Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Jonathan Williams, Jr., 9 August 1783

From Jonathan Williams, Jr.

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Nantes Augt. 9. 1783.

Dear & hond Sir.

I have sent to Billy by this Post a Copy of my last Memoire to M de Vergennes, Supported by those of my Creditors who are of this Town & were of the Meeting, with Copies & Extracts of Several Letters I have received. I send also the originals of these Letters to prove the veracity of the Extracts. As they extend to matters foreign to the Subject and are too lengthy to be given to the Minister, please to certify the verity of the Extracts, after examination, so as the Originals may be immediately returned to me.4

You observed to me in your last kind Letter5 that there was no Situation in Life in which a man might not, by conducting well, do himself honour; this is more my Ambition than any View of Fortune, and I declare to you in the Sincerity of my Heart, that I look forward to the Day I shall have Satisfied all my Creditors, with more eagerness, than ever my Imagination excited me to do in any other View. I beg you will read Attentively the Letters I have Sent, & after considering that not one of the writers knew the others Sentiments you will conceive of the Pleasure I enjoy; I wish you to believe that notwithstanding all this Favour nothing on Earth Shall tempt me to do the Smallest Act in favour of any one Creditor to the Prejudice of the whole,6 and I expect the Indulgence of my Friends only as my Conduct Shall Answer this Principle. I trust I Shall not reckon among my misfortunes any diminution in your Esteem & am as ever most dutifully and affectionately Yours,

Jona Williams J

Addressed: a monsieur / Monsieur Franklin / Ministre plenipotentiaire / des Etats Unis en Son / Hotel a Passy. / pres Paris

Notation: Jonn. Williams Nantes 9th Aug. 83

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4See JW to BF, July 29, enclosing a petition to Vergennes seeking an extension of his arrêt de surséance; the annotation there describes JW’s letter asking WTF to deliver it. WTF evidently did so. As JW anticipated, Vergennes required that the petition be supported by letters from his creditors. WTF informed JW of this in a now-missing letter of Aug. 5, to which JW’s letter to WTF of Aug. 9 (APS) and the present letter are the response. In addition to the information summarized in this paragraph, JW asked his cousin to show the extracts to BF, Alexander, and Grand. The only creditor who had not written a letter (he was out of town) was a man to whom he owed but a small sum. WTF should therefore assure Vergennes that “the writers of the Letters, with Mr Grand, (who I suppose will not oppose the Measure) form the majority of what I owe in France.” WTF forwarded the memoir and its supporting documents to Vergennes on Aug. 15, with a cover letter expressing the hope that no further obstacle would emerge (AAE).

5That letter of July 18 is missing; see JW to BF, July 29.

6On July 31 the Parisian cloth merchant C. J. Morice (XXIII, 200n) had asked for just such preferential treatment, which under French law recipients of bankruptcy protection were prohibited from extending: ****Morice to JW, July 31, 1783 (APS); Claude Dupouy, Le Droit des faillites en France avant le Code de commerce (Paris, 1960), p. 142. After JW refused, Morice and another creditor, Bernier, wrote to Chaumont opposing JW’s application. WTF informed JW of this in a now-missing letter of Aug. 16, which JW answered three days later. He sent WTF Morice’s incriminating letter of July 31, with instructions to show it to Vergennes if Morice continued to make trouble. He also enclosed a new letter to Vergennes, pleading his case: JW to WTF, Aug. 19, 1783 (APS); JW to Vergennes, Aug. 19, 1783 (AAE).

Index Entries