After the signing of the definitive peace treaty on September 3, 1783, Franklin’s official duties as minister plenipotentiary diminished. He concluded a draft consular convention with France, but Great Britain did not act on the articles for a commercial agreement that he negotiated with David Hartley, and Congress did not ratify the draft treaties of commerce with Denmark and Portugal that he had sent to Philadelphia the previous summer. In his welcome leisure time, however, Franklin followed scientific developments (witnessing the first balloon ascensions in Paris), advised the French government on schemes for civic improvement (making cornbread and building coal-burning stoves), and wrote three of his most remarkable pieces about what it meant to be American.
About the Author
Ellen R. Cohn is a senior research scholar in the Department of History at Yale University.
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The Papers of Benjamin Franklin
Volume 41 September 16, 1783 through February 29, 1784
By Benjamin Franklin, Ellen R. Cohn
Yale UNIVERSITY PRESSCopyright © 2014 American Philosophical Society Held at Philadelphia for Promoting Useful Knowledge and by Yale University
All rights reserved.
To Richard Price
Press copy of ALS: Library of Congress
My dear Friend,
Passy near Paris, Sept. 16. 1783.
Having this Opportunity by Mr Bingham, who has the Honour of being known to you, I seize it to thank you for your excellent Book and other Favours, and to let you know that I continue well, except a little Gout, which perhaps is not more a Disease than a Remedy. Mr Petrie inform'd me of your being also well with Mrs Price lately at Brighthelmstone, which gave me great Pleasure: Please to present my affectionate Respects to that good Lady.—
All the Conversation here at present turns upon the Balloons fill'd with light inflammable Air; and the means of managing them so as to give Men the Advantage of Flying. One is to be let off on Friday next at Versailles, which it is said will be able to carry up a 1000 pounds weight, I know not whether inclusive or exclusive of its own. I have sent an Account of the former to Sir Joseph Banks, our President, and shall be glad to hear if the Experiment is repeated with Success in England. Please to forward to him the enclosed Print.—
Inflammable Air puts me in mind of a little jocular Paper I wrote some Years since in ridicule of a Prize Question given out by a certain Academy on this side the Water, and I enclose it for your Amusement.—On second Thoughts, as it is a mathematical Question, and perhaps I think it more trifling than it really is, and you are a Mathematician, I am afraid I have judg'd wrong in sending it to you. Our Friend Dr. Priestly, however, who is apt to give himself Airs, i.e. fix'd, deflogisticated, &c &c., and has a kind of Right to every thing his Friends produce upon that Subject, may perhaps like to see it, and you can send it to him without reading it.
We have at length sign'd our Preliminary Articles as definitive; all the Additions we have been so long discussing, being referr'd to a future Treaty of Commerce. I have now a little Leisure and long to see and be merry with the Club, but doubt I cannot undertake the Journey before Spring. Adieu, and believe me ever, my dear Friend, Yours most affectionately
They make small Balloons now of the same materials with what is call'd Gold-beaten Leaf. Inclos'd I send one which being fill'd with inflammable Air by my Grandson, went up last Night to the Cieling in my Chamber, and remained rolling about there for some time.—Please to give it also to Sir Joseph Banks. If a Man should go up with one of the large ones, might there not be some mechanical Contrivance to compress the Globe at pleasure and thusly incline it to descend, and let it expand when he inclines to rise again?—
From Prince Bariatinskii, with Franklin's Draft of a Reply
AL: American Philosophical Society
Ce 16. 7bre. mardy
Le Prince Bariatinskoy prie monsieur Francklein de lui faire L'honneur de venir diner chez lui aprés demain jeudi Le 18. du Courant.
Addressed: à Monsieur / Monsieur Francklein / ministre plenipotentiaire des / Etats Unis de l'Amerique / près S:M:T:C: / à Passy
Endorsed: Mr Franklin presents his respectful Compliments to Prince Baritinsky, with Thanks for his obliging Invitation, which Mr F. would accept with Pleasure but that he happens to be pre-engaged.
Passy, Sept. 17. 83
Translate this, & let me see the Translation
From Sir Edward Newenham
ALS: American Philosophical Society
Dublin 16 Sept: 1783
With every Sentiment of Respect & Esteem, I have the Honour to Congratulate you on the final completion of American Independance—To you, thou Virtuous Patriot, they owe much—to your illustrious Character, words are wanting to pay due respect—I shall sum up all in a few, thou ar't great, thou hast proved faithfull & honest in the Day of Tryal—Though not an American born, My Villa will be honoured with a pillar, to remind Posterity of thy transcendant Virtues—it is partly finished;—
I arrived here only 15 Days prior to the General Election, and when all the Kingdom had been canvassing for 8 months during my Absence, yet I had & am returned, by a large Majority, in opposition to Government, Lawn Sleeves & an amazing Expenditure of money—& I did not one Guinea—
In 1781 I moved for a bill for the more Equal Representation of the People—I obtained leave—the Ministry opposed the reading of it—but now they dare not—I think that measure must now succeed—& all other Subordinate Measures of Trade will follow of Course—
Permit me now—to ask you as a private Man—whether it will not be necessary to have Some Law or Declaration from the Parliament of this Country, in order to fix a Trade with America, or whether we are deemed to be included in the late Treaty.
