Benjamin Franklin Papers

The American Commissioners to the President of Congress, 20 July 1778: résumé

The American Commissioners to the President of Congress9

AL (draft):1 Massachusetts Historical Society; three copies and one transcript: National Archives

<Passy, July 20, 1778: The Spy brought us the ratified treaties with France. On the 17th we exchanged ratifications with the count de Vergennes; copies are enclosed.2 War is not yet declared but hostilities have already commenced, the British and French fleets are at sea, and we hourly expect news of an encounter.3 The Spanish treasure fleet has arrived but we still do not know Spain’s real intentions. It seems highly probable she will join in a French war against Britain.4 A war in Germany between the King of Prussia and the Emperor seems inevitable. We are doing all we can to obtain a loan and have a prospect of obtaining in Amsterdam some but not all of what is needed.5 We ask Congress to be as sparing as possible in drawing on us. We enclose a copy of a letter from Mr. de Sartine.6 Vergennes has agreed to drop articles eleven and twelve from the Treaty of Commerce as we understand you wish. Please send as soon as possible instructions and authorization for this. We recommend that Dumas be given at least £200 st. per year for his services. Although we have received congressional authorization to appoint commercial agents, Congress may wish instead to use the authority given it by the commercial treaty to appoint consuls. At present the only commercial agents are John Bondfield at Bordeaux and J.D. Schweighauser at Nantes, both appointed by William Lee.7>

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9Published in Butterfield, John Adams Diary, IV, 168–70, with additional annotation in Taylor, Adams Papers, VI, 306–7.

1In the hands of JA and Lee.

2A copy of the French ratification of the Treaty of Commerce is at Harvard University Library; for the American ratification see JCC, XI, 462–3.

3The French fleet with 32 ships of the line had sailed on July 10, the British with a slightly smaller number the following day: Dull, French Navy, 120–2; W.M. James, The British Navy in Adversity: a Study of the War of American Independence (London, 1926), pp. 125–7.

4The commissioners were too optimistic. The Spaniards used their neutrality in an unsuccessful attempt to coax concessions from Britain: Dull, French Navy, 126–31. For the arrival of the treasure ships see ibid., p. 127 n.

5See XXVI, 338–9 n.

6Above, July 14.

7The commissioners also recommended Americans be appointed as consuls and enclosed a memoir on their functions (Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, II, 652–3). The authorization to name commercial agents is given in XXV, 639–40; Bondfield’s and Schweighauser’s appointments are discussed at length in vol. XXVI. A third agent, Andrew Limozin, was chosen at Le Havre at the same time, but appears not to have exercised his powers: Ford, Letters of William Lee, II, 408.

Index Entries