Benjamin Franklin Papers

Editorial Note on Franklin’s Accounts, 1780

Editorial Note on Franklin’s Accounts

No new accounts were initiated during the period of this volume. The following accounts cover these months: VI and VII (XXIII, 21); XII (XXV, 3); XVII (XXVI, 3); XIX and XXII (XXVIII, 3–4); XXIII (XXIX, 3); XXIV (XXXI, 3); XXV, XXVI, XXVII, and XXVIII (XXXII, 3–5); XXIX (XXXIII, 3). We offer here a summary of entries which have not found a place elsewhere in our annotation, but which provide insights into Franklin’s private and public life.

Account XXIII (William Temple Franklin’s Accounts, XXIX, 3), as usual, shows a mixture of official expenditures, household expenses, and personal items. On November 21, M. Beurier was paid for the rental of kitchen furniture since April 20, 1778; Franklin marked five months’ worth as a congressional expense. He also marked for congressional reimbursement the engraving on wood of his coat of arms, purchased on December 3, which he printed on passports;1 his subscription to the Mercure de France (renewed on November 1); New Year’s charity to the general postman and the penny postman; one account of Cabaret’s, for stationery supplies provided from January 1 through April 13; and the 72 l.t. Franklin gave the escaped prisoner Robert Benjamin Chew on April 13.2

Frankin purchased special Christmas gifts for some of his young neighbors: two “Silk Work Bags for the Miss Brillon’s,” and a “bonbons Box for Miss Le Veillard.” On December 8, he paid the widow Cruchot for binding copies of his Political, Miscellaneous, and Philosophical Pieces. A special copy, bound in gilt-decorated moroccan leather, was delivered on December 31.3 These were presumably for gifts. For himself, he bought a pocket book, and on December 30 he remembered a previous purchase of “two Pair of Rabbit Fur Stockings.” He was evidently recovering from the gout; on January 4, and again on February 2, M. Mazars delivered pairs of newly-made cloth shoes.4

On November 23, Franklin purchased the abbé Nollet’s six-volume Leçons de Physique; three days later, he bought a “Parrellel Ruler, Spectacles, &ca.” from Ciceri & Cie. (XXXI, 4n). Another scientific instrument dealer, Noseda, furnished on December 31 an “Electrical Machine” which cost 500 l.t.5 Franklin subscribed to the Journal de Paris6 and l’Esprit des Journaux; he also bought the Almanach royal for 1781, and on April 1 what he called the “Description of France &c” from Née.7

Coimet, the cook, submitted periodic bills for kitchen expenses, and while Franklin rented most of his kitchen furniture from M. Beurier (above), he paid Beurier 18 l.t. for a “Fontaine de gré.” Franklin also purchased a coffee mill, a “bamboo,” and a sponge. Six cases of Madeira arrived from Orleans on December 6. Riondet provided “common Wines,” Mme Manoury furnished 100 bottles of “champaign non moussue,” and the limonadier Boutard was paid for the previous year’s beer account. Cabaret supplied paper and ink throughout the period,8 and on April 17 Franklin purchased a yard and a half of green baize for the press.

The household staff all collected wages near the end of the year for varying periods of time.9 Coimet was paid 204 l.t. for June 15 through December 15.1 Arbelot received his wages (including “wine &ca”) for February 9 through the end of the year; this came to 296 l.t. 9 s.2 For dinners when away from home during October, November, and December, at 15 s. each, he received an additional 51 l.t. Joseph Bogey, garçon de cuisine, received 90 l.t. 15 s. for “wages & wine” from April 15 through October 15. François’ wages from October 4 through January 4, along with his dinners in November and December, amounted to 101 l.t. 5 s. During François’ illness in early 1781, Franklin paid his surgeon and apothecary’s bills.3 Mme Le Maire, washerwoman, received 126 l.t. 14 s. for the previous six months. Franklin dispensed New Year’s gratuities to Coimet, Bonnefoi, and Picard the coachman.

Account XVII (Franklin’s Private Accounts with Ferdinand Grand, XXVI, 3) shows Franklin buying kitchen furniture from Vitel,4 platewarmers from Dussaussois, and candles. He bought the Spectator, in English, from Pissot to send to Benjamin Franklin Bache, and paid the boy’s school expenses to M. “Rillet.”5

Account XXV (Account of Postage and Errands, XXXII, 3). For these months, the bills were again submitted by Coimet and consist of postal expenses and errands to Paris, Versailles, and Auteuil.