Lady Newenham, who reveres you—who never Ceases wishing for your prosperity & happiness desires her sincerest respects to you—My son joins me in every sentiment of respect & Esteem—
I have the Honor, to be, my Dear Sir with respect & Esteem your Excellencys Most obt: & most Humble st
No Time can Obliterate our Gratefull Remembrance of yr worthy Grandson, to whom we request our best regards—I shall Count the Days with the Greatest Impatence, untill I have the Honor of an Answer—
Addressed: To / His Excellency Dr: B: Franklin / Minister Pleniopotentiary / of America—/ Paris—
From James Bennet
ADS: American Philosophical Society
Paris 17th sepr 1783
The Petition and Representation of James Bennet native of Philadelphia.
That whereas in the month of January last past the Petitioner Shiped himself as Clk & Steward on Board a Scooner of Baltimore in Maryland bound wt. a Cargo of Tobaccoe to Gothenburgh in Swedland; But being intercepted in our course, had not the good fortune to Land our Cargo conform to expectation, Being taken by the Argo 44. a British man of War On board of which ship the Petr. [Petitioner] has been closely confined since, untill her Arivall at Plymouth about a month ago where the men were sett at Large—That the Petr. finding no Opportunity there to Emigrate to his native Country he concluded, he would take a passage in a Dunkirque fishing: boat thinking a favourable Opportunity might offer there, But being frusterated in this he was constrained to depart Dunkirque and sett off for Paris in a very disasterous situation with an intention to go from thence to Burdeaux or some other Seaport in France where he should have an Opportunity of Embarqueing for America.
That the Petr. arived last night in the sd. City of Paris, poor in purse and person, after a very long & tedious Journey and as he is totally destitute in a Country very exotic to him, and unacquainted Also he is of necessity constrained to Apply to Your Honour for relief in this undressed manner, in order the poor Representer may be enabled to proceed immediately to Burdeaux and Afterwards Obtain a sight once more of Philadelphia which is long wished for.
May it Please your Honour to Consider the Premisses & out of your extream goodness & wantoned Clemency to confer upon the Petr. what seemeth meet to your Honour which shall be refunded by the Almity of the poor & rich if not otherways & the Petr shall as in duty bound Pray
Unto The Honble. Doctor Franklain Ambassadore for the Honble. Congress for the Unitted Provinces in America.
Petition & Representation of James Bennet of Philadelphia 1783.
Notation: Bennet 17. 7bre. 1783.—
From Robert Morris
ALS: American Philosophical Society
Philada Septr. 17th. 1783
You have above an extract of a letter from the Honble Mr. Jefferson, to me by which you will perceive that he wants one of your late invented Machines for Copying Writings, he desires me to write to England but if I am not much mistaken France is the place. You however will know where his order can be best executed, and give orders accordingly, shou'd it be shipped from France Messrs LeCouteulx & Co will supply the Money to pay Cost on my acct. If you think it best to order it from London Messrs Herries & Company of that place will pay for it, or in either case if it will suit you to draw on Mr. Jefferson or me payable in America for the Cost the bill shall be punctually acquitted. You will excuse this trouble it is occasioned by the opinion which I entertain, that this is the most likely way to have our Friend Jefferson well Served. With sincere Attachment I ever am Dear Sir Your most Obedient & Most humble servant
His Excy Benjn. Franklin Esqr Minister Plenipy a Passy—
From Patrick Murphy et al.
ALS: American Philosophical Society
Bourdox September the 17th. 1783
I hope Yr. Honr. will look into the Affair As Our Case is Verry hard at present and take it into Yr. Serious Considration As Wee Are Strangers here And Cant Get abirth too Any part Likewise to let Yr. Honr. know that Wee have Been in his Majesties Service All this War We Want to Go home Or To the West indies As Wee Are Determined Not to Go to England But Willing To Serve in the Merchant Service as Usual So Wee hope Yr. honr. will Relieve us in Our poor. & low Situation the Number of Us is 26. Running in Debt And Expect to Go to Goal Except Yr. Hr. Does Something in Our Behalf in So Doing Youl Oblige And Serve Yr. humble & faithful Servants till Death Wee Humbly Beg And Request of Yr. Honour To Write A few lines in Our Behalf to Mr. Bunfill in Bourdeaux Yr. Verry humble Servants—
Notation: Brien. 17 Sept. 1783.
To Benjamin Rush
ALS: Yale University Library
Passy, Sept. 18. 1783.—
M. du Trône, who will have the Honour of presenting you this Line, is recommended to me by very respectable Persons, as a young Gentleman of excellent Character, who goes to America with Views of residing there some Years, and practising Chemistry. I beg leave to recommend him to your Protection and good Counsels, and to those Civilities you delight in showing to Strangers of Merit. With great Esteem, I am ever, my dear Friend, Yours most affectionately
Dr Benja. Rush
From Samuel Chase
LS: American Philosophical Society
London, 18th. Septr. 1783.
