Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Rudolph Erich Raspe, 4 September 1779

From Rudolph Erich Raspe

ALS: American Philosophical Society

London. Sept. 4. 1779.

Honourd Sir

Since my last of July 27. which I hope came to Your Excellency’s hands I have been ever more convinced that the publick as well as my own privat affairs grow worse and worse from day to day and as I am to speak only of my own concerns I beg leave to tell Your Excellency that a foreign Nobleman has almost accomplished my ruin.2 He engaged me by the fairest promises and words to be very liberal with my time to him ever since November last, nay he prevailed on me even so far as to go with him on a five months Tour through the Kingdom. His external appearance and recommendations gave weight to the fairness of his professions, when I told him I was accountable to myself for my time and that I had Scarce any thing to depend upon in this Kingdom but the well earned fruits of my honest industry. But alas! I have trusted to his honour with too much facility, since at our return to Town he has so much underrated and so illiberally taxed my time, my labour and my losses, that I am reduced to the utmost difficulties and that to recover my losses I have no prospect but the visionary hopes of a Law Suit.

Therefore I most humbly beseech Your Excellency to save me from utter ruin and to grant me Your influence and protection on any side of the Sea it may be in Your power usefully to employ my Literary abilities.

I could wish to have some support in France for a couple of months in order to make some enquiries at the Royal Library that bid fair to prove acceptable to the learned; and thence to pass over to America under Your auspices to be employed there in the education of young Gentlemen or in any other branch of business my abilities and circumstances will point out to me or to those, who will please to be my Protectors and Benefactors on Your account; and in consequence of my faithfull attachment, which in particular is Sacred and devoted to Your Virtues by Your Excellency’s most obedient humble distressed Servt.3

R E Raspe.

Addressed: Monsieur / Monsieur B F—— / Passy

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2Baron von Offenburg, Chamberlain to the Duke of Courland in Lithuania, employed Raspe as a guide, apparently hoping to use his letters of recommendation to gain admission to Cambridge society and the art and manuscript collections of numerous aristocrats. Offenburg claimed to have paid him fifty guineas as well as travelling expenses. Raspe nevertheless attempted to press charges against Offenburg. Robert L. Kahn, “Some Unpublished Raspe-Franklin Letters,” APS Proc., XCIX (1955), 130n; John Carswell, The Prospector. Being the Life and Times of Rudolf Erich Raspe (1737–1794) (London, 1950), pp. 123–7; Timothy L.S. Sprigge et al., eds., The Correspondence of Jeremy Bentham (9 vols. to date, 1968-), II, 272n, 389–90.

3Digges forwarded the present on Sept. 6, below.

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