Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Jonathan Williams, Jr., 18 September 1780

To Jonathan Williams, Jr.

Copy: Library of Congress

Passy, Sept. 18. 1780.

Dear Jonathan,

M. De Chaumont tells me the Ship will be ready to take in Goods by the End of this Month. You will make the necessary Preparations, that as little time may be lost as possible, it being of the utmost Consequence that the Clothing should arrive before Winter. M. Ross has Shipt 123 Bales of his Goods for the Congress in a Vessel from L’Orient. I do not know if that be all he had. As you will have Room you can take some of the arms which may be shipt by Mr. Schweighauser. I have desired him to confer with you on the Subject. There is also 100 Tons of Salt Peter at St. Maloes: which, if you can take M. Chaumont thinks will be best and cheapest, Risque considered, transported by Land.4 You will consider this, and give me your Opinion.— M. Le Rouge Geographe rue des grands Augustins, has deliver’d me 15 of Hutchin’s Maps & Books, and requests an Order to have the Rest put in to his Hands for Sale. I know not where they are, nor that I have any thing to do with it. Have you? He is, I believe a proper Person.5 My Love to the good Girls, and believe me ever.

Your affectionate Uncle.

M. Williams.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4The American commissioners had purchased the saltpetre in 1778 from Desegray, Beaugeard fils & Cie. of Lorient. There it had remained; they ordered Schweighauser first to ship it to America, then to sell it locally, and finally to hold it for export once again: XXVII, 63, 287; XXVIII, 153, 458, 558–9; XXX, 325.

5Georges-Louis Le Rouge, a military engineer born in Hanover around 1712, was named géographe du roi by Louis XV and was an important Parisian map publisher. His most recent folio works had been reprintings and translations of maps of North America: Atlas Amériquain Septentrional (1778) and Le Pilote Amériquain Septentrional (3 parts, 1778–79). The details of Le Rouge’s life are obscure, and it has generally been assumed that these volumes signal the end of his activity: Quérard, France littéraire, and R. V. Tooley, Maps and Map-makers (7th ed., London, 1987), p. 44. He continued to publish individual maps and volumes of engravings through 1790, however, which he announced in the Jour. de Paris.

Le Rouge’s extant correspondence with BF begins in November, 1780, and continues through early 1782; in March, 1781, aided by BF, he published a translation of the Hutchins pamphlet that BF mentions in the present letter. Curiously absent from their correspondence is the most significant link between the two men: Le Rouge reengraved the Franklin-Folger chart of the Gulf Stream. We reproduce the Le Rouge chart in this volume, believing that after Sept. 18 is the earliest possible date. Further details are provided in the List of Illustrations.

The original Franklin-Folger chart, as yet undiscovered when we discussed it in XV, 246–8, was located by Philip L. Richardson in 1980. See his articles, “Benjamin Franklin and Timothy Folger’s first printed chart of the Gulf Stream,” Science, CCVII (1980), pp. 643–5, and “The Benjamin Franklin and Timothy Folger Charts of the Gulf Stream,” in M. Sears and D. Merriman, eds., Oceanography: the Past (New York, Heidelberg, Berlin, 1980), pp. 703–17.

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