Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to James Lovell, 16 March 1780

To James Lovell

LS2 and transcript: National Archives; ALS (draft) and copy: Library of Congress

Passy, March 16. 1780.

Dear Sir,

The Marquis de la Fayette, our firm & constant Friend, returning to America, I have written a long Letter by him to the President, of which a Copy goes by this Ship.—3

M. Gerard is since arrived, and I have received the Dispatches you mentioned to me but no Letter in answer to mine, a very long one, by the Chevr de la Luzerne, nor any Acknowledgement that it came to hand.4

By the many News Papers & Pamphlets I send, you will see the present State of European Affairs in general. Ireland continues to insist on compleat Liberty, and will probably obtain it. The Meetings of Counties in England, and the Committees of Correspondence they appoint, alarm a good deal the Ministry; especially since it has been proposed to elect out of each Committee a few Persons to assemble in London; which if carried into Execution will form a kind of Congress, that will have more of the Confidence and support of the People than the old Parliament.5 If the Nation is not too corrupt, as I rather think it is, some considerable Reformation of internal Abuses may be expected from this; with regard to us the only Advantage to be reasonably expected from it is a Peace, the general Bent of the Nation being for it. The Success of Admiral Rodney’s Fleet against our Allies, has a little elated our Enemies for the present, and probably they will not now think of proposing it. If the approaching Campaign, for which great Preparations are making here, should end disadvantageously to them, they will be more treatable;6 for their Debts and Taxes are daily becoming more burthensome, while their Commerce, the Source of their Wealth, diminishes; And tho’ they have flatter’d themselves with obtaining Assistance from Russia and other Powers, it does not appear that they are likely to succeed; on the contrary they are in Danger of losing the Neutrality of Holland.

Their Conduct with regard to the Exchange of Prisoners has been very unjust. After long Suspence, and affected Delays for the purpose of wearing out our poor People, they have finally refused to deliver us a Man in Exchange for those set at Liberty by our Cruizers on Parole.— A Letter I inclose from Capt. Mitchel will show the Treatment of the late Flags of Truce from Boston.1 There is no gaining anything upon these Barbarians, by Advances of Civility or Humanity.

Inclosed I send for Congress the Justification of this Court against the Accusation publish’d in the late English Memorials.2

With great Esteem, I have the honour to be, Sir, Your most obedient & most humble Servant.

B Franklin

Honble. James Lovel Esqre.

Notation: March 16. 1780 Doctr. Franklin to J L recd. Feb. 18 1781

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2In WTF’s hand.

3To Huntington, March 4, above. BF probably expected the Alliance to carry this letter: to Jones, March 18, below.

4Originally drafted as, “the Dispatches you mentioned to me, in a Letter by Mr Adams”; we have located no such letter. BF’s own letter, directed to the committee for foreign affairs, of which Lovell was a member, is printed in XXIX, 547–61.

5Representatives of the Associated Counties movement continued their meetings at St. Albans Tavern in London, as more representatives arrived: Eugene C. Black, The Association: British Extraparliamentary Political Organization 1769–1793 (Cambridge, Mass., 1963), pp. 51–2. See also Digges’s March 3 letter.

6First drafted as “they must seek for Peace”.

1A now-missing letter mentioned in the postscript of Digges’s March 3 letter, above.

2“Observations sur le Mémoire justificatif de la cour de Londres,” which was distributed by Vergennes on Feb. 9 to the various foreign diplomatic representatives at Versailles: Gaz. de Leyde, Feb. 25 (no. XVI). Extracts were printed in the Feb. 25 to April 25 issues of the Gaz. de Leyde, and the work as a whole was published in 1783. Gérard de Rayneval was the author: Antoine-Alexandre Barbier, ed., Dictionnaire des ouvrages anonymes … (3rd ed., 7 vols., Paris, 1872–79), VI, 628.

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