Lot 11: 1777 Letter from Paris on Benjamin Franklin as American Revolutionary envoy
23rd February 2017
1777 Letter from Paris on Benjamin Franklin as American Revolutionary envoy. Heading: (American Revolution - Benjamin Franklin). Author: G.W. Kempson. Title: Englishman's letter on Benjamin Franklin as diplomatic envoy of the rebellious American colonies in Paris. Place Published: Paris, France. Date Published: January 12, 1777. Description: Autograph Letter Signed. 3pp.+Stampless Address Leaf. To his father Willis Kempson, Beliston, near Birmingham, Staffordshire, England: "...I do not think that I shall come to be hanged tho I have had some escapes for my life - at least nothing that I send from France shall bring me to that high honour.. every letter almost that goes to England by the post is examined and of course I should hardly be such a fool as to send any thing dangerous in any of mine...the political fear.. you already have would make you almost despair of Old England. To have a war with America and a person of Dr. Franklyn's abilities intriguing in the character of its ambassador with so jealous and powerfull a neighbour as France must appear a very formidable situation. but the truth is that instead of the words 'war with America' one should substitute hue and cry after the troops of a few provinces - for the matter is settled with respect to Canada (that is, almost half America) and the provinces of the Jerseys and New York...the best settled and most powerfull part of the whole continent. As for Dr. Franklyn, much the greater part of the world here thinks him a runaway, and those who think him sent here have nothing to say for his success....he perhaps is sent but.. he has contrived to be so in order to secure a retreat..." When he wrote this letter, Kempson, later a Staffordshire clergyman, was just graduated from Oxford, where his best friend was George Legge - son of the Earl of Dartmouth, who had been Secretary of State for the Colonies on the eve of the American Revolution. It's unclear what Kempson was doing in Paris (Legge would soon be there too; both unofficial spies?) at a tense moment when England and France were again on the verge of war, and the ill-fated King Louis XVI was about to recognize the independence of the American colonies and form a military alliance with the rebellious Yankees. Kempson, like Legge's father, was undoubtedly hopeful of reconciliation with America, but grossly underestimated how the diplomatic presence in Paris of the wildly popular Benjamin Franklin would make that impossible. Having just arrived 20 days before, Franklin, as American envoy, would already receive a royal promise of French aid. The gossip in Paris about the 70 year-old man - that he had sailed from America secretly, "stealing" his teenaged grandson, whose father was a British loyalist - were true. But Kempson incorrectly deprecated Franklin's coming success in securing formal French aid for the American Revolution. Condition: Very good.
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