Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Charles-Marguerite-Jean-Baptiste Mercier Dupaty, 30 December 1783

From Charles-Marguerite-Jean-Baptiste Mercier Dupaty3

ALS: American Philosphical Society

Paris December the 30th. [1783]


I have the honour to send you with a thousand thanks, the book you have been so good as to lend me.4 I have perused it with satisfaction, notwithstanding I thougt the system of the Author incomplete, sometimes erroneus, often chimerical, and in general treated in a manner rather too superficial. But the importance of the subject, the continual clearness of the style, a good deal of Eloquence, and now and then some happy ideas, impressed if not with the fire at least with the flame of the Love of humanity, have dragged me with some rapidity to the end. I think the reader is often wandering in Heaths, but he always treads on the green and sometimes on the flowers. With pleasure then, shall I read the following volume, and should think myself under a great obligation, if you would send it to me with the two others. Were I not affraid of abusing of your Complaisance, I would beg of you to send me back this one, that I might in a second perusal, embrace at once the whole system.

I shall not be less punctual in restoring your books, than in paying you the tribute of hommage and Veneration, wich must be looked upon as a duty by all those that are animated by the Love of philosophy, Liberty and humanity.

I have the honour to be Sir Your most humble obedient servant


[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3A former advocate-general in the Parlement of Bordeaux, Dupaty became widely known in 1780–82 for his ultimately successful struggle with the Parlement over his admission as its president à mortier. Unable to work with the Parlement, however, Dupaty left for Paris in September, 1783. There he embarked on a long-planned study of the criminal codes of foreign nations as the basis for reform in France, for which he solicited support from Miromesnil, Vergennes, and Calonne. It is not known whether Dupaty had met BF during a previous visit to Paris or was introduced in the fall of 1783. He had been a member of the Neuf Sœurs since at least 1779, and was made vénérable in the spring of 1784; he also frequented Mme Helvétius’ salon: DBF; William Doyle, “Dupaty (1746–1788): a Career in the Late Enlightenment,” Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, CCXXX (1985), 37–69.

4Most likely the first volume of Book III of Filangieri’s La scienza della legislazione, which BF received the previous summer: XL, 297–8, 460. BF must have informed Dupaty that he had just received the second volume; see Luigi Pio to BF, Dec. 12. During a trip to Italy in July, 1785, Dupaty was introduced to Filangieri by means of a letter written by the secretary of the queen of Naples. It characterized the bearer as one of the most esteemed magistrates in France, who greatly admired Filangieri’s work and had often discussed it with BF: Doyle, “Dupaty,” p. 77.

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