Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from John Shaffer, 8 September 1781

From John Shaffer

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Paris 8 Sepr [1]781

I make No doubt but you Exelency have heard of the Ill treatment I met with. I was arrasted by A Mr Dotun Le sage5 At Paris for a sum of money wich he pretents I owe him And it is Very Clear that I have sufred and lost Near 72 thousand Livers and do Not owe him A Sheling. I was arrested in the most Cruel manner my arms tyed and Put in to a dunjen for Near 24 hours from the Infammation of that Villin Dotun Le sage.6 I have bean Advised to Clear up the matter with him as will as I can as he is a man of an Infamous Carracter and has Got a Rect. of me for 60000 Livers when I actuly only Red. [received] 20000 Livers. I can Prove that I sold the luggar the hole of her for £20000 but not with standing I am Informed his recd will stand good in law a gainst all Persons, and as I have No great Sum of money to go to law I would wish to settle with him on the best terms I can, was I in my own Country I would loose my life and fortune but I would have sattisfaction but in my Present situation I am oblidged to settle with him on the best terms I can.

I Give your Exelency my Parole of honour to settle with Dotun before I leave this Country.

If your Exelency will be Kind Enough to mention this to the Said Dotun L sage I make No doubt but he will Arrange with me, if you will be Kind Enough to Right by the bearrer to Dotun Le Sage you will oblidje Sir your most obedent & Very Humble Servant

J Shaffer

His Exelency Docter Franklin

Addressed: His Exelency / Docter Franklin / a Passy

Notation: J. Shaffer. 8. Sep. 81. Ansd. by W.T.F. 9h, Do7

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5Or Remy d’Autun, as he identifies himself in a letter justifying his legal action against Shaffer, [after Sept. 4], above. Shaffer’s lawyer, Lombard, on Sept. 23, below, refers to him only as “Sr. d’Autun.”

6Silas Deane, who was aware of Shaffer’s predicament, described his arrest, which he said occurred on Sept. 3: “[Shaffer] was coming out of the Palais Royal Garden; had his hands bound and was led off, first to his lodgings, and thence to prison. … From what I can learn, he is charged with having made a double, and consequently a fraudulent, sale of the vessel. … I fear that from his ignorance in business, which is extreme and from his presumption and rashness, which have always rendered him deaf to the advice of others, and being concerned with a sett of knowing ones, without the knowledge either of their language or their real character, that he has involved himself in a very disagreeable, and perhaps disreputable transaction”: Deane Papers, IV, 451.

7WTF replied that BF was willing to write on Shaffer’s behalf to bring d’Autun Lesage to a speedy settlement, but that he must “look over again the Papers he put into the Hands of your Interpreter, who was to have got your Remarks thereon & return them immediately. Two days have elapsed & they are not yet come to hand.” Library of Congress. Shaffer answered immediately with a brief note (undated) promising to return the papers the next morning. His letter of the following day, also undated, said that he was enclosing the papers with his comments, and that his interpreter would be able to answer any questions. APS. These papers, presumably the charges against Shaffer, have not been found.

The following week Shaffer requested a loan, evidently in a letter to WTF. BF agreed to grant him 12 louis. In an undated letter from the Grand Châtelet to WTF (in answer to a now-missing letter of Sept 15), Shaffer thanked BF and promised prompt repayment. Louis Velly, Shaffer’s servant, signed a receipt for this sum “for … my Master, now a Prisoner in the Grand Chatelet,” on Sept. 16. The loan is also entered in Account XXIII (XXIX, 3). All the documents cited here are at the APS.

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