Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Sir Edward Newenham, [3, 10, or 17 October 1782]

From Sir Edward Newenham3

ALS: University of Pennsylvania Library

Paris Thursday Evenig [October 3, 10, or 17, 1782]4


I have the honor to Enclose for your Excellencys perusal the Speches of Mr. Fox &c &c which I am well assured are Genuine—

The London paper of the 1st Instant, has done me the honor of mentioning that I Breakfasted with Mr Laurens—

The same paper contains the Important resolutions of the most respectable Volunteer Corps against the raising of the fensibles, & the very proper Contempt they shewed Mr Dobbs, upon his treachery in accepting of so disgracefull a Commission;5 Each resolution is Copyed from that of my Corps—6

I have the Honor, to be, with Every sentiment of Respect & Esteem your Excellencys most Obt: & most Hbl: Sert

Edward Newenham

Notation: Newenhay

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Newenham, who in July had requested a passport to visit France with his wife, three of his children, and three servants (XXXVII, 627–8), delayed his departure until September. He left England sometime after Sept. 24, the day when both Henry Laurens (whom he visited, as he says below) and WF arrived in London. (Laurens’ date of arrival is recorded in Laurens Papers, XV, xlv, 26.) Upon hearing that WF had arrived, Newenham wrote him that he would soon be leaving for Paris, and would be glad to carry a message to BF. We have no indication that WF responded, but Newenham must have brought BF a copy of that letter (undated); it is at the University of Pa. Library and bears a notation by L’Air de Lamotte. For the context of Newenham’s trip, see James Kelly, Sir Edward Newenham MP, 1734–1814: Defender of the Protestant Constitution (Dublin, 2004), pp. 180–4.

A fragment of Newenham’s journal of this trip survives (National Archives of Canada). It begins with Oct. 11, halfway through the family’s stay in Paris. That first section, up through Oct. 19, their last full day in the city, is published in Dixon Wecter, “Benjamin Franklin and an Irish ‘Enthusiast,’” Huntington Library Quarterly, IV (1940–41), 215–19. BF and Jay included them in many dinners and social events; BF showed Newenham his “Electrical Apparatus” and supposedly discussed with him territorial concessions made by Britain.

4The three Thursdays between Oct. 1, a date mentioned in the present letter, and Oct. 20, the day the Newenhams left Paris.

5The Volunteers, established in Ireland through local initiative after regular troops were withdrawn to fight the Revolution, defended property, enforced law and order, and championed several political causes, including legislative independence (secured earlier in 1782). Fencible regiments were proposed during the summer of 1782 to restore military power to the government. Many Volunteers perceived them as rivals, but some prominent Volunteers, including Francis Dobbs (1750–1811), accepted commissions in the new regiments. A lawyer, writer, and future member of Ireland’s Parliament, Dobbs had played a leading role in the push for legislative independence. S. J. Connolly, The Oxford Companion to Irish History (Oxford and New York, 1998), pp. 151, 581; Maurice R. O’Connell, Irish Politics and Social Conflict in the Age of the American Revolution (Philadelphia, 1965), pp. 325–38; Edith M. Johnston-Liik, ed., History of the Irish Parliament, 1692–1800 (6 vols., Belfast, 2002), IV, 67–8; P. D. H. Smyth, “The Volunteers and Parliament, 1779–84,” in Penal Era and Golden Age: Essays in Irish History, 1690–1800, ed. Thomas Bartlett and D. W. Hayton (Belfast, 1979), pp. 122–4.

Four resolutions opposing the fencibles, three from Volunteer units and one from Dobbs’s own County Armagh, appeared in the Oct. 1 edition of The Morning Post, and Daily Advertiser (though the reference to Laurens did not). The resolution from the Ulster Regiment declares that a self-justifying statement from Dobbs “deserves no particular answer from the Delegates of Ulster—he may collect the sense of that body from the universal odium in which the measure he defends is held.”

6Newenham was the colonel of Dublin’s Liberty Volunteers, who had successfully pressured him to renounce Dobbs. Dobbs had recently listed Newenham as a fellow opponent of attempting to force Britain to formally renounce any claim of legislating for Ireland: Kelly, Newenham, pp. 149, 177–9.

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