Lot #1006
Benjamin Franklin Letter Signed

Franklin safeguards Congress’s credit as he secures French aid for the Revolution
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Franklin safeguards Congress’s credit as he secures French aid for the Revolution

Revolutionary War–dated LS signed “B. Franklin,” one page, 8 x 11.75, Passy, France, October 4, 1779. Letter to William Bingham. In full: “I thank you for your frequent Communications of News Papers from North America, for tho’ they are generally old before they come to hand, they always contain some Information that I am glad to receive.

I have not yet seen the Bills you mention your being about to draw on me. I wish it were in my Power to accommodate every one in the Service of the Congress. But there are Limits of possibility to every thing, and I am obliged now to refuse all Drafts, but those drawn by the Congress itself. It is my Duty and a Matter of the utmost Consequence to keep up their Credit here, but it is too much to be charged with the support of the Credit of their Agents in all other Countries.” Beautifully cloth-matted and framed with a portrait, nameplate, and engraved transcriptive and informational plaques to an overall size of 42 x 25.5. Intersecting folds (one vertical fold passing through first letter of the signature) and light staining to corners, otherwise fine condition.

At this time Franklin was serving as minister plenipotentiary to France, having been sent there by the Continental Congress in the autumn of 1776 with the intent of securing aid from the French—money, supplies, and men. Shortly after arriving, he obtained an annual loan of two million livres to finance the Revolutionary cause. Because he had been so successful in gaining money from France, he was inundated with unofficial requests for funds from Americans at home—as these petitions far exceeded the resources at his disposal, Franklin had to refuse many, such as Bingham’s. In 1781, Franklin convinced the French to double their annual loan and give millions more as a gift—around this same time France seriously committed troops to the war effort. This letter comes from amidst Franklin’s important work in France and concerns his ability to secure the aid that proved essential in the American victory over the British.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Remarkable Rarity Auction
  • Dates: September 11 - September 16