George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Temple Franklin, 20 April 1789

From William Temple Franklin

Philadelphia 20 April 1789


Tho’ I am from Experience assur’d of your Excellencys Good Will towards me, yet being convinc’d that in discharging the important Trust to which you have been unanimously elected, Merit & not Favor will obtain your Patronage; I take the Liberty of laying before your Excellency a Sketch of my Services to the United States in the Line of public Foreign affairs, and of offering a continuation of my Services in that Line, or any other suitable one, in case no Person more deserving should occur. With great Respect, I am, Sir, Your Excellency’s most obedient & devoted humble Servant

W. T. Franklin


William Temple Franklin (1762–1823) was the son of Benjamin Franklin’s illegitimate son William Franklin (1731–1813), the last royal governor of New Jersey. Young William Temple returned to America with his grandfather in 1775 and began his studies at the University of Pennsylvania, but when Benjamin Franklin was appointed one of Congress’s commissioners to France his grandson acted as his secretary from 1776 to 1785. In the early nineteenth century he edited a three-volume edition of his grandfather’s writings, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin (London, 1817–18). In support of his application for an appointment Franklin enclosed a number of testimonials. An extract of a letter from Benjamin Franklin to the president of the Continental Congress, 12 Mar. 1781, requested that Congress should “take under their Protection my Grandson William Temple Franklin. I have educated him from his Infancy, and I brought him over with an Intention of placing him when he might be qualified for the Profession of the Law; but the constant Occasion Has for his Services as a private Secretary during the term of the Commissioners and more extensively since their Departure has induced me to keep him always with me; and indeed being continually disappointed of the Secretary Congress had at different times intended me, it would have been impossible for me without this young Gentleman’s Assistance, to have gone thro’ the Business incumbent on me. He has thereby lost so much of the time necessary for Law Studies that I think it rather adviseable for him to continue if it may be, in the Line of Public Foreign Affairs, for which ⟨mutilated⟩ seems qualafied, by a Sagacity and Judgment above his Years, great Diligence and Activity, exact Probity; a genteel Address a Facility in speaking well the French Tongue, and all the Knowledge of Business to be obtained by a four Years constant Employment in the Secretary’s Office.” In his grandfather’s opinion he would “make a very able foreign Minister for the Congress, in whose Service his Fidelity may be relied on” (DLC:GW). An extract of a letter from John Jay to the president of the Continental Congress, 21 April 1781, supported Benjamin Franklin’s recommendation. Also enclosed were copies of a letter from Benjamin Franklin to Vergennes, 6 Dec. 1783, explaining that because of his ill health his grandson would occasionally act for him in diplomatic matters, Vergennes’s reply, 11 Dec. stating that he would “receive your Grandson with Pleasure, and willingly confer with him,” and a document in William Temple Franklin’s writing, dated March 1789, recapitulating his services (all in DLC:GW). Franklin received no appointment from Washington. For his later attempt to become Jefferson’s successor as minister to France, see his letter to GW of 9 Jan. 1790.

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