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care will be taken by Congress to provide for their punctual payment, yet there are so many accidents, by which remittances are delayed or intercepted in the time of war, that I dare not hazard for these new bills, the possibility of being rendered unable to pay the others. With great esteem, I am, &c.
... B. FRANKLIN.
To John JAY.”
Letters broken open.— Bills of Exchange. — Print
Yesterday, and not before, is come to hand your favor of April 14th, with the packets and despatches from Congress, which you sent me by a French gentleman to Nantes.
Several of them appear to have been opened; the paper round the seals being smoked and burnt, as with the flame of a candle used to soften the wax, and the impression defaced. The curiosity of people in this time of war is unbounded. Some of them only want to see news; but others want to find, through interested views, what chance there is of a speedy peace. Mr. Ross has undertaken to forward the letters to England. I have not seen them; but he tells me they have all been opened. I am glad, however, to receive the despatches from Congress, as they communicate to me Mr. Adams's instructions, and other particulars of which I have been long ignorant.
* Mr. Jay was appointed minister plenipotentiary to Spain on the 27th of September, 1779, and arrived at Madrid in the following April.
I am very sensible of the weight of your observation, “that a constant interchange of intelligence and attentions, between the public servants at the different courts, are necessary to procure to their constituents all the advantages capable of being derived from their appointment.” I shall endeavour to perform my part with you, as well to have the pleasure of your correspondence, as from a sense of duty. But my time is more taken up with matters extraneous to the functions of a minister, than you can possibly imagine. I have written often to the Congress to establish consuls in the ports, and ease me of what relates to maritime and mercantile affairs; but no notice has yet been taken of my request.
A number of bills of exchange, said to be drawn by order of Congress on Mr. Laurens, is arrived in Holland. A merchant there has desired to know of me, whether, if he accepts them, I will engage to reimburse him. I have no orders or advice about them from Congress. Do you know to what amount they have drawn I doubt I cannot safely meddle with them.
Mrs. Jay does me much honor in desiring to have one of the prints, that have been made here of her countryman. I send what is said to be the best of five or six engraved by different hands, from different paintings. The verses at the bottom are truly extravagant. But you must know, that the desire of pleasing, by a perpetual rise of compliments in this polite nation, has so used up all the common expressions of approbation, that they are become flat and insipid, and to use them almost implies censure. Hence music, that formerly might be sufficiently praised when it was called bonne, to go a little farther they called it ercelJente, then superbe, magnifique, eacquise, céleste, all which being in their turns worn out, there only remains divine ; and, when that is grown as insignificant as its predecessors, I think they must return to common speech and common sense; as, from vying with one another in fine and costly paintings on their coaches, since I first knew the country, not being able to go farther in that way, they have returned lately to plain carriages, painted without arms or figures, in one uniform color. The league of neutral nations to protect their commerce is now established. Holland, offended by fresh insults from England, is arming vigorously. That nation has madly brought itself into the greatest distress, and has not a friend in the world. With great and sincere esteem, &c. B. FRANKLIN.
To willIAM CARMICHAEL.”
Sir John Dalrymple. — The JMarquis de Lafayette. — Riots in London. — Madame Brillon.
Passy, 17 June, 1780. DEAR SIR,
Your favors of the 22d past came duly to hand. Sir John Dalrymple has been here some time, but I hear nothing of his political operations. The learned talk of the discovery he has made in the Escurial Library, of forty Epistles of Brutus, a missing part of Tacitus, and a piece of Seneca, that have never yet been printed, which excite much curiosity. He has not been with me, and I am told, by one of his friends, that, though he wished to see me, he did not think it prudent. So I suppose I shall have no communication with him; for I shall not seek it. As Count de Vergennes has mentioned nothing to me of any memorial from him, I suppose he has not presented it; perhaps discouraged by the reception it met with in Spain. So I wish, for curiosity’s sake, you would send me a copy of it.”
* Secretary to the American Legation at Madrid, while Mr. Jay was minister there; and afterwards for many years Chargé d'Affaires of the United States at the court of Spain.
The Marquis de Lafayette arrived safely at Boston on the 28th of April, and, it is said, gave expectations of the coming of a squadron and troops. The vessel that brings this left New London the 2d of May; her captain reports, that the siege of Charleston was raised, the troops attacked in their retreat, and Clinton killed; but this wants confirmation. London has been in the utmost confusion for seven or eight days. The beginning of this month, a mob of fanatics, joined by a mob of rogues, burnt and destroyed property to the amount, it is said, of a million sterling. Chapels of foreign ambassadors, houses of members of Parliament that had promoted the act for favoring Catholics, and the houses of many private persons of that religion, were pillaged and consumed, or pulled down, to the number of fifty; among the rest, Lord Mansfield's is burnt, with all his furniture, pictures, books, and papers. Thus he, who approved the burning of American houses, has had fire brought home to him. He himself was horribly scared, and Governor Hutchinson, it is said, died outright of the fright. The mob, tired with roaring and rioting seven days and nights, were at length suppressed, and quiet restored on the 9th, in the evening. Next day Lord George Gordon was committed to the tower.
* See a translation of this curious JMemorial in the APPENDix, No. II
Enclosed I send you the little piece you desire.” To understand it rightly you should be acquainted with some few circumstances. The person to whom it was addressed is Madame Brillon, a lady of most respectable character and pleasing conversation; mistress of an amiable family in this neighbourhood, with which I spend an evening twice in every week. She has, among other elegant accomplishments, that of an excellent musician; and, with her daughters, who sing prettily, and some friends who play, she kindly entertains me and my grandson with little concerts, a cup of tea, and a game of chess. I call this my Opera, for I rarely go to the Opera at Paris.
The Moulin Joli is a little island in the Seine about two leagues hence, part of the country-seat of another friend,t where we visit every summer, and spend a day in the pleasing society of the ingenious, learned, and very polite persons who inhabit it. At the time when the letter was written, all conversations at Paris were filled with disputes about the music of Gluck and Picini, a German and Italian musician, who divided the town into violent parties. A friend of this lady having obtained a copy of it, under a promise not to give another, did not observe that promise; so that many have been taken, and it is become as public as such a thing can well be, that is not printed; but I could not dream of its being heard of at Madrid's The thought was partly taken from a little piece of some unknown writer, which I met with fifty years since in a newspaper, and which the sight of the Ephemera brought to my recollection. Adieu, my dear friend, and believe me ever yours most affectionately,
* The Ephemera. See Vol. II. p. 177. # Monsieur Watelet.