Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from the Abbé de La Roche, [December 1783?]

From the Abbé de La Roche

ALS: American Philosophical Society

[December, 1783?]1

Bonjour, cher Papa, je suis toujours estropié, et dans l’impossibilité d’aller vous voir, d’aprendre par moi même des nouvelles de vôtre Santé. Nôtre Dame2 n’ose point sortir au milieu de cette neige. Elle vous envoye la petite graine de l’Altamaha3 que lui a demandée Mons. vôtre fils. Auriez vous 3 ou 4 bouteilles de Madère sec ou de Xeres à m’envoyer, vous me feriez grand plaisir. Les habitans d’Auteuil vous embrassent, et vous aiment

L. de la Roche

Addressed: A Monsieur / Monsieur franklin / A Passy

Notation: De La Roche

1Dated by two clues: the snow and the mention of Alatamaha seeds. The seeds, offered for the first time by the Bartrams in their 1783 broadside catalogue (see the note below), were probably included in the box of seeds from John Bartram, Jr., that arrived in December with Capt. Barney: XL, 391, 593; RB to BF, Nov. 9, and Barney to BF, Dec. 19, above. The mention of snow suggests either late December, 1783, or early February, 1784, when Paris experienced snow storms.

2Mme Helvétius.

3Bartram’s 1783 broadside catalogue (XL, 593n) included “Alatamaha” at the end of the list as one of “Three Undescript Shrubs lately from Florida.” It had been discovered by his father John Bartram, Sr., and his brother William along the Altamaha River in Georgia during their 1765 trip to Florida. William brought seeds to Philadelphia in January, 1777, and for the first time the botanists saw it in flower. By October, 1784, when the Bartram sons issued their next seed list, they had determined that the plant warranted its own genus, which they named for Franklin. Franklinia Alatamaha, item no. 153, was now described as “a beautiful flowering Tree lately found in Florida, seems allied to the Gordonia” (MS list, Hunt Institute for Botanical Research). The following year Humphrey Marshall published the first full description of the tree under that name: Arbustrum Americanum: the American Grove … (Philadelphia, 1785). See Joel T. Fry, “Bartram’s Garden Catalogue of North American Plants, 1783,” Jour. of Garden History, XVI (1996), 3–16, 48–53, 56–7; William Bartram, Travels, ed. Francis Harper (New Haven, 1958), p. 417; Edmund Berkeley and Dorothy Smith Berkeley, The Life and Travels of John Bartram: from Lake Ontario to the River St. John (Tallahassee, Fl., 1982), pp. 245–6.

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