Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Daniel Roberdeau, 26 February 1784

From Daniel Roberdeau

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Gravesend Feby. 26th. 1784

Dear Sir

I am honored by your favor of the 13th.4 and much obliged by your attention to Mr. Vanderhorst and his Daughter which he speaks of with great satisfaction and thankfulness;5 Also for your care in forwarding to Mr. Grand my letter, but more particularly for your condescending notice of my son and attention to his improvement in the art of refining as practised in the neighbourhood of Paris after he leaves Bristol, this is greatly kind, and has occasioned in me a desire to hear further of the “new principles” in the art of refining at Bercy.6 If you could gratify me herein at your leisure by informing me at Philada. wherein the excellence of the new principles consists, and whether I could get my son introduced as a workman at Bercy for a few months you’ll greatly obliged me. I am further obliged by your kind wishes for a prosperous voyage to me, on which I have set out as you’ll see by my dating from this place.7 Wishing you the fullest measure of comfort and hapiness. I am Dear Sir Yr. most obt. & obliged hume. Serv.

Daniel Roberdeau

Addressed: His Excellency / Doctor Benjamin Franklin / Minister Plenepotentiary for the United States / of North America / Passy / Paris / [note by John Warder:]8 London 27 Feby. 84 forwarded by thy friend Jno. Warder

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]


5BF signed a passport for Vanderhorst on Feb. 12, made out for him and “Mlle. sa Fille, Citoyens des dits Etats, allant en Angleterre”: Vanderhorst Papers, Bristol Record Office. WTF evidently forwarded the passport and BF’s letter to Roberdeau under cover of a letter to Vanderhorst. On Feb. 15 Vanderhorst replied, promising to carry out BF’s “commands” and thanking him for “the Model of the Grate which Mr. F. is so good as to promise by Mr. Laurens.” He would be leaving Paris the following night: Vanderhorst to WTF, Feb. 15, 1784, APS.

The passport for Vanderhorst is the first known dated example of the type illustrated in Randolph G. Adams, The Passports Printed by Benjamin Franklin at his Passy Press (Ann Arbor, 1925), facing p. [5]. This may have been the last passport form printed at Passy, as BF used it until at least May 1, 1785, when he issued one to Dr. Thomas Ruston (Yale University Library).

6Frères Boucherie of Bordeaux built an experimental facility at Bercy in 1776 that yielded a 40 percent increase over older sugar-refining methods. In early 1783, they were awarded the concession to refine sugar on Martinique for 12 years and, in contrast to historic French trade policy, to sell as much as 3,000,000 livres per year to the Americans: Jean Tarrade, Le Commerce Colonial de la France à la fin de l’Ancien Régime: l’évolution du régime de “l’Exclusif” de 1763 à 1789 (2 vols., Paris, 1972), 11, 510–12.

7Roberdeau’s voyage was not straightforward. His first ship sprang a leak and was forced to stop in the Azores; the crew of the second ship staged an unsuccessful mutiny. He arrived in Philadelphia in mid-July: Virginia Jour., July 29, 1784.

8John Warder (1751–1828), son of Philadelphia merchant Jeremiah Warder (VI, 440; XV, 267–8n), served as his father’s agent in London during the war: Elaine F. Crane et al., eds., The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker (3 vols., Boston, 1991), III, 2226.

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