Decoding Revolutionary Correspondence

Fuller decoding will be found in The Papers of Benjamin Franklin (Yale University Press). For an overview of Franklin's codes and ciphers, see here.

Code/Cipher: WE004
Main Source: Benjamin Franklin Papers

8 February 1780, Dumas to Franklin (WE004)

873<The> 337<France->French> 64<ambassador> 833<still> 879<think[s]> 470<it> 419<impossible>, 30<Stadholder> & 16 would 168<cheat>. But 2 879<think[s]> 470<it> 601<not> 419<impossible> till 8 48<adopt[s]> 935<what> 395<Holland> 757<resolve[s]>.
This is but to try our cypher. Somebody tells me, that the Baron de La H-- of whom I wrote you formerly, is no more to be trusted than 10 12 & their 373<great> 339<friend>.

18 February 1780, Dumas to Franklin (WE004)

537<Matter[s]> are 732<reconcile> 27<[d]> long since between 873<the> 64<ambassador> LXOWP<AND ME>. How sincerely? 491<Let> him 854<tell>--388<He> 475<know[s]> 470<it>[,] 601<not> I.
Quant aux informations que l'on m'a souvent données contre certaines personnes à 68<Amsterdam>, [=As to information that they often gave me against certain persons in Amsterdam]....

876<There> is so much 884<to> 787<say> 618<on> 880<this> 41<account> that I 879<think> 470<it> 112<better> 884<to> 787<say> 602<nothing>. 873<The> 612<offer> alone 498<made> 884<to> 153<Captain> 463<Jones> 610<of> a 337<France->French> 697<privateer> 184<commission> 830<stand> here 909<under> 291<false> names 322<for> 573<near> 2000 Livres.

25 February 1780, Dumas to Franklin (WE004)

Je lui fais aujourd'hui une autre réponse, mais en termes généraux seulement, thro' 873<the>. 337<France->French>. 64<ambassador>. [=I made him [Carmichael] today another response but only in general terms, through the French ambassador]

En attendant 30<Stadholder> continue de faire aux 31 les plus belles protestations.

2 March 1780, Dumas to Franklin (WE004)

I think him too much exasperated against 784<Sartine> & 166<Chaumont>, & not enough aware of the fair promises 64<ambassador> has made him. I am sure the latter is but an indifferent friend to the two former, to 338<Franklin> & to 65<America>.

2 March 1780 (in the evening), Dumas to Franklin (WE004)

This moment our friend tells me in great confidence, that 873<the> 30<Stadholder> has at last made one principal Step they expected from him, by 705<propose> 26<[ing]> 884<to> 873<the> 783<Russia[n]> 64<ambassador> to sound 394<his> 274<Empress> about an 61<alliance> MPGPPX<BE[T]WEEN> 880<this> & 873<the> 598<north> PBX<ERN> CDLDPC<STATES> 322<for> 795<secure> 26<[ing]> 873<the> 183<commerce> 610<of> 578<neuter> 28<[s]>.

388<He> 236<deliver> 27<[ed]> 935<what> 388<he> 385<have->had> 884<to> 787<say> 884<to> 873<the> 783<Russia[n]> 64<ambassador> as a 960<young> man 601<not> 581<much> used to 842<such> 537<matter>. But 833<still> 388<he> 236<deliver> 27<[ed]> 470<it> and 873<the> 783<Russia[n]> 64<ambassador> has 802<send->sent> 880<this> very 214<day> an 304<express> 884<to> 665<Petersburg> 618<on> 880<this> PBBLO<ERRA[N]D>.

Our friend has this from 873<the> 783<Russia[n]> 64<ambassador> himself; And 62<also> 341<from> 873<the> 362<grand> 657<pention>LBI<ARY>. They are sure that 867<Sweden> & OPXWLBN<DENMARC> 942<will> 39<accede> 884<to> 873<the> 541<measure>. And a negociation is set on foot for a body of 600<Norway> 531<marine> 28<[s]> which 878<they> 262<doubt> 601<not> 878<they> 942<will> 606<obtain> 322<for> 874<their> 560<money>.

