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TO THOMAS CUSHING.
Paris. 1 May, 1777.
I thank you for your kind congratulations on my arrival here, and shall be happy in finding that our negotiations on this side of the water are of effectual service to our country.
The general news here is, that all Europe is arming and preparing for war, as if it were soon expected. Many of the powers, however, have their reasons for endeavouring to postpone it, at least a few months longer.
Our enemies will not be able to send against us all the strength they intended; they can procure but few Germans; and their recruiting and impressing at home goes on but heavily. They threaten, however, and give out, that Lord Howe is to bombard Boston this summer, and Burgoyne, with the troops from Canada, to destroy Providence, and lay waste Connecticut; while Howe marches against Philadelphia. They will do us undoubtedly as much mischief as they can; but the virtue and bravery of our countrymen will, with the blessing of God, prevent part of what they intend, and nobly bear the rest . This campaign is entered upon with a mixture of rage and despair, as their whole scheme of reducing us depends upon its success; the wisest of the nation being clear, that, if this fails, administration will not be able to support another.
TO A FRIEND.
Solicitations for military Appointments in America.
Passy, [date uncertain.]
You know, my dear friend, that I am not capable of refusing you 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 in question, 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 burdensome 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 snjet, plein de merite," &x. &.C. In consequence of my crediting such recommendations, my own are out of credit, and I cannot advise anybody 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, though, as I said before, I ought to refuse it.*
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 be 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.
* For 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 endeavour, in some measure, to put a stop to them.— W. T. F.
"Model of a Letter of Recommendation of a person you care
"Paris, 2 April, 1777. "sir,
* 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, 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.*
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.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON.
Introducing a Polish Officer.
Paris, 13 June, 1777.
The bearer, M. le Comte Kotkouski, a Polish officer, is recommended to me by several persons of worth here, as a man of experience in military affairs, and of tried bravery. He has lost his family and estate in Poland, by fighting there in the cause of liberty, and wishes, by engaging in the same cause, to find a new country and new friends in America. Count Pulaski, who was a general of the confederates in Poland, and who is gone to join you, is esteemed one of the greatest officers in Europe. He can give you the character of this M. Kotkouski, who served under him as lieutenant-colonel.
It is with regret that I give letters of introduction to foreign officers, fearing that you may be troubled with more than you can provide for, or employ to their and your own satisfaction. When particular cases seem to have a claim to such letters, I hope you will excuse my taking the liberty. I give no expectations to those who apply for them; I promise nothing; I acquaint them, that their being placed when they arrive is a great uncertainty, and that, the voyage being long, expensive, and hazardous, I counsel them not to undertake it. This honest gentleman's zeal is not to be discouraged by such means; he determines to go and serve as a volunteer, if he cannot be employed immediately as an officer; but I wish and hope, that your Excellency may find a better situation for him, and that he will be a useful officer. He has the advantage of understanding English, and will soon speak