« ZurückWeiter »
had received from congress their commission to negotiate a treaty of friendship and commerce with the court of Spain. On this occasion he waited on Count d'Aranda, the Spanish ambassador at Paris, and left with him a copy of his commission; and some time after addressed to him the following letter.
To His Excellency The Count D'aranda, &c. &c.
Sir, Passy, April 7, 1777.
I left in your excellency's hands, to be communicated, if you please, to your court, a duplicate of the commission from the congress, appointing me to go to Spain as their minister plenipotentiary. But as I understand that the receiving such a minister is not at present thought convenient, and I am sure the congress would have nothing done that might incommode in the least a court they so much respect, I shall therefore postpone that journey till circumstances may make it more suitable. In the mean time, I beg leave to lay before his Catholic Majesty, through the hands of your excellency, the propositions contained in a resolution of congress, dated Dec. 30, 1776, viz.:
"That if his Catholic Majesty will join with the United States in a war against f Great Britain, they will assist in reducing to the possession of Spain the town and j harbour of Pensacola; provided the inhabitants of the United States shall have the free navigation of the Missisipi, and the use of the harbour of Pensacola; and will, j (provided it shall be true that his Portuguese Majesty has insultingly expelled the' vessels of these states from his ports, or has confiscated any such vessels), declare war against the said King, if that measure shall be agreeable to, and supported by, the courts of France and Spain."
It is understood that the strictest union subsists between those two courts; and in case Spain and France should think fit to attempt the conquest of the English sugar islands, the congress have further proposed to furnish provisions to the amount of two millions of dollars, and to join the fleet employed on the occasion, with six frigates of not less than 24 guns each, manned and fitted for service; and to render any other assistance which may be in their power, as becomes good allies; without desiring for themselves the possession of any of the said islands.
These propositions are subject to discussion, and to receive such modification as may be found proper.
With great respect, I have the honor to be, your Excellency's most obedient and most humble servant,
This negotiation was not carried further at the time, and subsequently Mr. Jay was sent by congress as their special minister to the court of Spain; where his patience and ability were equally displayed to his own credit, and the interest of his country, which he ever had at heart.
We must now revert to some less important circumstances that occurred about this time, and which have been omitted in the precise order of their dates, in order -Y, ) ,■ not to interrupt the account of transactions of greater moment.
An incident though trifling of itself, yet as relating to a great personage, and as connected with Dr. Franklin's memoirs, ought not to be omitted.
At the time of the visit to Paris of the Emperor Joseph II, brother to the Queen of France, (then travelling under the title of Count de Falkenstein), Dr. Franklin received the following note from the envoy of the Grand Duke of Tuscany resident at Paris.
A Monsieur le Docteur Franklin.
L'Abbé Niccoli prie Monsieur Franklin de lui faire l'honneur de venir déjeuner chez lui Mercredi matin, 28 de ce mois, a 9 heures. Il lui donnera une bonne tasse de chocolat. Il l'assure de son respect. Du petit Luxembourg, Lundi, 26 Mai, Mil.
To this note, found among Dr. Franklin's papers, is added the following memorandum in his hand-writing.
"The above is from the Abbé Niccoli, minister of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. The intention of it was, to give the Emperor an opportunity of an interview with me, that should appear accidental. Monsieur Turgot and the Abbé were there to be present, and by their knowledge of what passed, to prevent or contradict false reports. The Emperor did not appear, and the Abbé Niccoli since tells me, that the number of other persons who occasionally visited him that morning, of which the Emperor was informed, prevented his coming; that at 12, understanding they were gone, he came; but I was gone also."
The cause of America becoming so popular in France, and the number of officers out of employ being so considerable, Dr. Franklin was extremely harassed by the numerous applications for service in the armies of the United States. The following letter to a friend is so fully and strongly descriptive of his sentiments and feelings on this subject, and in other respects so entertaining, that we here insert it.
To * * *.
l ou know, my dear friend, that I am not capable of refusing you -y^ any thing in my power, which would be a real kindness to you or any friend of yours; but when I am certain that what you request would be directly the contrary, I ought to refuse it. I know that officers going to America for employment will probably be disappointed; that our armies are full, that there are a number of expectants unemployed and starving for want of subsistence, that my recommendation will not make vacancies, nor can it fill them, to the prejudice of those who have a better claim; that some of those officers I have been prevailed on to recommend, have by their conduct given no favorable impression of my judgment in military merit; and then the voyage is long, the passage very expensive, and the hazard of being taken and imprisoned by the English, very considerable. If, after all, no place can be found affording a livelihood for the gentleman, he will perhaps be distressed in a strange country, and ready to blaspheme his friends who by their solicitations procured for him so unhappy a situation. Permit me to mention to you, that in my opinion the natural complaisance of this country often carries people too far in the article of recommendations. You give them with too much facility to persons of whose real characters you know nothing, and sometimes at the request of others of whom you know as little. Frequently, if a man has no useful talents, is good for nothing, and burthensome to his relations, or is indiscreet, profligate and extravagant, they are glad to get rid of him by sending him to the other end of the world; and for that purpose scruple not to recommend him to those they wish should recommend him to others, as "un bon sujet—plein de mérite" &c. &c. In consequence of my crediting such recommendations, my own are out of credit, and I cannot advise any body to have the least dependence on them. If, after knowing this, you persist in desiring my recommendation for this person, who is known neither to me nor to you, I will give it,1 though, as I said before, I ought to refuse it.
