Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Reichsfreiherr von Weinbrenner, 19 February 1783

From Reichsfreiherr von Weinbrenner4

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Vienne le 19. Fevrier 1783.5


La Liberté du commerce des états unis de l’Amerique étant fondée, les sujets de notre cour ont aussi l’envie, de tenter un commerce droit avec ces Provinces heureusses et abondantes en plusieurs Articles pour notre bésoin, et il ne leurs ÿ manque que la connoissance des maisons de toute la solidité, auxquelles ils se pourroient confier.

A ce sujet je prends la liberté, de prier votre Excellence, de me communiquer quelques Adresses des maisons solides à Boston, Philadelphie, et nouvel york. J’en serai infiniment obligé, et je me protesterai toute ma vie d’être avec la plus parfaite Réconnoissance Excellence! votre très-humble et très-obeïsst. Serviteur

Jh V Weinbrenner

Mon Adresse:
A Monsieur Joseph de Veinbrenner, conseiller du commerce de sa Majesté Imperiale Royale / â Vienne / en Autriche.

Notation: Veinbrenner 19 Juillet 1783.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4Joseph Paul Reichsfreiherr von Weinbrenner (1728–1807), an extremely wealthy and well-connected Austrian merchant who acted as an informal commercial advisor to Empress Maria Theresa and after 1771 as commercial counselor to Joseph II: Constant von Wurzbach, ed., Biographisches Lexikon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich (60 vols., Vienna, 1856–91). It was Prince Kaunitz, imperial chancellor and minister of foreign affairs, who instructed him to write the present letter. Having received no response, he asked Ingenhousz to forward a copy to BF; it was enclosed in Ingenhousz’s letter of April 8 (below).

5On Feb. 18 Joseph II had written to Mercy-Argenteau, his minister to the French court, that commerce with the Americans would be extremely important for the future. Because the Low Countries would most profit from this trade, he had charged the prince of Starhemberg (its interim governor general: ADB) to look into the matter. Joseph also indicated that he would welcome an American overture to establish diplomatic relations. He thought that the best occasion to discuss matters would be when BF visited Ingenhousz in Vienna: Alfred d’Arneth and Jules Flammermont, eds., Correspondance secrète du comte de Mercy-Argenteau avec l’empereur Joseph II et le prince de Kaunitz (2 vols., Paris, 1889–91), I, 165.

Joseph II must have written to Starhemberg immediately upon hearing news of the preliminary peace. On Jan. 22 Starhemberg wrote to Mercy-Argenteau that he should informally let BF know that the time was propitious to discuss a trade agreement. He suggested that BF send a representative to speak to him in Brussels, but cautioned Mercy-Argenteau to maintain secrecy unless the impression could be created that BF had made the first overture on establishing commercial relations. He also directed that his letter be burned. Mercy-Argenteau had not so much as hinted anything about this to BF by March 1, to Starhemberg’s disappointment: Hanns Schlitter, ed., Die Berichte des ersten Agenten Österreichs in den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika Baron de Beelen-Bertholff … (Vienna, 1891), pp. 233–4.

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