“The Sale of the Hessians” Benjamin Franklin (hyper text)

Directions: Read the text below. As you read, click on the links to see notes, definitions, questions, etc. that will help you understand the text. If there is a question in the link, answer that question in your English notebook as part of a Quick Write about “The Sale of the Hessians.”

PARIS 1776-1785

by Benjamin Franklin

The Sale of the Hessians

FROM THE COUNT DE SCHAUMBERGH TO THE BARON HOHENDORF, COMMANDING THE HESSIAN TROOPS IN AMERICA reading hint 1 Rome, February 18, 1777. hessian quickwrite question 1

        MONSIEUR LE BARON: — On my return from Naples, I received at Rome your letter of the 27th December of last year. (Quick Write Question 2) I have learned with unspeakable pleasure the courage our troops exhibited at Trenton, and you cannot imagine my joy on being told that of the 1,950 Hessians engaged in the fight, but 345 escaped.  There were just 1,605 men killed, and I cannot sufficiently commend your prudence in sending an exact list of the dead to my minister in London.  This precaution was the more necessary, as the report sent to the English ministry does not give but 1,455 dead.  This would make 483,450 florins instead of 643,500 which I am entitled to demand under our convention. (Reading Hint 2)  You will comprehend the prejudice which such an error would work in my finances, and I do not doubt you will take the necessary pains to prove that  Lord North’s list is false and yours correct. (Quick Write Question 3)

Lord North

          The court of London objects that there were a hundred wounded who ought not to be included in the list, nor paid for as dead; but I trust you will not overlook my instructions to you on quitting Cassel, and that you will not have tried by human succor to recall the life of the unfortunates whose days could not be lengthened but by the loss of a leg or an arm.  That would be making them a pernicious present, and I am sure they would rather die than live in a condition no longer fit for my service. (Quick Write Question 4) I do not mean by this that you should assassinate them; we should be humane (Quick Write Question 5), my dear Baron, but you may insinuate to the surgeons with entire propriety that a crippled man is a reproach to their profession, and that there is no wiser course than to let every one of them die when he ceases to be fit to fight.
          I am about to send to you some new recruits.  Don’t economize them.  Remember glory before all things.  Glory is true wealth. (Quick Write Question 6) There is nothing degrades the soldier like the love of money.  He must care only for honour and reputation, but this reputation must be acquired in the midst of dangers.  A battle gained without costing the conqueror any blood is an inglorious success, while the conquered cover themselves with glory by perishing with their arms in their hands.  Do you remember that of the 300 Lacedaemonians who defended the defile of Thermopylae, not one returned? (Reading Hint 3) How happy should I be could I say the same of my brave Hessians! It is true that their king, Leonidas, perished with them: but things have changed, and it is no longer the custom for princes of the empire to go and fight in America for a cause with which they have no concern.  And besides, to whom should they pay the thirty guineas per man if I did not stay in Europe to receive them? (Reading Hint 4)
          Then, it is necessary also that I be ready to send recruits to replace the men you lose.  For this purpose I must return to Hesse.  It is true, grown men are becoming scarce there, but I will send you boys. Besides, the scarcer the commodity the higher the price.  I am assured that the women and little girls have begun to till our lands, and they get on not badly.
          You did right to send back to Europe that Dr. Crumerus (Reading Hint 5) who was so successful in curing dysentery.  Don’t bother with a man who is subject to looseness of the bowels.  That disease makes bad soldiers. (Quick Write Question 7) One coward will do more mischief in an engagement than ten brave men will do good.  Better that they burst in their barracks than fly in a battle, and tarnish the glory of our arms.  Besides, you know that they pay me as killed for all who die from disease, and I don’t get a farthing for runaways.  My trip to Italy, which has cost me enormously, makes it desirable that there should be a great mortality among them.  You will therefore promise promotion to all who expose themselves (Quick Write Question 8); you will exhort them to seek glory in the midst of dangers; you will say to Major Maundorff  (Reading Hint 6) that I am not at all content with his saving the 345 men who escaped the massacre of Trenton.  Through the whole campaign he has not had ten men killed in consequence of his orders.
          Finally, let it be your principal object to prolong the war and avoid a decisive engagement on either side, for I have made arrangements for a grand Italian opera, and I do not wish to be obliged to give it up.  Meantime I pray God, my dear Baron de Hohendorf, to have you in his holy and gracious keeping. Quick Write Question 9 
For a fun dipiction of Franklin’s wit and satire, watch this short clip from the HBO mini-series John Adams. (Ben’s the guy getting out the carriage!)

8 responses to ““The Sale of the Hessians” Benjamin Franklin (hyper text)

  1. Oriel

    Huppest thing since papa zip. Dafna!!!! Yehudah!!! Get to bed!!!!! Keden!!!!!! Sahar we love you so much more than oriel!

  2. Isaac Belford Selter

    Hi I’m Isaac and I’m hipper than nam. I like Franklin the turtle because I look like him. I also obsess over my friends family

  3. Eat knuckle poop and prosper!

  4. Pingback: AP WORK for the week of 4/14 -5/1 | ms. rhude

  5. Benedict Gomez

    As an FYI, I recently learned there is no evidence that Franklin wrote, “Sale of the Hessians” – and it is generally accepted to be mis-attributed to him > 100 years later.

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