Benjamin Franklin Papers

French Loan Certificate, [16 September 1779]

French Loan Certificate3

Passy, printed by Benjamin Franklin, [after May 30, 1780]. Form with MS insertions in blanks, signed: American Philosophical Society; form with blanks partially filled:4 Yale University Library

[September 16, 1779]

2. Pour 250,000 livres.

Nous Benjamin Franklin Ministre Plenipotentiaire des ETATS-UNIS de l’Amerique Septentrionale, en vertu du pouvoir dont nous sommes revetus par le CONGRES desdits Etats, promettons en son nom et solidairement pour lesdits Treize ETATSUNIS, faire payer & rembourser au Tresor royal de sa Majesté tres chretienne le premier Janvier mil sept cent quatre-vingt huit au domicile de M. Grand, Banquier a Paris, la somme de deux cent cinquante mille livres, argent de France, avec les interets a raison de cinq pour cent, l’an, valeur reçu comptant, a Paris, ce 16 Septembre 1779

B Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Promising repayment for the second installment of a 1,000,000 l.t. loan from the French government, for which see XXIX, 594n. Appearances to the contrary, this elegant form does not date from Sept. 16. It was printed on the marbled wove paper that BF had ordered from London stationer James Woodmason in June, 1779, and would not receive until May 30, 1780. (BF to Ferdinand Grand, May 30, 1780, Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology, Smithsonian Institution. See also our headnote to BF’s letter to Fizeaux, Grand &. Cie., Oct. 29, below.) BF gave Vergennes hand-written receipts for the first loan installments, and then replaced them with back-dated forms when the English paper arrived.

Dozens of similar certificates, for installments of successive French loans that would continue through 1782, were produced at Passy. They were typeset in duplicate: identical forms printed side by side on a single sheet, separated by a wide strip of marbling. When a set of certificates was filled in, it was cut irregularly down the center of the marbled strip, creating a unique pair. One half was submitted to the French government, the other half was retained. The combination of the English wove paper, manufactured according to a technique that was as yet unknown in France, and the interlocking marbled borders, insured that the documents could not be counterfeited.

BF received the third installment of the present loan on Oct. 4, and the fourth on Dec. 21. One half of certificate no. 3 is at the APS, and the other is owned by Perc S. Brown, Orinda, Cal. (1956). Certificate No. 4 has not survived. For a list of the loan installments see JCC, XXIV, 52–3.

4This form, which does not have a marbled border, appears to be either a proof sheet or a blundered copy. All the blanks are filled except the payee, and BF misdated it twice; he originally wrote “4 Octobre,” then changed it to “6 Septembre.”

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