Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from John Holker, 30 July 1778

From John Holker2

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Rouen le 30 Juillet 1778

Monsieur et Respectable ami

Mr. Lalanne negociant au havre, mon ami, et encore plus l’ami de mon fils, m’a recommandé d’une maniere particuliére Monsieur Le Baron de Reuschenberg qui vous remettra la Presente.3 Il désire passer en amérique, pour y trouver de l’employ et y finir sa carriere et m’a demandé une lettre de Recommandation pour vous, digne et Respectable ami. Je n’ai pu la lui refuser surtout m’etant presenté par un aussi bon ami que M. Lalanne, c’est ce motif qui me fait prendre la Liberté de vous prier d’éclairer Monsieur Le Baron de vos Bons avis et de l’honorer de votre Protection pour le succès de son Projet. Je suis avec Respect Monsieur et Respectable ami Votre tres humble et tres obeissant serviteur

J Holker

Addressed: A Monsieur / Monsieur Le Docteur franklin / Ambassadeur des Etats unis de / l’amerique en son hotel / Passy

Endorsed: Holker July 30. 78

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2The prominent Rouen businessman and father of Jean Holker: above, XXIV, 357 n.

3Jean Lalanne was apparently part of the clan that had a branch in Bayonne and included Pierre Lalanne, the Paris banker: Lüthy, Banque protestante, II, 703 n. About the Baron we know nothing except that he had large ideas and was persistent in advancing them. On Aug. 7 he sent from Paris a verbose memorandum, which BF endorsed “Reflection sur la Guerre.” In it Reuschenberg suggests that he go to the U.S. and settle there; he would be useful in war or peace. His idea is to raise a legion by instalments, some 900 men a year for four years, and then further legions like the Roman. Even a quarter-legion, with experienced officers, could hold its own against an enemy regiment; for its strength would come from hard living, strict discipline, and the fear of God. The U.S., after it wins the war, will need a strong militia to guard against a British return, Canada as a dangerous neighbor, or Indian attacks on the frontiers. Legions would serve the purpose; each would be a military colony, where the children were brought up in common and trained to be tireless soldiers.

The writer would not in peacetime be useless baggage. He has been raised in courts and public affairs, has helped to govern two provinces, and has had diplomatic experience. He speaks French, German, and Latin, and knows enough Spanish and English to translate; he is familiar with agriculture, forestry, manufacture, and smelting. He would prefer to live in Pennsylvania because it is, he is told, full of Germans. But even if he never sets foot in America he will be glad to contribute indirectly to upholding that bastion of liberty.

On Aug. 14, having apparently heard nothing, he writes BF again at great length to expatiate on the advantages of his legion. This time he longs to be an aide to Lafayette, and asks to have his ideas forwarded to Congress and Washington. Once more he had no reply, for his efforts ended, as far as we know, with an undated appeal for some word of response to his two previous letters. APS. His only personal contact with BF, it seems, was when he delivered Holker’s letter.

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