Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Vergennes, 26 February 1784

To Vergennes7

LS:8 Archives du Ministère des affaires étrangères; AL (draft):9 American Philosophical Society

Passy, Feby. 26. 1784


Mr. Williams1 desiring no farther Surseance against the Bulk of his Creditors with whom he has amicably arranged his Affairs, and to whom he proposes to do exact Justice, I the more willingly join my Request with his, that he may be secured against the small Number remaining, who aim at forcing him to favour them to the Prejudice of the others.—2 I am with great Respect, Sir, Your Excellency’s most obedient & most humble Servant.

B Franklin

His Exy. Count de Vergennes.—

Notation: rep

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7For BF’s previous intercession with Vergennes about the financial difficulties of his great-nephew, see XL, 112, 506. As noted there, JW had received two successive arrêts de surséance, the second of which was due to expire on March 6. The funds he had expected to receive from America had not arrived; hence, this new appeal.

8In WTF’s hand.

9In a corner at the bottom of the sheet, for reasons we have not discovered, BF listed under the heading “Doctors” the surnames of seven American clergymen, which he then lined through: “Biles Mather Cooper Eliot Langdon Stiles Rogers.” These were doctors of divinity Mather Byles, Samuel Mather, Samuel Cooper, Andrew Eliot, Samuel Langdon, Ezra Stiles, and John Rodgers. We know that BF had recommended Byles, Eliot, Cooper, Stiles, and Rodgers for their doctorates: XII, 199n; XIV, 218–19; XV, 286n, 290.

1JW, who was then with BF at Passy, had recently moved his family from Nantes to his father-in-law’s home in Saint-Germain, intending to use that house as his base while coordinating the delivery of American tobacco to the farmers general under the terms of the contract approved by Vergennes in October (for which see the annotation of Alexander to BF, Nov. 6): JW to Alexander John Alexander, Dec. 6, 1783; JW to William Bingham, Jan. 29, 1784 (both at Yale University Library).

2JW brought to Versailles the present letter along with his own letter to Vergennes of Feb. 26, requesting a renewal of his lettres de surséance so that he could forestall a pending crisis with a small group of his creditors. His letter enclosed two supporting documents. The first was a memoir explaining that these creditors (whom he names) had threatened him with arrest if he did not repay them in full immediately, which he cannot do. All other creditors had agreed to alternative arrangements. He seeks a renewal of lettres de surséance for eight months, but only for the named merchants. (This memoir, signed by JW, is in the hand of L’Air de Lamotte.) The second enclosure was a nine-page schedule listing the creditors, forming a majority, who had agreed to an extended repayment plan, along with the amounts he would disburse to each between March 31, 1784, and Sept. 30, 1785. All these documents are at the AAE.

JW was unable to see either Vergennes or Gérard de Rayneval, his premier commis. On Feb. 27 he wrote to WTF asking him to pursue his appeal, and if possible also to obtain a safe-conduct pass for six months. He hoped that WTF would have the sauf conduit in hand when they saw one another on March 2. APS.

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