Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Jonathan Williams, Jr., 5 November 1778

From Jonathan Williams, Jr.

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Nantes, Novr. 5 1778.—

Dear & hond Sir.

I recvd. your Favour of the 18th Octor.8 only a few Days ago owing to the Tedious way in which it came.

I have settled my affair with Mr Schweighauser, without a lawsuit.9 I thank you for getting my Request to the Minister about the Prizes at Rochelle. I have since had a decisive and satisfactory Letter from him.— I sent you some of your Prints by Count Sarsfield.1 I recvd the Packets for Mr Lovell & others which shall be taken proper care of.2

Mr Montieu3 has indeed opened to me a very flattering Prospect of going to America. His & Mr de Chaumonts Goods to my Consignment will throw a large Commission in my Way, besides the Importance of having so great a Sum of money at my Command. The Scheme has the Ministers approbation and is due to have strong Convoys all the way.

I have already sent several adventures to America and some are yet on the Water, if all that are uncertain are lost I shall remain worth about £5000 Currency, if all arrive I shall have about £10,000 Currency exclusive of between 4 & 5000£ Curry [Currency] my Father is likely to recover from a Torys Estate for the Goods he carried off belonging to me and independant of his (my Fathers) Fortune which I find is lately much augmented.— Now I feel I have gained a pretty good footing in the World I am anxious to realise and secure what I have and instead of grasping (like the Dog & the Shadow) at more than I want & thereby losing all, I wish to advance further by only sure and moderate means. For this Purpose I think my presence in America is necessary and if I have the good Fortune to arrive I shall gain enough to make me very Indifferent about the Loss of Business my absence may occasion. If I am taken I shall be no worse than I am, as losing my Commissions is only missing a Gain except indeed what adventures I may carry out and in this I mean to be prudent.

Whenever I reflect on my Situation I feel the strongest Obligations to you. The Countenance and Character you have on so many occasions given me has been the Source of all my good Fortune, and I shall ever owe you a Debt of Gratitude too great to be enough acknowledged. I will however always give you the Satisfaction of seeing that my Conduct is influenced by the strictest principles of Honour & Probity.

I have one Difficulty in the Execution of my Plan which I hope by the Friendship of Mr M to remove. In order to give my Brother Jack4 a set off I made Advances and entered into Engagements for him to the amount of betwen 35 & 40 Thousand Livres which, he remains indebted to me for, and which is independant of my Calculation of what I am worth. I contrived the Business in such a manner as to keep the Payments distant enough as I thought to give full time for Remittance taking Care to cover by Insurances. 10 months is now gone & Jack has not been able to remit me, I shall therefore be subject to a Call for about this Sum in the Course of December & January next and about 10,000 Livres more which I have put on my own acct & which will fall due in Jan. & March. As I intend to have my affairs in Mr Peltiers (Mr Montieus agent)5 Hands I apprehend Mr M will consent to support these Engagements for me prolonging them or keeping up a circulation of Bills till the Remittances come which may be before I go if not I will remit as soon as I arrive let the Loss be what it may and I know I can get Bills from Mr Holker.— Should this be refused me I must stay for I will not go unless I can leave my Character without a Stain.— I should blush to ask an additional Favour of you to whom I am already so much obliged yet I can’t help flattering myself that you would give a Testimony of my Probity should it be6 in this Instance required.

When I arrive in America I shall make a point of having my accts honourably settled, for that Purpose I have made two more Copies one to carry and one to send by another Conveyance.—7 Thank God I am rid of my Gunsmiths Business having at Last got Mr. Schweighausers Receipts for the Delivery of those as well as all the other Goods.8

I beg you will favour me with Letters to your Friends to America, I would ask a public one if not an Indiscretion for I trust the more my Conduct here as a public Servant is known the more honourable it will be for me, particularly about the affair of the 50,000 Bill on Mr Chaumont. That I know will be represented as a private appropriation of public money, but you remember when I came to Paris I represented to you that my Funds could not support those advances, and you said that it was a public Concern & I should be supported. I at that Time was but little in advance and should have stopped, but for the public Support & the Bill on Mr Chaumont I was particularly directed to draw for this purpose.9 I have lately recvd a Letter from Mr Holker informing me of his Intention to remit a Bill to take up the one Mr DeChaumont gave you a Receipt for.

My Letter is got to a great length & I fear you will be tired before you get through. Therefore conclude with assuring you that I am ever with the greatest Respect & affection Your dutifull Kinsman

Jona Williams Jr

Love to Billy.
Dr Franklin

Notation: J. Williams Nantes 5. 9bre. 1778.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]


9For JW’s account of the dispute over the sale of the Drake see XXVII, 536–9.

1Guy-Claude, comte de Sarsfield, had offered to carry a packet to BF a few weeks before: XXVII, 559. A French officer of Irish extraction, he was an old friend of BF: XIV, 205n.

2The packet presumably included BF’s letter to Lovell of July 22, which Lovell later thought was predated: XXVII, 142n.

3Jean-Joseph Carié de Montieu had been one of JW’s earliest contacts in Nantes: XXIII, 200.

4Who had visited JW in March: XXVI, 59.

5Jean Peltier-Dudoyer, who represented both Beaumarchais and Montieu: XXIII, 239n.

6He wrote and crossed out “forced”.

7JW had been ordered by the commissioners to close his accounts and submit them for inspection the previous spring, as a result of Arthur Lee’s suspicions. When the agent finally brought them to Passy in early June, Lee’s objections prevented their settlement. By the fall, JW had two sets of accounts: one which spanned his tenure as authorized agent (which he had stretched to include the weeks between being notified to close his accounts and the date he actually left for Passy to submit them: May 12, 1777, to May 30, 1778), and a second one of expenses incurred while waiting for the main accounts to be settled (June 1 through Sept. 10, 1778, when he sent them to Congress under cover of a lengthy letter of explanation. JW to Congress, Sept. 10, 1778, APS). For details of the story see, in particular, XXV, 207n; XXVI, 228n, 282–3, 525–6; XXVII, 117n, 449.

8Schweighauser would not sign the receipt for JW until the commissioners agreed to honor his draft for unfinished articles: XXVII, 463.

9For JW’s fear that he would be out of pocket for prize monies he had distributed on the anticipated sale of captured ships that the French government intercepted and returned to the British see XXVI, 38n, 57–9, 80. He apparently had recovered his expenses while in Paris.

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