Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Dumas, 4 June 1779

To Dumas3

ALS: Haverford College Library

Passy, June 4. 1779

Dear Sir,

It is not a pleasant thing to be called upon for one’s Sentiments of Persons & Characters; but when Matters of Importance to our Country, our Friends or ourselves, depend on a true Judgment of Men, it is right to ask one another’s Opinions & to give them frankly in confidence that no inconvenient Use will be made of them.

Mr. S. has always been a Friend to the Cause of America. He fail’d as a Banker, in consequence of some imprudent Schemes & Operations, which did not succeed. He spent as much as he could of his Wife’s Fortune, then came to France. Mr A. Lee took him as a Companion to Berlin; there they differ’d as I understand, and Mr Lee return’d without him. He has since been rambling about the North, proposing magnificent Plans of Commerce to Ministers and Merchants, and taking upon himself the Character of a Minister or Agent of Congress without having any Authority for so doing. Whether he has borrowed Money on the Credit of that Character, to subsist on, which I suspect, or whether he has drawn his Subsistance from England, I know not.4 He has desired of me to give him Letters of Recommendation to some French Governors in the West Indies. I wish him well, but I do not care to commit myself, not knowing what Use he may make of them, and therefore have neither sent him such Letters, nor answer’d his Letter requesting them.5 I do not approve his Conduct;6 I do not know him to be dishonest, but I think him rather an artful than a prudent Man; I desire to have no Difference, with him and therefore keep this to yourself.— If you come to Paris, come directly to Passy where I shall have a Bed at your Service, being with great Esteem, Dear Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin

The English Fleet has left St. Lucia, much weaken’d by Sickness.—7
Mr Dumas,

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3In response to Dumas’ query of May 27.

4For Sayre’s banking career, marriage, and activities in Berlin, Copenhagen, and Stockholm see John R. Alden, Stephen Sayre, American Revolutionary Adventurer (Baton Rouge and London, 1983), pp. 49–52, 91–4, 100–14.

5See Sayre’s letter of May 17.

6From here through “Prudent Man;” is added above the line.

7Although BF could not yet have received news of it, Byron’s fleet had left St. Lucia May 25 on cruise: W.M. James, The British Navy in Adversity: a Study of the War of American Independence (London, 1926), p. 145.

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