« ZurückWeiter »
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
The King of France grants to the United States a fur
ther Sum of Six Millions of Livres. — Declines the Mediation of Russia und Austria. Dr. Franklin requests. Permission of Congress to return Home.
Passy, 12 March, 1781. SIR, I had the honor of receiving on the 13th of last month your Excellency's letter of the 1st of January, together with the instructions of November 28th and December 27th, a copy of those to Colonel Laurens, and the letter to the King. I immediately drew a memorial, enforcing as strongly as I could the requests that are contained in that letter, and directed by the instructions, and I delivered the same with the letter, which were both well received; but, the ministry being extremely occupied with other weighty affairs, and I obtaining for some time only general answers, that something would be done for us, &c., and Mr. Laurens not arriving, I wrote again, and pressed strongly for a decision on the subject; that I might be able to write explicitly by this opportunity, what aids the Congress were, or were not, to expect; the regulation of their operations for the campaign depending on the information I should be enabled to give.
Upon this, I received a note, appointing Saturday last for a meeting with the minister, which I attended punctually. He assured me of the King's good will to the United States; remarking, however, that, being on the spot, I must be sensible of the great expense France was actually engaged in, and the difficulty of providing for it, which rendered the lending us twentyfive millions at present impracticable. But he informed me, that the letter from the Congress, and my memorials, had been under his Majesty's consideration ; and observed, as to loans in general, that the sum we wanted to borrow in Europe was large, and that the depreciation of our paper had hurt our credit on this side of the water; adding, also, that the King could not possibly favor a loan for us in his dominions, because it would interfere with, and be a prejudice to, those he was under the necessity of obtaining himself to support the war; but that, to give the States a signal proof of his friendship, his Majesty had resolved to grant them the sum of six millions, not as a loan, but as a free gift. This sum, the minister informed me, was exclusive of the three millions, which he had before obtained for me, to pay the Congress drafts for interest, &c., expected in the current year.
He added, that, as it was understood the clothing, &c., with which our army had been heretofore supplied from France, was often of bad quality, and dear, the ministers would themselves take care of the purchase of such articles as should be immediately wanted, and send them over; and it was desired of me to look over the great invoice, that had been sent hither last year, and mark out those articles; that, as to the money remaining after such purchases, it was to be drawn for by General Washington, upon M. d'Harvelay, Garde du Trésor Royal, and the bills would be duly honored; but it was desired they might be drawn gradually as the money should be wanted, and as much time given for the payment after sight as conveniently could be, that the payment might be mure easy.
I assured the minister, that the Congress would be very sensible of this token of his Majesty's continued goodness towards the United States; but remarked, that it was not the usage with us for the general to draw, and proposed that it might be our treasurer, who should draw the bills for the remainder; but I was told, that it was his Majesty's order. And I afterwards understood, from the Secretary of the Council, that, as the sun was intended for the supply of the army, and could not be so large as we had demanded for general occasions, it was thought best to put it into the General's hands, that it might not get into those of the different boards or committees, who might think themselves under a necessity of diverting it to other purposes. There was no room to Jispute on this point, every donor having the right of qualifying his gifts with such terms as he thinks proper.
I took with me the invoice; and, having examined it, I returned it immediately with a letter, of which a copy is enclosed; and I suppose its contents will be followed, unless Colonel Laurens on his arrival should make any changes. I hope he and Colonel Palfrey are safe, though, as yet, not heard of.*
After the discourse relating to the aid was ended, the minister proceeded to inform me, that the courts of Petersburg and Vienna had offered their mediation ;
Colonel William Palfrey, for some time paymaster-general of the Continental army, had been appointed consul-general to France by Congress, but was lost at sea on his passage.
that the King had answered, that it would to him personally be agreeable, but that he could not yet accept it, because he had allies whose concurrence was necessary; and that his Majesty desired I would acquaint the Congress with this offer and answer, and urge their sending such instructions as they may think proper to their plenipotentiary, it being not doubted that they would readily accept the proposed mediation, from their own sense of its being both useful and necessary. I mentioned, that I supposed Mr. Adams was already furnished with instructions relating to any treaty of peace, that might be
that might be proposed. I must now beg leave to say something relating to myself; a subject with which I have not often troubled the Congress. I have passed my seventy-fifth year, and I find that the long and severe fit of the gout, which I had the last winter, has shaken me exceedingly, and I am yet far from having recovered the bodily strength I before enjoyed. · I do not know that my mental faculties are impaired; perhaps I shall be the last to discover that; but I am sensible of great diminution in my activity, a quality I think particularly necessary in your minister for this court. I am afraid, therefore, that your affairs may some time or other suffer by my deficiency. I find also, that the business is too heavy for me, and too confining. The constant attendance at home, which is necessary for receiving and accepting your bills of exchange (a matter foreign to my ministerial functions), to answer letters, and perform other parts of my employment, prevents my taking the air and exercise, which my annual journeys formerly used to afford me, and which contributed much to the preservation of my health. There are many other little personal attentions, which the infirmities of age render necessary to an old man's comfort, even in