Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from the Committee for Foreign Affairs, 16 July 1779

From the Committee for Foreign Affairs

ALS: American Philosophical Society, University of Pennsylvania Library, Harvard University Library;2 copy and transcript: National Archives

Philada. July 16. 1779

Honble. Sir

We find from the Minister of France that your Appointment has given high Satisfaction to his Court, and we are encouraged to expect Proofs of its most confidential Reliance upon your Character.3 We have not had a Line from you of this year’s date; indeed I believe your latest is of Novr. 7th. 1778.4 Two days ago we received several Letters from Doctor Lee and one from Mr. Izard: the latter March 4th. the former up to April 6th. The Vessel was from Rochelle about the middle of May. It was unfortunate that we did not get the Information of Mr. Lee earlier respecting the Enemy’s designs against Connecticutt: They had accomplished Part of them a few days before.—5 Will no one under a Commission from these United States retaliate on the Coasts of England for the Burning of our beautiful Fairfield? A single Privateer might I think show, there, a striking Sample of the Species of War now carried on by Britain against America.

We are told this Evening that Genl. Lincoln has had an Advantage over Prevost in an open Field Fight in which the Militia behaved to Admiration, on the 20th. of June.6

We forward two Letters for “Our great faithful beloved Friend & Ally Louis sixteenth King of France & Navarre.” We submit, however, the Superscription to your Judgement. You will manage the Invoices by your best Abilities.7 The Probability of Success was held up to us by one who doubtless makes known by this Opportunity how much our present Circumstances render such Aids essential to us.8

A Report of the Treasury respecting the just Stipend of our late and present Ministers at foreign Courts is not quite determined upon. A Determination is peculiarly necessary as to Mr. W Lee & Mr. Izard after the Proceedings, here, of June 8th.9

We have put up for you a Set of the Journals which have been printed this Year, adding some spare Numbers to compleat what have been sent in part of the 15.

Presuming from Report and a Passage of a Letter from Doctr. Lee that Mr. Adams is on his Return hither,1 We do not write to him now. Should he remain in France we beg he may be made acquainted with the Cause of our Omission.

Good as this Opportunity is we expect very shortly a much better when we shall renew Assurances of being Honble. Sir Your most humble Servants

James Lovell
for the Committee of for. Affairs

Honble. Doctor Franklin

P.S. The Letter & Papers respecting Mr. De Francy’s Agency were only this day delivered to us from the Secretary’s Office; but Mr. De Francy has had Sextuples.2

Addressed: Honorable / Benjamin Franklin Esqr. / Minister Plenipotentiary / of the United States of America / Paris

Notation: James Lovell Philadelphie 16. juillet 1779.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2That at the University of Pennsylvania is marked “4plicate” and the one at Harvard, “Copy.” There are minor variations in wording among the three versions.

3Meng, Despatches of Gérard, pp. 539, 771.

4XXVIII, 55–6.

5Izard’s March 4 letter asked leave to return to America; Arthur Lee’s of April 6 warned of an attack on Wethersfield and New Haven. Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, III, 73–4, 110–11. Between July 5 and 11, in fact, the British burned Fairfield and Norwalk, and did lesser damage to New Haven and East Haven: Richard Buel, Jr., Dear Liberty: Connecticut’s Mobilization for the Revolutionary War (Middletown, Ct., 1980), pp. 190–4; Ward, War of the Revolution, II, 619–20. For a list of Lee’s other letters see Smith, Letters, XIII, 230n.

6At the Battle of Stono Ferry, S.C., a British detachment beat back an American attack: Mark Mayo Boatner III, Encyclopedia of the American Revolution (New York, 1966), p. 1062; Ward, War of the Revolution, II, 686. Congress was told, however, that the battle had ended favorably: Smith, Letters, XIII, 231.

7Enclosed were a July 10 request for military supplies from President of Congress John Jay to Louis XVI and several lists of such supplies, particularly for the American navy: Smith, Letters, XIII, 187–8, 229n. For further details see BF to Vergennes, Sept. 18.

8Presumably French Minister Gérard, who did write Vergennes about the woeful state of American finances: Meng, Despatches of Gérard, p. 749.

9On that day Congress voted to recall Izard and William Lee as commissioners to Tuscany and to Prussia and the Holy Roman Empire respectively, but then voted they need not return to the U.S.: JCC, XIV, 700–5. No decision had yet been reached on compensating them: Smith, Letters, XIII, 240.

1The news was in a March 6 letter to Samuel Adams; see Smith, Letters, XIII, 232.

2Congress had recently ordered BF to reimburse Beaumarchais’ agent Francy for the military supplies he had provided: XXVIII, 528; XXIX, 707–8.

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