Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Robert Morris, August 28[–September 7] 1781

From Robert Morris

Copy: Library of Congress

Philada. 28th. August[–September 7] 1781.


Herewith I send you No. 1 & 2. Triplicates of my Letters of the thirteenth and fourteenth July last No. 3 & 4, Duplicates of my Letters of the nineteenth and twenty first of July last. I have not yet executed the Plan mentioned in mine of the twenty first of July of drawing Bills on you for Reasons which it is not necessary to enumerate at present.

Since my Letter to you of the eighth of June last I have found it necessary to apply to the Minister of his most Christian Majesty in this Place to direct another of five hundred thousand Livres with Messrs. Le Couteulx & Co.7 and I am now drawing Bills for that Sum wherefore I must pray your Excellency to take Measures that they be put in Cash to Answer my Drafts— Altho I have no Doubt that this will be done on the Chevalier de la Luzernes Application yet as his Letters may miscarry or other unavoidable Misfortune happen I take this additional Precaution because it is of the utmost Importance to the United States that these Bills be duly honored.

The last Advices from Europe inform us of Mr Neckars Resignation or Removal which Occasions much Speculation as to the Causes which produced this Event. I should be glad to hear from you on that Subject.

We learn from Boston the Arrival of the frigate Magicienne with a large Store Ship laden with Cloathing &ca. for the United States another Store Ship put back to Corunna as is said having been dismasted in a Gale of Wind. If this be so it is a loss which will be more easily supplied than that of the Fayette which Ship we are now informed was taken and carried into England.

Colo. Laurens’s Embarkation on Board a frigate for this Place with Money is also announced, and I hope she will spedily arrive. The Boston Account of the sixteenth of August mentions the arrival of the Magicienne in fifty Days. If Colo. Laurens had then sailed he must now have been out sixty two Days which is a very long Period for a single Frigate to be engaged in that voyage— If that Frigate arrives safe with five hundred thousand Dollars which is as I am informed on Board of her it will releive me from many very great Difficulties which I have now to struggle with, and give a much better appearance to our Affairs as it will enable us to operate with far more Vigor and Activity.

It is now a very long Time since we have had any Tidings of Mr. Adams. We have indeed been informed (tho not from himself) that he had opened a Loan for a Million of Florins: but we are much in the Dark as to the Success of it as well as many other Particulars relative to his Situation which would be very interesting.

September 7th. 1781.

Since writing the above Letter Colo. Laurens has come to this City from Boston at which Place he arrived in the Resolu with the two Store Ships under her Convoy after a Passage uncommonly tedious.8 It is certainly unnecessary to mention how great Pleasure we have received from this Occurrence.

Another equally pleasing is the Arrival of the Count de Grasse in Chesapeak Bay on the thirtieth of August with twenty eight Sail of the Line to wit one of one hundred and ten Guns three of eighty four Guns nineteen of Seventy four Guns four of sixty four Guns and one of fifty.9 The Count de Barras sailed from Rhode Island on the twenty fourth so that probably he has before this made a Junction with the Count de Grasse altho he had not on the thirty first of August—1 A Detachment of about seven thousand Men is on the Way to Virginia of which about two thousand five hundred were at the Head of Elk yesterday: As many more must have arrived there by this Evening and the Remainder to Morrow. There are landed from the Fleet three thousand Men and we are told these will receive an Addition of one thousand five hundred Marines besides the Army under the Command of the Marquis de la fayette which was before in Virginia and consists of about five thousand including the Militia. My Lord Cornwallis was entrenched at York in Virginia with five thousand Men.2 General Washington takes the Command of the Southern Army in Person. The Fleet under the Count de Grasse took on its way a Packet from Charlestown to Great Britain on Board of which was Lord Rawdon—3 From this Combination of Circumstances you will perceive that we have Reason to flatter ourselves with the Expectation of pleasing Occurrences.

With the greatest Respect I have the Honor to be Sir Your Excellency’s most obedient and humble Servant


His Excellency Benjamin Franklin Esqr.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7On July 2: Morris Papers, I, 211; II, 141n. Undoubtedly Morris is referring to the Paris branch of the banking house (XXVI, 467n), which also must be the branch that on Sept. 9 forwarded to BF three letters received by way of Sweden; its covering letter is at the APS.

8The Résolue, Olimpe, and Cybèle reached Boston on Aug. 25 and Laurens arrived in Philadelphia on Sept. 2. The three French ships brought about 2,500,000 l.t. in specie and 2,200,000 l.t. worth of supplies: Morris Papers, I, 340n; II, 221n.

9De Grasse’s fleet consisted of one 100–gun ship of the line, three 80s, seventeen 74s, six 64s, and one 50. He had assembled thirty ships of the line in the West Indies but had left one behind and lost one because of an accident: Dull, French Navy, pp. 243, 245, 370–1.

1Barras was bringing the same seven ships of the line that Ternay had brought to Newport in 1780: Dull, French Navy, pp. 246, 371; Rice and Brown, eds., Rochambeau’s Army, I, 117; Karl Gustaf Tornquist, The Naval Campaigns of Count de Grasse during the American Revolution 1781–1783 (trans. by Amandus Johnson, Philadelphia, 1942), p. 63.

2De Grasse embarked with about 3,300 troops at St. Domingue and landed some 3,000 of them and 800 marines from the fleet when he reached Virginia. Counting Rochambeau’s contingent from New England some 7,800 French participated in the siege of Yorktown. American forces consisted of about 8,000 regulars and 3,150 militia: Dull, French Navy, pp. 244–5; Freeman, Washington, V, 514. On Aug. 15 Cornwallis had about 6,000 troops fit for duty: William B. Willcox, ed., The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton’s Narrative of His Campaigns … (New Haven, 1954, reprinted Hamden, Conn., 1971), pp. 556–7.

3Francis Rawdon-Hastings (1754–1826), the British commander in South Carolina, had defeated Greene at the Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill on April 25. He turned over his command and sailed for England on July 20. He was exchanged in 1782: Mark Mayo Boatner III, Encyclopedia of the American Revolution (New York, 1966), pp. 503–8, 918–21.

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