Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Lafayette, 10 January 1780

From Lafayette

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Paris 10he January 1780

Dear Sir

From a Ministerial letter I just Receive from Versaïlles I Begin to hope that My little Negotiation4 will take a Good turn, and as I Made it my point to succeed in this affair, No exertions will be untried for the purpose— I should, My Good friend, have done Myself the honor of Waïting on You this Morning, was I Not seiz’d By A Violent Cold, Which I the more Accurately attend to, that I want to be on Wenesday in situation of Making a tolerable figure at Versaïlles where I am to entertain Mr. de Maurepas and the other Ministers with a final Conversation on the affair of Arms and powder that I have so much at heart—5 From theyr Good disposition towards America, and the Sincere desire they have of helping our fellow Citizens the Sons of liberty, I flatter Myself that the Monney of Congress will be employ’d in any thing But Buying the powder, and the stands of Arms that are wanted in America.

How happy I shall ever feel to be the instrument of Any thing good for them, I Need Not Mentionning to My Good friend Mr. Franklin, and for Reasons No less obvious I will not dwell upon the assurance of the private Sentiments of affection and Regard I have the honor to be With Dear Sir Your Excellency’s Most obedient humble Servant


Notation: LaFayette. Jan 10. 80

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4For French arms; see Lafayette’s letter of the preceding day.

5At this Jan. 12 meeting or at a meeting with Maurepas soon thereafter Lafayette introduced a new topic of enormous consequence. He reported that he had received letters from Washington and Alexander Hamilton stating that he would be welcome to return to America as commander of a French expeditionary force: Idzerda, Lafayette Papers, II, 313–19, 344–5; Harold C. Syrett et al., eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (27 vols., New York and London, 1961–87), II, 169–70; see also Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, XVI, 298. This willingness to accept French troops represented a major shift in the American position; in February, 1779, BF, probably at Lafayette’s urging, had encouraged Vergennes to send an expeditionary force to the United States, but then fell silent on the topic: XXVIII, 603–6; XXX, 424. On Jan. 25, 1780, Lafayette wrote a follow-up letter urging Maurepas to support the expedition (and appoint him commander), unaware that detailed operational plans were being drafted that very day: Idzerda, Lafayette Papers, II, 344–9; Lee Kennett, The French Forces in America, 1780–1783 (Westport, Conn. and London, 1977), p. 10. Four days later, Vergennes, an advocate of shifting the focus of French war efforts overseas, reported to Ambassador Montmorin in Madrid that France intended to prepare six ships of the line and 3,000–4,000 troops for North America (AAE; for Vergennes’ views on strategy see his Jan. 13 letter to Montmorin, AAE). On Feb. 2 the King’s conseil d’état approved plans for the expedition; its command, however, was given not to Lafayette, but to Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau (1725–1807), who had seniority: Kennett, French Forces, pp. 10–13.

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