Your letter of the 15th. of July last by Captain Barney, came to my Hands the 18th. of March, but I have never had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Jones, or Mr. Paradise. It was very unfortunate for Mr. Russell that your recommendation of him did not arrive sooner; the Character and Conduct of this Gentleman entitle him to every favour. His property was ordered to be sold by Law, and the Money appropiated to the Officers and Soldiers of our State. On representing his Case to the Governor, the sale has been postponed, and I hope something will still be done in his favour.
I requested Mr. Laurens to present you with my best wishes, and to inform you of my arrival in this City, where I am come from the Legislature of our State to receive their Stock in the Bank of England. From the Conduct of two of the trustees, I expect to meet with some Difficulties, if not an absolute Refusal to make the transfer.
I am considerably interested in a matter in which I beg leave to solicit your advice and Assistance. The state of the Case is briefly this. A Company of Merchants in Baltimore Town; known by the firm of Dorsey, Wheeler & Co. (of which Company I am one) were owners of a Ship called the Matilda, carrying sixteen nine, and four four pounders, manned with 90 men, and loaded with 1800 Barrels of flour, which sailed from Baltimore Town, on the 2d. September 1782, bound for the Havana. A few days before the Ship sailed, at the Request of the Merchants of Baltimore to his Excellency, Count De Rochambeau, he wrote to the Chevalier De Quèmy, Commander of the frigate Emraude, to convoy the vessells of the Baltimore Merchants off the Coast of America. The owners of the Matilda for a variety of Reasons instructed James Belt the Master of their Ship before he left Baltimore, to sail with, or without the Convoy, as he should in his descretion think proper, on his arrival near the Capes. On the 9th. of September the Ship arrived at Mobjack Bay, and Captain Belt determined to sail without Convoy, the first fair Wind. On the 10th. the frigate Emraude came to anchor in the Bay. On the 13th, the Wind was fair, and Captain Belt weighed Anchor, but was prevented by the Chevalier De Quèmy from passing him, and detained by force from the 13 to 26th. of September; though the Wind was fair on several different Days within that time; and the Chevalier was acquainted with the descretionary orders to Captain Belt, to sail with, or without Convoy, and repeated applications were made to him by Captain Belt to permit the Ship to proceed on her Voyage, and during the time several flags of truce were allowed by the Chevalier to put to sea. On the 26th. of September, the fleet went out of the Capes, under Convoy of the Chevalier De Quèmy in the frigate Emraude which carried 36 Guns. On the 27th. a British frigate called the Jason of 32 guns appearing in sight, the said Chevalier called on the Master of the Matilda, and on the master of another Ship, called the Jolly Tar, carrying sixteen sixes to Assist him in Engaging the Enemy, which they promised and prepared to perform; but in about half an hour afterwards, the Enemy being within about four miles, and cleerly to be distinguished to be a frigate, the said Chevalier made a signal; for the fleet to run, and each to shift for himself; and immedietly crowded all his sail and fl ed as fast as he could, and deserted the fleet, which he had delayed by his Signal to heave to, and prepare for action, and during which time instead of preparing for Action the Chevalier employed himself in Rigging out steering Sail Booms, and getting Steering sails ready to set. The Ship Matilda Steered the same Course with the frigate and thereby went greatly out of the Course of her Voyage to the Havana. On the 28th. the Chevalier left the Ship Matilda, and returned to the Capes of Chesepeak, and on the 29th. the Matilda was taken by a British frigate, called the persaverance. The Ship Matilda and her Cargo cost 9000 Sterling. All the fleet except one or two were taken to the Value of 100,000 Sterling. Dorsey, Wheeler & Co. proposed to apply to his most Christian Majesty for Redress against the Chevalier De Quèmy his Subject and Commander of his Ship; and they intend to ground their application on the seisure and detaining of their Ship, by the said Chevalier for 13 days from the 13th. to the 26th. of September; without any lawful cause; and on his cowardice, and desertion of the Matilda, whom he had compelled to accept of his protection and Convoy. By the 15th. Article of the treaty between france and America; it is provided that if any commander of any Ship of his most Christian Majesty shall do any damage or injury to any of the subjects of the United States he shall be punished; and moreover make satisfaction for all matter of damage and the interest thereof by reparation under the pain and Obligation of his person and goods. If you can spare time to peruse the protest of Captain Belt, you will see how greatly Dorsey, Wheeler & Co. have been injured by the Chevalier De Quèmy, I cannot believe that the Justice and Honour of the Monarch of france will permit such a wanton Violation of American property to be unredressed. I beg the favour of you My Dear Sir to give me your Opinion, whether there is a probability of Obtaining Compensation for the loss of the Ship and Cargo, from the property of the Chevalier, or from the generosity of his Royal Master, if there is I will come to Paris immediatly, otherwise I will delay the pleasure of seeing you untill I have Compleated my Business here, which will probably be about the begining of November.
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