Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Samuel Petrie, 1 August 1779

From Samuel Petrie2

AL: American Philosophical Society

Rue Ste. Anne. Sunday Evening Augt. 1th. 1779.

Mr. Petrie presents his Compliments to Dr. Franklin.— He Sets out tomorrow Morning early, with two Friends, on a Tour into Flanders for a few Days;3 & as it is not improbable but they may wish to cross the Borders before their Return, he will be much obliged to the Doctor to favour him with a Pass.

Addressed: Son Excellence le Ministre / Plenipotentiare des Etats unis / de l’Amerique

Notation: M. S. Petrie August 1st. 1779.4

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2This Scottish merchant had attended the recent Independence Day celebration.

3Petrie planned to meet William Lee at Valenciennes, near the French border with the Austrian Netherlands, for an “affair of honour.” (The rendezvous apparently was selected so it would not be conducted on French soil.) Petrie and the Lees had accused each other of stockjobbing and leaking information to the British: e.g., Ford, Letters of William Lee, II, 625n, 627–8. Petrie did not arrive at the appointed time, however, and the duel did not take place: Lee Family Papers, reel 6, frames 268–9, 338–9; Arthur Lee to Edmund Jenings, Aug. 14, 1779 (National Archives). Insults continued to be exchanged between the parties, with a certain Dr. William Boush (whom Arthur Lee had sent to Valenciennes with Walter Pollard to act as his brother’s seconds) serving as courier. Arthur Lee threatened to have Petrie arrested: Lee to Petrie, Aug. 17, 1779 (National Archives). When the “bullying young Fellow” Boush showed up at Petrie’s door on Aug. 30 to demand satisfaction of his own, the alarmed merchant wrote to Vergennes and sent a copy to WTF, along with a lengthy explanation and copies of his correspondence with the Lees: Petrie to WTF, Aug. 30 (APS). Two brief undated notes from Boush are at the APS; they indicate that he met with BF at the latter’s invitation, and loaned him some newspapers and magazines.

4This notation is in Wharton’s hand. On a separate slip of paper (APS) WTF reported, “Mr Wharton told B. F. the 5. August that Mr P. was gone to meet Mr W. Lee.” Arthur Lee described Petrie, Wharton, and the brothers William and Alexander John Alexander as recent additions to the “Council at Passy”: to JA, Sept. 24, 1779, Adams Papers, VIII, 168–70.

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