Benjamin Franklin Papers

Editorial Note on Franklin’s Accounts, 1778

Editorial Note on Franklin’s Accounts

For the period covered by this volume we have four new accounts:

XIX.1 Franklin’s Account with Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont, June 12, 1777, to May 28, 1784: American Philosophical Society, 18 pp.

With the exception of an item for repairs to the packet La Mère Bobie (XXIV, 3n) dated June 12, 1777, all the entries are dated January 1, 1779, or after. Accompanying the statements of account are several pages of later commentary (1782 and 1784) by Franklin and his landlord. Their efforts to reconcile their differences over financial affairs will be discussed in future volumes.

XX. Franklin and John Adams’ Account with the United States, April 9, 1778, to January 12, 1779: National Archives, 2 pp.

This account apparently is a summary of Franklin and Adams’ financial dealings for the nine months they served as joint commissioners and perhaps was composed soon after the February 12, 1779, dissolution of the commission. Its undated entries include sums for unpaid bills left by Silas Deane (for his tailor, saddler, blacksmith, and hired horses), payments for books and schooling for John Quincy Adams, disbursements for prisoners, and payments to Franklin’s and Adams’ wine merchant.

XXI. Household Accounts (January to July, 1779, 18 pp.) and Grocer’s Bill (February to July, 1779, 11 pp.): Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Franklin Papers, vol. 5.

These accounts provide a variety of information on running the household at Passy. The first gives details of bakery goods, food provisions, and tradesmen’s services. The other offers a daily list of purchases for Franklin’s larder, listed by item, weight (when applicable), and cost.2

XXII. Memorandum of Shares Bought and Coupons Received by Franklin, February 19, 1779, to July 27, 1784: American Philosophical Society, 7 pp.

Only its first entry is from the period of this volume, and that is for “actions” of stock bought (for a purchase price of 26,640.0.0 l.t.). From that stock’s eight “coupons” Franklin expected income amounting to 680.0.0 l.t. The memorandum also includes various notes in Franklin’s hand, which seem to be connected with the drafting of his will in 1788 (Smyth, Writings, X, 493–501).

1JW’s account with the commissioners, May 12, 1777, to May 30, 1778 (described in XXVII, 449), should be listed as Account XVIII. The following other accounts still apply: I, III, V–VII, XI–XIII, XVII (for which see XXIII, 19–21; XXIV, 3; XXV, 3; XXVI, 3).

2Pharoux, the baker, was paid 80 l.t. 7 s. for February’s supply of bread. In January and February, Louise Lahannée furnished BF and JA with a variety of patés, little pastries, cakes, macaroons, and frangipane and jam tarts, for which she received approximately 45 l.t. Delbos, the tinsmith, was paid 30 l.t. for retinning, between mid-November and mid-February, the household cooking utensils.

A sample day of provisioning the larder is Feb. 28, when 5 lb. of butter, 2 dozen eggs, ½ lb. of rice (?), and 5 lb. of tallow candles were purchased. The receipted bills for February from Gautier, the Passy grocer, came to slightly more than 500 l.t. BF endorsed the last sheet, “Epicier de Passy 6, 1st Days of July.”

Another document (undated, APS) also throws light on Franklin’s daily life. In three pages WTF details for his grandfather how much they remit to Miss Chaumont for the rental of her father’s carriage and makes a case for buying their own. BF pays his landlord 360 l.t. a month for the carriage, and expenses connected with provisioning and clothing the coachman bring the total sum to over 5,000 l.t. per annum; buying a coach would cost 6,000 l.t. the initial year, but only 3,000 l.t. per annum thereafter. BF must not have been convinced by his grandson’s reasoning for as late as February, 1781, he was still renting.

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