Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Francis Childs, 20 October 1783

From Francis Childs5

ALS: American Philosophical Society

New York October 20th 1783—

Honored Sir.

In addition to that Happiness which resulted from being honored with a Letter from Mr. Jay was that of perceiving myself noticed by you— Permit me to return you my most sincere thanks for your generosity shewn to me—6

I feel a pleasure in informing you that by application of Col. Smith to Sir Guy Carleton7 the Press alluded to in Mr. Jay’s Letter—your property, is now in my possession— I shall endeavour to make use of it in such manner as shall convince you that your condescending to favor me is not unmeritted— My ambition to shew myself as grateful as I sincerely am will always prompt me to make every return in my power—

Be pleased to accept together with my best respects—my most Sincere Wishes for your Happiness— I am Honored Sir, Your Most obliged, & Obedient Humble Servant

Francis Child

Benj. Franklin Esqr.

Addressed: His Excellency / Benjamin Franklin Esqr. / Paris—

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5This aspiring printer (1763–1830), born in Philadelphia to a family named Child, was known as Francis Child until February, 1785, when he added an “s” to his last name as he prepared to launch his first independent venture, the New-York Daily Advertiser. John Jay had been Francis’ sponsor ever since the boy’s father died, providing for his education and arranging for an apprenticeship under Philadelphia printer John Dunlap. With Jay’s encouragement, Childs moved to New York in 1783 (see the following note) and found employment with the printer John Holt. After Holt died in January, 1784, Childs continued to work for his widow, Elizabeth, until establishing his own printing house the following year. In the early 1790s Childs became the printer to the state of New York, and with his partner, John Swaine, he opened an office in Philadelphia and printed for the United States government: obituary in [Washington] Daily National Intelligencer, Oct. 27, 1830; Morris Papers, 1, 113, 114n; Francis Childs to John Pierce, Feb. 11, 1784 (National Archives); Douglas C. McMurtrie, A History of Printing in the United States … (New York, 1936), pp. 161, 166–9, 297–9; New-York Journal, and the General Advertiser, Feb. 24, March 10 and 17, 1785.

6Jay’s letter of May 11 answered a now-missing appeal from Childs dated Jan. 1, proposing to establish his own press in New York after the British evacuated. Jay approved this plan, and assured Childs of his continued “aid and protection.” BF was willing to lend the young man a printing press that had been confiscated by the British and taken to New York— where it was now “in the possession of one Robinson, a printer”—providing that Childs could reclaim it under the terms of the preliminary treaty. Jay would draw up a letter of attorney for that purpose, as BF had suggested. Furthermore, Jay pledged to furnish Childs with type, and added that BF had “promised his assistance.” Details would be forthcoming, but in the meantime, Childs should write BF and thank him: Henry P. Johnston, ed., The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay … (4 vols., New York and London, [1890–93]), III, 45–6. For the confiscation of BF’s presses by James Robertson, see XXIX, 598; XXX, 363–4.

7Col. William Stephens Smith (ANB) was appointed by GW on May 8, 1783, to be one of three commissioners who would oversee the British evacuation of New York and the return of property belonging to citizens of the United States, pursuant to Art. 7 of the preliminary treaty (XXXVIII, 386): Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, XXVI, 412–14.

Index Entries