Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Vergennes, 20 September 1780

To Vergennes

LS:9 Archives du Ministère des affaires étrangères; AL (draft) and copy: Library of Congress

Passy Septr. 20. 1780.


Since I have the honour of speaking to your Excellency on the Subject of a farther Loan of Money to the United States, our Banker M. Grand has given me a State of the Funds necessary to be provided, which I beg leave to lay before you.1

I have frequently written to Congress to draw no farther upon me, but to make me Remittances; for that the inevitable Expences of France in this War were immense, and that I could not presume to make repeated Applications for more Money with any Prospect of Success.2 Your Excellency will see this acknowledg’d in their late Letters to me, of which I inclose Copies;3 and that they would have avoided drawing on me any more, if the present Conjuncture in which they were obliged to make vast Preparations to act effectually with your Troops, had not laid them under the absolute Necessity.4

The present State of their Currency rendring it insufficient for the maintaining of their Troops, they provide for a great Part of the Expence by furnishing Provisions in kind: but some more hard Money than came in by Taxes, was wanted, and could only be obtained by these fresh Drafts.

Their former unexpected Drafts, had already absorbed much of the Money put into my Hands, and I am now put into a Situation that distresses me exceedingly. I dread the Consequences of protesting their Bills. The Credit of Congress being thereby destroyed at home, the People will be unable to act or exert their Force. The Enemy will find them in a State similar to that of being bound hand & foot.

We have had Hopes of some Aid from Spain; but they are vanished.

The Expectation of a Loan in Holland has also failed.

I submit these important Circumstances to your Excellency’s wise Consideration. The States will be well able in a few Years of Peace, to repay all that shall be advanc’d to them in this time of Difficulty: & they will repay it with Gratitude. The Good Work of establishing a free Government for them, and a free Commerce with them for France, is nearly compleated: It is pity it should now miscarry for want of 4, or 5 millions of Livres, to be furnished, not immediately, but in the Course of the ensuing Year.5

With the greatest & most sincere Respect, I have the honour to be, Sir, Your Excellency’s, most obedient, & most humble Ser.

B Franklin

His Exy the Count De Vergennes.

Notation: 20 7bre

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9In WTF’s hand.

1The enclosed memorandum itemizes the 4,900,000 l.t. that would be needed through the end of 1781: 4,000,000 for loan office certificates, 144,000 to pay interest on loans and to reimburse Beaumarchais, 125,000 for funds drawn on BF by the congressional resolution of May 19, 125,000 for funds drawn on Jay by the same resolution, 24,000 (£1,000) for the bureau of foreign affairs (i.e., for Searle; see Huntington to BF, July 12), 24,000 to pay bills drawn by Henry Laurens, 300,000 to cover JW’s remaining expenses, and 158,000 to cover current and unforeseen expenses. The memorandum points out that the remaining funds from the French government for 1780 were already committed. Copies made by WTF and by L’Air de Lamotte are at the Library of Congress.

2See XXX, 466, 473; XXXI, 420, 465; BF to Huntington, Aug. 10, above.

3The enclosures were: (1) the first July 11 letter from the committee for foreign affairs, above; (2) the May 19 congressional resolution which it enclosed; (3) an extract from Huntington to BF, July 12, above, regarding James Searle’s mission. Two copies in L’Air de Lamotte’s hand are at the Library of Congress.

4In his draft BF continued, and then deleted: “of asking such Assistance. They have [interlined: I understand] great Quantities of Tobacco as I am informed ready to ship to”.

5BF’s pleading met with some success: on Oct. 5 the French paid the last quarterly installment of its existing 3,000,000 l.t. loan and on Nov. 27 they provided an additional 1,000,000 l.t.: XXXI, 267n; Morris, Jay: Revolutionary, p. 834. Vergennes also promised similar assistance for the coming year: Vergennes to BF, Nov. 26, 1780 (AAE).

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