Benjamin Franklin Papers

William Temple Franklin to William Robeson, 3 September 1781

William Temple Franklin to William Robeson

Copy:4 Library of Congress

Passy 3 Sept 1781

Dear Sir,

Mr. Raymond is just arrived, & has brought with him your black Servant.5 They Boy seems desirous of returning to you, provided you send him some Money together with his Freedom. He says the latter was his due immediately on his Arrival in England.6 He has lodg’d himself some where in Passy, & purposes waiting 15 Days for your Ansr. I offer’d him Bed & Board here without Expence, but he would not accept of it. You will please to let me know, by Return of Post, your Intentions relative to this Black Gentleman, who seems to have a great Opinion of his Importance, & not very willing to let himself be governed by me.

With sincere Regard I am, &ca.

I have seen nothing of your watch.
Capt. Robeson

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4In the hand of Gurdon Mumford.

5Mr. Raymond accompanied Montague from England to France and provided services to both Robeson and his slave, Jean Montague: WTF to Robeson, Sept. 8, and Robeson to WTF, Sept. 15, both below. In an undated letter to WTF Chaumont says that he paid “Sieur Raymond” for money advanced to Robeson and remitted the receipt to WTF with a request that he have Robeson reimburse him. APS. On Nov. 8 Robeson wrote WTF, sending his compliments to Mr. Raymond and a promise to repay him soon. APS. We have no further knowledge of Raymond’s identity.

6Montague evidently referred to the freedom principle as articulated by Lord Mansfield in the Somersett case (1772), brought by Granville Sharp (XVII, 38n), whereby a slave who set foot on English soil became free. In earlier negotiations with Robeson, Montague had also shown a knowledge of the laws governing slaves in France: XXXIII, 121–2. For a discussion of the freedom principle in French and English law during the eighteenth century see Sue Peabody, “There Are No Slaves in France”: the Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien Régime (New York and Oxford, 1996), pp. 3–7 and passim.

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