Benjamin Franklin Papers

Extract from Franklin’s Journal, 13 December 1778

Extract from Franklin’s Journal1

Copy: Library of Congress

Passy Sunday Decr. 13th 1778. A.M.—

“A Man came to tell me he has invented a Machine, which would go of itself, without the help of a Spring, Weight, Air, Water, or any of the Elements, or the Labour of Man or Beast; and with force sufficient to work four Machines for cutting Tobacco; that he had experience’d it, would shew it me if I would come to his House, and would sell the Secret of it for Two hundred Louis.— I doubted it, but promis’d to go to him in order to see it.”

“A Monsr: Coder came with a Proposition in Writing, to levy 600 Men, to be employ’d in landing on the Coast of England & Scotland, to burn & ransom Towns and Villages, in order to put a stop to the English Proceeding in that Way in America—. I thanked him, and told him I could not approve it, nor had I any Money at Command for such Purposes.—Moreover that it would not be permitted by the Government here.”2

“A Man came with a Request that I would patronize & recommend to Government, an Invention he had, whereby a Hussar might so conceal his arms and Habiliments, with Provision for 24 Hours, as to appear a common Traveller, by which Means a considerable Body might be admitted into a Town, one at a time unsuspected, and afterwards assembling, surprize it.— I told him I was not a Military Man, of course no Judge of such Matters, and advis’d him to apply to the Bureau de la Guerre. He said he had no Friends, and so could procure no Attention.— The number of wild Schemes propos’d to me is so great, and they have heretofore taken so much of my time, that I begin to reject all, tho’ possibly some of them may be worth Notice.”3

“Received a Parcel from an unknown Philosopher*4 who submits to my Consideration a Memoir on the Subject of Elementary fire, containing Experiments in a dark Chamber.— It seems to be well written, and is in English, with a little Tincture of French Idiom. I wish to see the Experiments, without which I cannot well judge of it.”

1In the hand of WTF, who included this extract in his edition of BF’s writings. In describing his grandfather’s benevolence WTF wrote: “No one who did not witness it, can conceive how much his reputation as a philosopher, and his situation as American minister, subjected him to the applications of projectors, speculators, and adventurers of all descriptions. The following memorandums of only one day’s annoyance of this nature, taken from a little journal he kept, may tend to give some idea of it.” WTF, Memoirs, I, 328–9.

2The undated proposition, unsigned and in the hand of Dubourg’s nephew, Jean Lair de Lamotte, is entitled “Notte pour Monsieur Le Docteur franklin.” The corps of 600 men, who might be called “Volontaires de Franklin” or anything else the Doctor preferred, could be levied in less than a month. WTF and other Americans living in France could participate, thereby serving their country, acquiring honor, and gaining profit. The author volunteers to take charge of forming and training the corps, which is sure to meet with the French government’s approval. APS. The proposition was similar to the one submitted by Dubourg and Henry Coder in September: XXVII, 406n.

3We have summarized some of these proposals, which elicited no response, in collective headnotes; see in particular XXVI, 82–3, 176–7; above, under Nov. 2.

4Footnote in MS: “afterwards discovered to be Marat, of future notorious Memory.” For Jean-Paul Marat see our annotation of Le Roy’s letter under February 3, 1779, below.

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