Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to David S. Franks, [March or April 1783]

To David S. Franks

[March or April 1783]

Mr. Jefferson’s compliments to Colo. Franks and begs the favor of him during his stay in Paris to call on Mr. Pancouck publisher of the Encyclopedie Methodique and endeavor to get him entered as a subscriber for that work. As soon as Mr. Jefferson is informed of the number of volumes ready to be delivered and their price he will instantly remit the sum and will then expect to receive those volumes, and will afterwards from time to time remit such other sums as may keep beforehand with the deliveries so as to authorize him to receive every volume as soon as published.

He would suggest to Mr. Pancoucke the expediency of appointing some agent in Philadelphia who may open a subscription for this work, deliver the copies to the subscribers and receive the money from them. Mr. Jefferson could himself carry in to such an agent a respectable number of subscriptions. Our distance and the obstacles of the war put it out of our power to subscribe in Paris within the time limited for European subscribers. It would therefore be just as well as grateful to the Americans to have an opportunity laid open to them also of contributing to bring forward this valuable depository of science.

Dft (MHi); endorsed: “Franks Davd. S.”

It is probable that this letter, of which Dft is undated and no RC has been found, was written soon after TJ knew he was not going to Paris. Though he was not formally released from his appointment until 1 Apr., it was increasingly clear from 12 Mch. on that he would not be required to go. Franks himself did not return to Europe at this time, though it was his intention to do so and he was currently active in soliciting recommendations for a consular post; see an autobiographical sketch in Amer.-Jewish Hist. Soc., Publs., x (1902), 101–105; and Hersch L. Zitt, “David Salisbury Franks, Revolutionary Patriot (c. 1740–1793),” Penna. Hist., xvi (1949), 77–95. Since TJ left Philadelphia on 12 Apr., this letter was almost certainly written after 12 Mch. and before 12 Apr. 1783. Franks sailed for Europe, finally, on 17 Feb. 1784, bearing a copy of the ratification of the Definitive Treaty.

Meanwhile, delivery of the copy of the Encyclopdie Méthodique that TJ had caused to be ordered for the public use (see Fitzgerald to TJ, 3 Oct. 1780; TJ to Fitzgerald, 27 Feb. and Fitzgerald to TJ, 1 Apr. 1781) had apparently been delayed because of the military situation in Virginia in 1781. On 14 Dec. 1781 the Governor and Council took the following action: “Colonel Fitzgerald is desired to deliver to the order of Mr. Jefferson the Encyclopedia purchased for this state, he having promised to send for the same.” It is obvious from this that the authorization of the Council was taken at TJ’s request (he was then in Richmond). It is also clear that TJ obtained the encyclopedia from Fitzgerald and apparently became absorbed in it, for seven months later the Council adopted the following resolution: “The Commercial Agent is desired to take measures for getting from Mr. Jefferson the Encyclopaedia belonging to the public” (5 July 1782; see also 13 Dec. 1782, MS Va. Council Jour., Vi). The “measures,” whatever they were, were doubtless effective and TJ therefore endeavored to obtain a copy of the encyclopedia for his own use.

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