Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Dumas, 18[–20] January 1781

To Dumas

LS:6 Henry E. Huntington Library; AL (draft): Library of Congress; copies: Library of Congress, National Archives

Passy, Jan. 18.[–20] 1781.

Dear Sir,

Since my last I have been favoured by yours of Decemr. 1, 7, 14 21, 25, & January 1. by which you have kept me constantly well informed of the State of Affairs. Accept my Thanks. You may depend on my mentioning your Diligence & Services to Congress, in the Manner they merit.

Tho’ I have been some Weeks free of the Gout, my Feet are still tender, & my Knees feeble, so that going up and down Stairs is exceedingly difficult & inconvenient to me. This has prevented my going much out, so that I had not the honour I wished of waiting on the Ambr. when he was here, & paying the Respects I owe him; and he returned suddenly.7

I much approve of the Step you took the 16th. of Decr. before Messrs. Adams & Searle. I received the Copy.8

I wonder’d to find that you had not in Holland, on the 28th., received the Declaration of War, but have since learnt how it happen’d. Surely there never was a more unjust War; it is manifestly such from their own Manifesto. The Spirit of Rapine dictated it; & in my Opinion every Man in England who fits out a Privateer to take advantage of it, has the same Spirit, & would rob on the Highway in his own Country, if he was not restrained by Fear of the Gallows. They have qualified poor Capt. Jones, with The Title of Pirate, who was only at War with England: but if it be a good Definition of a Pirate, that he is Hostis humani Generis,9 they are much more Pirates than he, having already made great Progress towards being at War with all the World. If God governs, as I firmly believe, it is impossible such Wickedness should prosper.

You will receive this by Mr. Deane, who has a great Regard for you, and whom I recommend to your Civilities;1 tho’ the Gentlemen at present with you may be prejudiced against him:2 Prejudices that Time will cause to vanish, by showing they were groundless. I inclose a Pacquet for Leiden, which I shall be glad to hear is deliver’d Safe, and therefore desire your Care of it.3 With great Esteem, I am ever, Dear Sir, Your most obedient and most humble Servant

B Franklin

P.S. Jan. 20. Since writing the above I have receiv’d yours of the 12th. Instant. I am glad to hear that the Affairs of the Republick have taken so good a Turn in Russia. If not inconvenient or improper, I should be glad to know what pass’d relating to public Affairs while 67 was at your 31, & whether he saw 25, &c.4

With this you will receive three Letters for Mr Laurens, which I request you would forward to Mr Adams.

Be of good Courage, & keep up your Spirits. Your last Letter has a melancholy Turn. Do you take sufficient bodily Exercise? Walking is an excellent thing for those whose Employment is chiefly sedentary.

Mr. Dumas

Endorsed: S.E. Mr. B. Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6In L’Air de Lamotte’s hand, with the postscript added by BF.

7La Vauguyon had returned to the Netherlands by Jan. 9, on which date he wrote Vergennes (AAE).

8See Dumas to BF, Dec. 21.

9Enemy of the human race. The full expression is “Pirata est hostis humani generis”: Sir Edward Coke, The Third Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England (London, 1628, reprinted New York and London, 1979), p. 113.

1Deane made a five week “tour into Holland” and returned to Paris on Feb. 21: Deane Papers, IV, 290. On Jan. 13 he had signed a certificate that he had not sold or disposed of Mr. Shee’s loan office certificates and had deposited with BF the power of attorney Shee had provided him: APS; University of Pa. Library. John Shee was RB’s business partner: XXVIII, 552. For Deane’s frustrations in selling the loan office certificates see Deane Papers, IV, 118–9, 123, 174, 188, 220, 274, 524.

2JA and Searle?

3The packet must have included BF’s letter to Waterhouse of this date, immediately below; see Dumas to BF, Feb. 5.

4“67” is an obvious mistake, as in the Jones-Dumas code it stands for “Ammunition.” Our guess is that he means “46” for “Adams.” The other numbers are probably correct: “31” stands for “Ville” and “25” for “Pensionnaire.”

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