Benjamin Franklin Papers

Response to a Memorandum of Sabatier fils & Després, [c. 29 August? 1783]

Response to a Memorandum of Sabatier fils & Després2

D: Archives du Ministère des affaires étrangères

[c. August 29, 1783?]3

Apostille proposée par Monsieur Le Docteur Francklin Sur le Mémoire de MM. Sabatier fils et Desprez.

Jepense que MM. Sabatier fils et Desprez dirigent Irrégulierement Leur demande Sur moy qui n’ayant jamais eté partie dans le marché dont il Sagit, et n’ayant pas dû m’attendre à La répétition de La somme qui en est L’objet, n’ait fait aucune disposition, pour me pourvoir des fonds nécéssaires pour L’acquitter./.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2This copy of an undated note by BF concerns a debt incurred by Sabatier fils & Després in 1782 when, under orders from the French government, they replaced the military stores for the American army that had been captured in May, 1781, aboard the Marquis de Lafayette. The question under discussion was whether France or the United States was liable for the debt. (For background, see XXXV, 172, 244–5, 395.)

Sabatier fils & Després explained the problem in an Aug. 29, 1783, memorandum to Palteau de Veimerange (AAE). They reminded the former commissaire (now intendant des armées du roi: Etat militaire for 1783, p. 9) that in September, 1781, he had contracted with them to furnish military supplies for the United States which would be purchased by the royal treasury. They had received the full contract price by the end of 1782, as scheduled, but their actual costs were higher by 134,065 l.t. Initially, they were told to apply to BF to collect the difference. BF had referred them to Barclay, who had been delaying. They now demanded payment from the French government, with whom they had the contract.

The circumstances under which BF wrote the present note are still unknown. It is filed with the Aug. 29, 1783, memorandum at the AAE, giving the impression that it was written in response to it. However, because BF mentions the firm’s demand on him, it seems more likely that this note was written in early 1783 and submitted to the French government by Sabatier fils & Després as evidence that BF had disclaimed responsibility. Calonne had certainly seen this “apostille” when describing the situation to Vergennes on Feb. 1, 1784 (AAE). If BF had initially disclaimed the debt, however, he acknowledged it as an American expense by May, 1783; see XXXIX, 589. In 1784, the French treasury paid Sabatier fils & Després and applied for reimbursement to Congress, which acknowledged the claim: Vergennes to Marbois, Oct. 12, 1784 (AAE); Marbois to John Jay, Feb. 22, 1785 (Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, I, 161, 197); JCC, XXIX, 602–3.

3A clerk in Vergennes’ office wrote “1783. Août 29” in the top left-hand corner of this sheet, undoubtedly when filing the sheet with the memoir.

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