Tor cases of this kind, and where it was absolutely impossible to refuse, Dr. Franklin drew up the following as a model for such letters of recommendation, and actually employed it in some instances, to shame the persons making such indiscreet applications; and to endeavor in some measure to put a stop to them.
Model of a Letter of Recommendation of a person you are unacquainted with.
Sir, Paris, April 2, 1777.
The bearer of this, who is going to America, presses me to give him a letter of recommendation, though I know nothing of him, not even his name. This may seem extraordinary,
These applications are my perpetual torment. People will believe (notwithstanding my repeated declarations to the contrary), that I am sent hither to engage officers.—In truth I never had any such orders. It was never so much as intimated to me that it would he agreeable to my constituents. I have even received for what I have done of the kind, not indeed an absolute rebuke, but some pretty strong hints of disapprobation. Not a day passes in which I have not a number of soliciting visits, besides letters. If I could gratify all or any of them it would be a pleasure. I might indeed give them the recommendation, and the promises they desire, and thereby please them for the present; but when the certain disappointment of the expectations with which they will so obstinately flatter themselves shall arrive, they must curse me for complying with their mad requests, and not undeceiving them; and will become so many enemies to our cause and country. You can have no conception how I am harassed. All my friends are sought out and teazed to teaze me. Great officers of all ranks in all departments, ladies great and small, besides professed solicitors, worry me from morning to night. The noise of every coach now that enters my court, terrifies me. I am afraid to accept an invitation to dine abroad, being almost sure of meeting with some officer or officer's friend, who as soon as I am put in good humor by a glass or two of champaigne, begins his attack upon me. Luckily I do not often in my sleep dream of these vexatious situations, or I should be afraid of what are now my only hours of comfort. If therefore you have the least remaining kindness for me, if you would not help to drive me out of France, for God's sake, my dear friend, let this your twenty-third application be your last. Yours, &c. B. Franklin.
The following letter, on the same subject, was addressed by Dr. Franklin to an impertinent and unknown applicant; and contains some wholesome advice in a tart and pithy style.
but I assure you it is not uncommon here. Sometimes, indeed, one unknown person brings another equally unknown, to recommend him; and sometimes they recommend one another! As to this gentleman, I must refer you to himself for his character and merits, with which he is certainly better acquainted than I can possibly be; I recommend him however to those civilities which every stranger, of whom one knows no harm, has a right to, and I request you will do him all the good offices and show him all the favor that, on further acquaintance, you shall find him to deserve. I have the honor to be, &c.
Sir, Passy,near Paris, April 6, 1777.
I have just been honored with a letter from you, dated the 26th past, in which you express yourself as astonished, and appear to be angry that you have no answer to a letter you wrote me of the 11th of December, which you are sure was delivered to me.
In exculpation of myself, I assure you that I never received any letter from you of this date. And indeed, being then but four days landed at Nantes, I think you could scarce have heard so soon of my being in Europe.
But I received one from you of the 8th of January, which I own I did not answer. It may displease you if I give you the reason; but as it may be of use to you in your future correspondences, I will hazard that for a gentleman to whom I feel myself obliged, as an American, on account of his good-will to our cause.
Whoever writes to a stranger should observe three points; 1. That what he proposes be practicable. 2. His propositions should be made in explicit terms, so as to be easily understood. 3. What he desires should be in itself reasonable. Hereby he will give a favorable impression of his understanding, and create a desire of further acquaintance. Now it happened that you were negligent in all these points: for first, you desired to have means procured for you of taking a voyage to America "avec sureté;" which is not possible, as the dangers of the sea subsist always, and at present there is the additional danger of being taken by the English. Then you desire that this may be "sans trop grandes dépenses," which is not intelligible enough to be answered, because, not knowing your ability of bearing expenses, one cannot judge what may be trop grandes. Lastly, you desire letters of address to the congress and to General Washington; which it is not reasonable to ask of one who knows no more of you than that your' name is Lith, and that you live at Bay Ueuth.
In your last, you also express yourself in vague terms when you desire to be informed whether you may expect "d'être reçu dune manière convenable" in our troops? As it is impossible to know what your ideas are of the manière convenable, how can one answer this? And then you demand, whether I will support you by my authority in giving you letters of recommendation? I doubt not your being a man of merit; and knowing it yourself, you may forget that it is not known to every body; but reflect a moment, Sir, and you will be convinced, that if I were to practise giving letters of recommendation to persons of whose character I knew no Vol. I. 2 S