Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Pierre-Charles L’Enfant, the Chevalier de Villefranche, and the Chevalier de Rochefontaine, [c. 16 January 1784]

From Pierre-Charles L’Enfant, the Chevalier de
Villefranche, and the Chevalier de Rochefontaine3

AL: American Philosophical Society

[c. January 16, 1784]4

Mrs. L’Enfant, de Villefranche et de Rochefontaine Se sont presentés pour assurer Monsieur le Docteur franklin de leurs devoirs respectueux, à leur arrivée d’amerique—

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3The wording of this note, written on a half-sheet of paper, leads us to suspect that L’Enfant had not yet called on BF, though he had been in Paris since the middle of December; see the headnote to Bariatinskii’s Dec. 22 letter. If that is the case, then he and his companions, French engineers newly arrived from Philadelphia, may have called on BF to discuss the French branch of the Society of the Cincinnati. Genton de Villefranche had gone to America in 1777 with Du Coudray. He rose in rank from captain to lieutenant-colonel of engineers: Bodinier, Dictionnaire. For Béchet de Rochefontaine see XXXI, 11n. Both officers remained in the United States until at least the end of November, when they secured debt certificates from the treasury and an advance of back pay from Robert Morris: Morris Papers, VIII, 751, 752–3n, 781, 785.

4On either Jan. 16 or 19 (the evidence is conflicting), Rochambeau hosted the first official meeting of the French chapter of the Society of the Cincinnati, which all three men attended. The newly manufactured eagle badges were distributed on this occasion: Asa B. Gardiner, The Order of the Cincinnati in France … (n.p., 1905), pp. 14–16. It was reported that d’Estaing refused to accept his badge until naval officers were admitted to the society. Whether or not this is true, there was widespread dissatisfaction among French naval officers about their being excluded and d’Estaing had written GW a letter of protest on Dec. 25, 1783. The society changed its policy to include naval officers at its next meeting in May, 1784: Minor Myers, Jr., Liberty without Anarchy: a History of the Society of the Cincinnati (Charlottesville, 1983), pp. 62, 149–51; Gaz. de Leyde, Feb. 20, 1784, sup.; Edgar E. Hume, ed., General Washington’s Correspondence concerning The Society of the Cincinnati (Baltimore, 1941), p. 148; Bachaumont, Mémoires secrets, XXV, 89.

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