A MONUMENTAL BENJAMIN FRANKLIN LETTER SIGNED: HAVING JUST RECEIVED NEWS OF CONTINUED FRENCH SUPPORT FOR THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, FRANKLIN USES THE FUNDS TO OUTFIT LAFAYETTE'S 10,000 TROOPS, WHICH LED TO A TURNING POINT IN THE WAR—THIS LETTER WAS LAST ON THE MARKET AND COVETED 140 YEARS AGO
FRANKLIN, Benjamin. Letter signed. Passy: December 22, 1779. Quarto, single sheet, penned on recto and verso for two pages. $45,000.
Splendid letter boldly signed by Benjamin Franklin from the Revolutionary War, discussing funds received from France to outfit Lafayette's 10,000 troops, which led to a turning point in the war. Not seen on the market for more than 100 years, a fine, rare, and desirable Franklin letter with excellent content.
The letter, written in a secretarial hand and boldly signed by Franklin, reads, in full: "Passy, Decr. 22. 1779. Dear Jonathan, I received yours of the 1st. & 11th. inst. and thank you for the Intelligence they contained. I did not write the Letter you mention to the People of Ireland. I have at last obtained a Promise of Some money towards the supplies and shall want I believe 10,000 suits of Cloaths with shirts, hats stockings and shoes, what can you do towards furnishing them? M. de Chaumont thinks is best to send the Cloth. But the Marquis De Lafayette and my Orders are for Cloaths ready made. It is an affair that Requires Dispatch. Inclosed I Send you the Proposition of a Person residing in Nantes, to furnish Cloth. You can talk with him. I inclose the judgement you desire relative to the Prize Goods brought in by the Mifflin. The Papers which have been Sent to me, remain with me, being the justification of the judgment. I am ever Your affectionate uncle, B Franklin. PS I have just received the paquet with mercers account."
Ever since September 18, when Franklin had forwarded to Vergennes Congress' invoices for military supplies and clothing, he had been awaiting the French government's response. At long last, it came. When Franklin wrote the following letter, he must have just received Vergennes' promise of a new loan of 3,000,000 Livres. Franklin would have applied the entire French loan to previous invoices had he not felt obliged to use a substantial portion to pay existing interest bills and drafts on Congress. When Lafayette promised to supply 15,000 stands of arms and 100,000 pounds of powder, Franklin decided to apply the remaining French funds towards 10,000 complete sets of uniforms. That number soon increased to 15,000 sets, at Chaumont's urging, but was lowered again to 10,000 by February, 1780. The procurement of these supplies, and the problems of transporting them, would occupy Franklin for more than a year. This item was bound into an extra-illustrated copy of the "History of the City of New York" circa 1872, in the possession of Emery E. Childs, and while the book—expanded to 21 volumes—has passed through several hands, this particular letter has not been on the market since it was bound in, a happy circumstance that has also maintained this rare letter in excellent condition.
Professional restoration to lessen staining at lower edge only, else fine condition, signature bold. Rare and desirable.