Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Jonathan Williams, Jr., 7 November 1780

From Jonathan Williams, Jr.

ALS: American Philosophical Society; copy: E. Marie Lorimer (Philadelphia, 1957)

Nantes Nov. 7. 1780.

Dear & hond Sir.

I have before me your two Favours of the 28 Ulto and 1st Instant.— I understand as little as you do the Reason of drawing on M. de Chaumont, but he ordered me to do so and you had previously put me under his Orders about the Cloathing;2 the only Reason I ever heard was a supposed incompatibility between your public Character and an acceptor of Bills: For my own Part I should have been equaly satisfied to have drawn on you directly. As to the Motives of Mr de C in this Business I am ignorant of any other than what he professed, which were, to preserve a consistincy in your Character as a Minister, & to save you trouble. I think with you that no Step should be taken at the Caisse d’Escompte, while the Payments go on, but a good watch should be kept so as not to let our Credit suffer an hour: All the Bills I have drawn for the public will be found marked HS (habilement de Soldat) these are all in the List I sent to you and all I expect you to pay for me in the Case of failure on the part of M. de C. I have besides drawn on him ten Bills marked HO (habilement d’Officier) agreeable to the List inclosed amo [amounting] to 25551. [l.t.] 19 [s.]—3 These Goods he Ordered on his own accot, & the Officers in America are to buy them of Mr Holker, If however Mr C should fail I shall be obliged to reimburse this money, but in that Case I shall retain the Goods if they are not gone; So that I should not lose much in the End, tho’ it would be disagreeable to pay Cash, which I can’t well spare, & take Goods which I do not want. All my other Bills for Mr de C for aids are paid, except what I lately furnished him, & the amount of these are under the Acceptance of Messrs Cottin fils & Jauge his Bankers, so that I think I am on all sides perfectly safe.— I forwarded your Letter from M Lavoisier to Messrs De Segray & Co at St Malo, and the same day I received a Letter from them4 informing me that all former Obstacles were removed, but they tell me of a new & unexpected one, which is Mr Moylans want of Cash to pay the Lettres de Voiture on their arrival & this Gentleman has for that Reason desired the Expedition to be stopped, I shall immediately direct the Business to go on again & if Messrs Gourlade & Moylan cannot or do not choose to find Cash I will find somebody that will, which I trust you will not disapprove.

Mr Johnson has given me the Papers & agreeable to your Desire5 I broke the Seals and read them, I think their cannot remain Doubt as to the propriety of your Conduct relative to Mr. S,6 and of the impropriety of his relative to you. I have Letters from Boston which inform me that Landais was turned out of his Command on the passage as being insane: It did not require much Penetration to find this out before he sailed.— I suspect Mr S intends to keep the public Goods in his Hands untill you pay his Bills, for, notwithstanding your Orders & Mr Austins constant application to him the loading is not begun, tho’ the Mars has been waiting for nothing else this week past.

I wish it had been in my power to send you the Invoice of the Goods taken of Mr de C before this time, but it is an immense Work of about 100 pages in folio, full of additions & Calculations and all this to be copied before I can send it,7 after which I shall have 4 more Copies to make. I hope to get through the two first this Week & as soon as I do you shall have it, in the mean time I send inclosed a note of the Terms as Mr de C wrote it himself:8 The price I understood to be the Cost & Charges & thus I have calculated it.—

I send inclosed a model of a Bill of Exchange such as I suppose will answer your Purpose & Mr de Chaumonts equaly, I have not put the Names of the Persons you draw on because I do not know whether you will choose to draw on the Congress or the Committee. Mr de Chaumont in one of his Letters to me mentioned that the Bills should be paid in either hard money or other Bills on you, as the Option of this, lays with Congress I see no objection to drawing the Bills in that manner, but you may alter it or not as you please.—9

I am very impatient to hear if the Marquis de la Fayettes having quitted Bordeaux,1 that Ship might have been now under Sail for America if she had arrivd at L’orient when I expected.—

I am ever with the greatest Respect Yours most dutifully & affectionately

Jona Williams J

The Goods you take of M. de C will exceed 400,000 so that if you give him Bills now, you may safely do it for that Sum & the Balance may be drawn for afterwards.

Mr Moylan has paid me for Shott I sent for the Alliance which was ordered by Capt Jones, I send you the Invoice of it inclosed,2 with its voucher please to return me the latter.

I also inclose you the Letter & Invo I have recd from Messrs French & Co of Bordeaux, relative to the choice Claret I promised to procure for you,— I hope the Quality will answer the Price,—there are under your mark 5 Cases for Doctor Bancroft which please to deliver him, the other 5 are for Mr Adams which please to keep for his Orders. I shall in the mean time only charge you with 500 for the 5 Cases you receive.


Endorsed: Letter from M. Williams Nov. 7. 1780. Answer to the Question, Why were your Bills drawn on M. de Chaumont? Schweighauser  Terms of Purchase of the Cloths from M. de Chaumont

Notation: Jona Williams

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2See XXXI, 284, 353, 435.

3The enclosure, dated Nov. 7, is entitled “List of Bills drawn by Jona Williams on M. de Chaumont in Payment for Officers Cloathing.” It shows bills no. 343 through 352, all drawn on Sept. 16 at 4 usances.

4A copy of which was enclosed in theirs to BF of Nov. 2, above.

5Expressed on Nov. 1, above.


7JW did not send this invoice to Passy until Feb. 1, 1781, and it was addressed to Chaumont (JW to BF, Feb. 1, 1781, APS). A duplicate of the invoice that finally accompanied the goods is at the National Archives: 91 pages long, it is entitled “Invoice of 321 Bales of Cloaths Shipped by Order of the Honourable Doctor Franklin on board the Ship Marquis de la Fayette Captain De Galatheau, on account & risque of Congress & bound for Philadelphia by Jonathan Williams Junr of Nantes.” JW dated it Aug. 30, 1780, and signed it. There are actually 369 bales whose contents are broken down by number of ells of fabric in each, for a total cost of 428, 328 l.t., 12 s., 8 d. (This sum differs by a couple of livres from the figure JW reported to BF on Dec. 19, 1780: APS.) Once fees were added for storage and porterage, and a 2½% commission was calculated, the total came to 439, 546 l.t., 17 s., 5 d.

8This is probably the undated note in JW’s hand, also at the APS, that reads: “Extrait du marché fait par M. de Chaumont avec Mr Williams pour Compte de M. Franklin. ‘M. Franklin prendra mes marchandises contre des Traittes sur le Congrès a mon Ordre qui les remboursera par des Traittes sur M. Franklin ordre de Holker.’” BF endorsed this, “Marché fait par M. de Chaumont pour les Draps. No Date.”

9JW’s draft, with emendations by BF, formed the basis for the bills of exchange BF sent to Samuel Huntington, dated Nov. 23 (APS). They will be discussed in vol. 34, under BF’s receipt for Chaumont, Nov. 23.

1She had not; the vessel did not arrive in Lorient until Feb. 9, 1781. Lopez, Lafayette, p. 216.

2This and the enclosure mentioned in the following paragraph have not been found.

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