Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin Discusses Funds to Outfit Lafayette's Troops, 10,000 Strong, a Turning Point in the War



Benjamin Franklin Discusses Funds To Outfit Lafayette's Troops, Leading To a Turning Point In the War

Two page Letter Signed (though it may indeed be an ALS as there are many matching characteristics, we prefer to err on the side of caution), "B. Franklin", 4to, professional restoration to lessen staining at bottom only, else fine.  This coveted letter was last on the market 140 years ago!

"Passy, Decr. 22. 1779.

Dear Jonathan

I received yours of the 1st. & 11th. inst. and thank you for the Intelligence they contained.1

I did not write the Letter you mention to the People of Ireland.

I have at last obtained a Promise of Some money towards the supplies and shall want I believe 10,000 suits of Cloaths with shirts, hats, stockings and shoes. What can you do towards furnishing them? M. de Chaumont thinks it best to send the Cloth. But the Marquis De Lafayette and my Orders are for Cloaths ready made. It is an affair that Requires Dispatch. Inclosed I Send you the Proposition of a Person residing in Nantes, to furnish Cloth. You can talk with him. I likewise inclose the judgement you desire relative to the Prize Goods brought in by the Mifflin. The Papers which have been Sent to me, remain with me, being the justification of the judgement. I am ever Your affectionate uncle,

B Franklin

P.S. I have just received the paquet with mercer's accounts"

Ever since September 18, when Franklin had forwarded to Vergennes Congress’ invoices for military supplies and clothing, he had been awaiting the French government’s response. At long last, it came. When Franklin wrote the following letter, he must have just received Vergennes’ promise of a new loan of 3,000,000 Livres.

Franklin would have applied the entire French loan to previous invoices had he not felt obliged to use a substantial portion to pay existing interest bills and drafts on Congress. When Lafayette promised to supply 15,000 stands of arms and 100,000 pounds of powder, Franklin decided to apply the remaining French funds towards 10,000 complete sets of uniforms. That number soon increased to 15,000 sets, at Chaumont’s urging, but was lowered again to 10,000 by February, 1780. The procurement of these supplies, and the problems of transporting them, would occupy Franklin for more than a year.

Provenance: This item was recently discovered in an extra illustrated volume of “History of the City of New York” by Mary L. Booth, New York W. R. C. Clark, 1867. Originally two volumes, the monumental task of expanding the work to 21 volumes by none other than Emery E. Childs Esquire of New York City. In volume 1 of this work exists a lovely india ink Drawing of Mary L. Booth along with a notation ”presented by her to E E C” in pencil. Next to the title page we find an original letter of Booth to Childs dated April 4, 1872 “ I am in receipt of your favor of the 4th inst., and am grateful to hear that you are taking the trouble to illustrate my History of the City of New York in the manner you describe. I shall be happy to see you, should you favor me with a call, I am usually in my office during business hours and should be pleased to facilitate your Enterprise by any means in my power”

It is assumed that the book took several years to assemble at which point, assumedly through Childs, it made its way to Senator Charles B. Farwell of Chicago who took the seat of John A. Logan in 1887. Farwell had an extensive library that fortunately survived the great Chicago fire in 1871 having been housed in his Lakeside home. In the American Bibliopolist of November 1871 there is an article about the devastation to libraries caused by the tragedy . “Mr C. B. Farwell’s library is also fortunately far out from the city, at his country house, and is safe, The same remark will also apply to the extensive collection of books and curiosities belonging to Mr. E. E. Childs.” This establishes the Chicago connection between Childs and Farwell.

That these letters were preserved for over 140 years and have never been on the market for that period is remarkable on many levels. It is the state of being wedged in these volumes that also accounts for what is mostly the pristine state of preservation.



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Item: 62503

Price: $45,000.00
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Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
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