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ministers of our friends, whose advice may be of use to us.
With respect to the British court, we should, I think, be constantly upon our guard, and impress strongly upon our minds, that, though it has made peace with us, it is not in truth reconciled either to us, or to its loss of us, but still flatters itself with hopes, that some change in the affairs of Europe, or some disunion among ourselves, may afford them an opportunity of recovering their dominion, punishing those who have most offended, and securing our future dependence. It is easy to see by the general turn of the ministerial newspapers (light things, indeed, as straws and feathers, but like them they show which way the wind blows), and by the malignant improvement their ministers make, in all the foreign courts, of every little accident or dissension among us, the riot of a few soldiers at Philadelphia, the resolves of some town meetings, the reluctance to pay taxes, &.c, all which are exaggerated, fo represent our government as so many anarchies, of which the people themselves are weary, and the Congress as having lost its influence, being no longer respected; I say it is easy to see from this conduct, that they bear us no good will, and that they wish the reality of what they are pleased to imagine. They have, too, a numerous royal progeny to provide for, some of whom are educated in the military line. In these circumstances we cannot be too careful to preserve the friendships wo have acquired abroad, and the union we have established at home, to secure our credit by a punctual discharge of our obligations of every kind, and our reputation by the wisdom of our councils; since we know not how soon we may have a fresh occasion for friends, for credit, and for reputation.
The extravagant misrepresentations of our political state in foreign countries, made it appear necessary to give them better information, which I thought could not be more effectually and authentically done, than by publishing a translation into French, now the most general language in Europe, of the book of Constitutions, which had been printed by order of Congress. This I accordingly got well done, and presented two copies, handsomely bound, to every foreign minister here, the one for himself, the other more elegant for his Sovereign. It has been well taken, and has afforded matter of surprise to many, who had conceived mean ideas of the state of civilization in America, and could not have expected so much political knowledge and sagacity had existed in our wilderness. And from all parts I have the satisfaction to hear, that our constitutions in general are much admired. I am persuaded, that this step will not only tend to promote the emigration to our country of substantial people from all parts of Europe, by the numerous copies I shall disperse, but will facilitate our future treaties with foreign courts, who could not before know what kind of government and people they had to treat with. As, in doing this, I have endeavoured to further the apparent views of Congress in the first publication, I hope it may be approved, and the expense allowed. I send herewith one of the copies.
Our treaties with Denmark and Portugal remain unfinished, for want of instructions respecting them from Congress, and a commission empowering some minister or ministers to conclude them. The Emperor of Morocco, we understand, has expressed a disposition to make a treaty of amity and commerce with the United States. A Mr. Montgomery, who is a merchant settled at Alicant, has been, it seems, rather forward in proposing a negotiation, without authority for so doing, and has embarrassed us a little, as may be seen by some letters I enclose.* Perhaps it would be well for the Congress to send a message to that Prince, expressing their respect and regard for him, till such time as they may judge it convenient to appoint the ambassador in form, furnished with proper presents, to make a treaty with him. The other Barbary States, too, seem to require consideration, if we propose to earn' on any trade in the Mediterranean; but, whether the security of that trade is of sufficient importance to be worth purchasing at the rate of the tributes usually exacted by those piratical States, is a matter of doubt, on which I cannot at present form a judgment.
I shall immediately proceed, in pursuance of the first instruction, to take the proper steps for acquainting his Imperial Majesty of Germany with the dispositions of Congress, having some reason to believe the overture may be acceptable. His minister here is of late extremely civil to me, and we are on very good terms. I have likewise an intimate friend at that court.
With respect to other powers, it seems best not to make advances at present, but to meet and encourage them when made, which I shall not fail to do, as I have already done as to those of Sweden, Denmark, and Portugal. Possibly Hamburg, to whom I have forwarded the letter of Congress, may send a minister to America, if they wish for a treaty, to conclude it there. They have no minister here.
I have lately received a memorial from the minister of Denmark, respecting a ship of that nation, the Providentia, taken by one of our privateers and carried into
Boston. I enclose a copy of it, and request to be furnished with directions and informations for the answer. It may be well to send me a copy of the proceedings in the courts. From a perusal of the papers communicated with it, I am satisfied that the cargo was clearly British property.
We have hitherto entered into no engagements respecting the armed neutrality, and, in obedience to the fifth instruction, we shall take care to avoid them hereafter. The treaty between this court and the United States, for regulating the powers, privileges, &c. of consuls, is at length completed, and is transcribing in order to be signed. I hope to transmit a copy by the next packet. I have received the Congress ratification of the two money treaties, which will be soon exchanged, when I shall send copies of them with that of Sweden.
I have given, and shall continue to give, Captain Paul Jones all the assistance in my power, towards recovering the prize money; and I hope it may soon be accomplished.
When Mr. Jay returns, I shall desire him to make the inquiry directed in the fourth instruction, respecting the expedition under that commodore, and report thereon to Congress. In the mean time I can answer respecting one of the questions, that the King paid the whole expense, and that no part of it has ever been placed to the account of Congress. There exists indeed a demand of one Puchelberg, a person in the employ of M. Schweighauser, of about thirty thousand livres, for provisions and other things furnished to Captain Landais, after he took the Alliance out of the hands of Captain Jones; but, as the ship was at that time under the King's supply, who, having borrowed her for the expedition when fitted for sea and just
VOl. X. 6 D*
ready to sail with Mr. Adams, had ordered her to be delivered in the same condition, free of all charges accrued, or accruing, by her being in Holland and in L'Orient, and as M. Puchelberg had not only no orders from me to furnish Captain Landais, but acted contrary to my orders given to M. Schweighauser, and contrary to the orders of M. Schweighauser himself, I refused to pay his account, which besides appeared extravagant, and it has never yet been paid.
I shall do my best in executing the third instruction, respecting our claim upon Denmark. I have written to London to obtain, if possible, an account of the sums insured upon the ships delivered up, as such an account may be some guide in the valuation of the prizes.
A Captain Williams, formerly in the British service, and employed upon the Lakes, has given me a paper containing information of the state of the back country. As those informations may possibly be of some use, I send herewith the paper. Mr. Carmichael has sent me the accounts of the money transactions at Madrid. As soon as Mr. Jay returns, they will be examined.
Be pleased to present my dutiful respects to Congress, and assure them of my most faithful services. With great esteem and regard, I have the honor to be, &c. B. Franklin.*
* The u Set of Instructions," alluded to in this letter, may be found in the Diplomatic Correspondence, Vol. X. p. 222. The resolutions respecting Hamburg and Paul Jones are contained in the Secret Journal of Congress, Vol. III. pp. 416, 430.