Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from John Shaffer, 21 September 1781

From John Shaffer

ALS: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Grand Chatlet Paris 21th Sepr 1781.


I am Now in a Strang Country & 4000 Miles from home. No frends to Vindicate me in my unhappy setuation Not with standing theire is Every Proof of my Inosance I am now fully Perswaded that without the Asestance of your Exelency will Not be releved of Preson. I Hope your Exelency will do Every thing that Lais in your Power to releve me of my Destrest Setuation. The Letnt Criminal is convinced of my Inosance & has referd my Affair to Parlement.9 If your Exelency be So Oblideging to right A few lines to the Gentelman Apointed by Parlement to Examine in to the Affair— As you are Perfectly Noing my Inosance am fully Perswaded will be relived of my Confinment.1

I have the honour to be your Exelencys most obedient & Very Humble Servant

J Shaffer

His Exelency Dacter Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9As lieutenant criminel at the Châtelet, Charles-Simon Bachois de Villefort conducted investigations for criminal cases, but his decision to refer the case to Parlement did not necessarily reflect a belief that Shaffer was innocent or Shaffer’s lawyer’s contention that this was a civil case (Lombard’s letter of Sept. 23, below). Although the Châtelet, a presidial court, had jurisdiction over all cases involving documents prepared by its notaries, as was true here, it was limited to cases involving amounts up to 2,000 livres; cases involving greater amounts, and appeals of judgments handed down by the Châtelet, were referred to the parlement: Roland E. Mousnier, The Institutions of France under the Absolute Monarchy 1598–1789 (trans. Arthur Gold-hammer, 2 vols., Chicago and London, 1979–1984), II, 263, 265, 272–3; Marcel Marion, Dictionnaire des institutions de la France aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles (Paris, 1923; reprinted, New York, 1968), p. 335. Bachois de Villefort is listed in the Almanach royal for 1781 on p. 387.

1In a second letter dated “21. 781” Shaffer expressed the hope that as his affair was to be judged the next day, BF would “pass to the Gentelman Apointed by Parlement to Examine in to my Affair As my Carracter & liberty Depends in tirely theiron.” He promised not to leave Paris until he had settled this affair and convinced BF of his innocence. Hist. Soc. of Pa.

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