Papers of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Willcox, 24:331
Franklin advises a young French officer against joining the American cause. On 24 June the Comte de Tressan had written Franklin seeking his assistance in gaining a commission in the Continental Army for his son, Louis-Michel de La Vergne, marquis de Tressan. Franklin here attempts to graciously deflect the offer since he was only too aware of the ill-will and confusion caused by the foreign commissions granted by Silas Deane, his colleague as American Minister to France.
"As an American I cannot but feel myself extreamly oblig'd by your generous Offer of the Services of your Son to our Cause. I wish it was in my Power to assure him the Rank and Employment, on his Arrival in America, that his good Will and his Military Talents and Experience may justly intitle him to: But having no Authority for such Purposes, I can only furnish him (in case he should upon Consideration resolve to pass thither) with Letters of Recommendation to the General and some other Friends as a Gentleman of Merit and Character, which may procure him their Civilities, but are by no means to be depended as giving a Certainty of Place in our Armies. And knowing as I do that there are a Number of foreign Officers now there offering their Service, and for whom Employ suitable to their Rank cannot be found, our Armies being fully officer'd, I can by no means advise a Friend to undertake so long and hazardous a Voyage on such an Uncertainty."
Deane had invoked the ire—and eventually the censure—of the Continental Congress by freely distributing contracts for military service larded with guarantees of rank and promises of the most generous compensation. Just eleven days after Franklin sent this reply, James Lovell, a congressional delegate from Massachusetts, complained to his New Hampshire colleague William Whipple that because of "French Treaties made by Deane we have a fresh quaintity [of perplexities] from the arrival of 2 Majors General, two Brigadiers, 2 Lt.Cols, 2 Majors, 3 Captains and two Lts" (Letters of Delegates 7:392).
Unfortunately, the marquis de Tressan chose not to heed Franklin's advice. He was captured at sea while sailing for America and interned in Ireland until 1781.
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