Account XXVII (Accounts of the Public Agents in Europe, XXXII, 4), contains several items unrecorded elsewhere, under the heading of Ferdinand Grand. Probably as a result of Deane’s settling his accounts, Bancroft was paid 6,000 l.t. due him from March 31, 1778. William McCarthy received 480 l.t., L’Air de Lamotte received his wages for “service in Dr. Franklin’s office,” amounting to 600 l.t., and on April 14 and 30 John Laurens received payments of 2,400 l.t.6

Account XXIX (Franklin’s Account with Congress, XXXIII, 3), records charity given on March 6 to “A Poor Frenchman who had been taken.”

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

1The block was engraved by Miller, and cost 36 l.t. See the passport for Francis Dana, April 5, facing p. 515.

2This was evidently in addition to what Chew had received on April 6; see the Editorial Note on Promissory Notes.

3Her bill for this, on black-bordered paper, is at the APS. There is also a sheet with her address: “aux Ecoles de Medecine rue de la Bucherie vis à vis le Pont de l’Hotel Dieu, à Paris.”

4The receipt for the first of these payments is at the APS.

5A month later, Noseda received an additional 131 l.t. for unspecified services. An engraved advertisement for his shop on the rue St. Honoré, dealing in “tout ce qui regarde la Physique et Lunettes pour la Marine,” is reproduced in Howard C. Rice, Jr., Thomas Jefferson’s Paris (Princeton, 1976), p. 22.

6The receipt from the Journal, dated Jan. 3, 1781, is at the APS.

7Description générale et particulière de la France, ou Voyage pittoresque de la France, avec la description de toutes ses provinces, ouvrage national, dedié au Roi, et orné d’un grand nombre de gravures … (12 vols.; Paris, 1781–96). The first volume, which BF was purchasing, included François-Denis Née’s engraving of a drawing by Gaspard Duché de Vancy entitled “Chambre du cœur de Voltaire.” Purportedly an actual view of Voltaire’s bedroom, the engraving shows the walls entirely covered by portraits.The one next to Voltaire’s pillow is that of BF, and is based on the Carmontelle profile, which Née also engraved: Sellers, Franklin in Portraiture, pp. 216–17.

8Cabaret later submitted an inclusive bill covering April 17–Sept. 15: APS.

9For servants who corresponded with BF, and are not mentioned in this headnote see the letters from Bénard (March 31) and Mme Lafargue (Jan. 15), and BF’s letter to Duchemin (Jan. 12).

1WTF also recorded Coimet’s reimbursements for kitchen expenses: 4,511 l.t. on Dec. 31 for the previous three months, 2,165 l.t. on March 19 for January and February, and 1,486 l.t. on April 16 for the month of March. Coimet’s receipt of Dec. 31 is at the APS. Another receipt at the APS, dated Jan. 1, shows BF reclaiming from WTF 720 l.t. of the funds he had given him to administer “family expences.”

2Arbelot’s itemized bill, submitted on Dec. 31, is at the APS. His salary was calculated on an annual rate of 150 l.t. His daily wine allotment was 6 s. per day; for ten months and 22 days, he figured the total as 98 l.t., 12 s. His washing was based on a yearly figure of 36 l.t., and a pair of breeches, powder, and pomade made up the remainder.

Another of Arbelot’s bills, this one for daily expenses while accompanying BF on various outings from April through June, is also at the APS. During April, BF visited the baths seven times, went weekly to Versailles, dined (as far as we can decipher the names) at the homes of Mme de La Freté, Mme Lavoisier, Mme Dutartre, Malesherbes, Chalut (twice), and the duc de la Rochefoucauld. He met with John Laurens for lunch on April 17.

3For the bill of Guiard, the apothecary, see XXXII, 6n. François was paid according to the same scale as Arbelot, that is, 150 l.t. per year. His account of daily expenses for April through June, written by Arbelot (APS), shows WTF’s meanderings. WTF sometimes accompanied BF to dinner, and occasionally dined without him, chez Alexander and Grand. As we noted in XXXIII, 4, he never went to Versailles. On seven occasions, he supped in Paris without his grandfather, at unspecified locations.

4BF wrote a note to Grand on March 1, 1781, instructing him to pay to Vitel 1,150 l.t., “being in full for his Acct of Kitchen Furniture,” and charge it to BF’s private account: Archives municipales de la ville de Reims.

5Undoubtedly the banker Rilliet, originally from Geneva, whose firm was now located on the rue Montmartre: XXXI, 364n.

6Account VI records that on April 14, Laurens received 600 l.t. to pay expenses at Passy. One additional receipt bears mentioning, although it does not appear in these accounts. Marie-Françoise Le Ray de Chaumont submitted a bill dated Feb. 11, 1781, for five months’ rental of a carriage, and two hundred half-bottles of wine. It was marked paid by BF’s order on Grand on Feb. 18. APS.

Index Entries