This persistence finally evoked at least the draft of an answer. On the March letter BF wrote: “That I sent his Letter to America but know not whether it arriv’d many Vessels being intercepted by the English; and that I have receiv’d no Answer for Mr. Hartmann.”

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