2 March 1780, Franklin to Dumas (extract) (WE004)

Mais dites-moi, Monsieur, qui est un Mr. Guillon, qui a demeuré longtemps en Sud-Caroline, et surtout à Charlestown. Il est muni d'une Commission signée Thompson, et se donne pour en Agent de 251<each>.

13 March 1780, Dumas to Franklin (WE004)

notre Ami, 873. OEUP ZQMBEXCGTNU<DUKE P[should be O]FBRUNSWICK>, fait ...

17 March 1780, Dumas to Franklin (WE004)

I 475<know> 621<now> 873<the> 134<bre[a]st> 610<of> 193<confidence>[should be 153<Captain>] 17<[Gillon]> & I 942<will> 807<serve> 470<it> if I can. My 1st Letter will tell you more of it.
*The Benjamin Franklin Papers website notes "BF's interlined decipherment: I know now the Breast of Capt. Gillon & I will serve it".

23 March 1780, Dumas to Franklin (WE004)

153<Captain> 17<[Gillon's]> 134<bre[a]st> is to 135<bribe> the 812<ship> 873<the> 433<Indian>.
*According to the Benjamin Franklin Papers website, Captain Gillon procured a Dutch-built ship L'Indien and renamed it South Carolina.

29 March 1780, Franklin to Dumas (WE004)

I pray you to assure M. FLX<VAN> OPB<DER> NLZPAAPC<CAPEQQES>[should be NLZPVVPW<CAPELLEN>](1) of my Respects and that it was only on one Pacquet for him that I put my Name, when I thought to have sent it by a friend. The baseness of the Post-Office in opening it surprises me. No other Letter for him has since past through my hands. If any others come to me for him, I Shall Send them under Cover to you. The Tuite you mention is not a North american but a West Indian; i.e. a Native of one of the English sugar Islands. 17<[Gillon]> is not 21(2) of 196<Congress>. X.P.<[He]> acts only for 824<South>. Ca.
I forwarded your Letter to Capt. Jones. I do not know which of his English Pilots it was, that Is mention'd in yours of the 657<Pention>ry. I know he has been generous to an Excess with them. Explain to me if you please the fact that is the Subject of that Letter, and who Mr. Gordon is.--

(1)The substitution table of WE004 maps A to L and C to N for enciphering. Franklin used the table in the reverse way for these two letters and mapped L to A and N to C. Joan Derk van der Capellen was a baron from Overijssel.

(2)The Benjamin Franklin Papers website notes [i.e., 54], which should represent "agent".

7 April 1780, Dumas to Franklin (WE004)

I shall give yr. Excy. the Explanation you desire respecting the subject of my last Letter to the 657<pention>y.

11 April 1780, Dumas to Franklin (WE004)

que notre
 O E N O P M B E X C G T N U T N T P D C P C Z L B D T C L X C
<d u c d e b r u n s w i c k i c i e t s e s p a r t i s a n s>
traversent cela tant qu'ils peuvent; mais qufils ne reussiront pas

23 May 1780, Dumas to Franklin (WE004)

pour avoir quelques entretiens avec Vous, comme aussi avec Mr. 891<Vergennes>

le 373<Great> 657<Pention>y 610<of> 395<Holland>

29 May 1780, Dumas to Franklin (WE004)

Il vient d'arriver une chose, qui m'inquiete beaucoup tant pour le crédit de 65<America> que pour WYXCTPER<MONSIEUG>[should be WYXCTPEB<MONSIEUR>] 484<Laurens>. Il a paru à 68<Amsterdam> deux 114<bills> DTBPPC<TIREES> au nom du 196<Congress> sur lui; & il n'est pas encore 78<arrive>. Je sais que Mr. De N [Neufville] a promis d'en 653<pay> au moins 624<one>. Si ce n'est MYDS<BOTH>. Mais qui Sait combien d'autres suivront; & qui Sait ou est WYXCPTER<MONSIEUG>[should be WYXCTPEB<MONSIEUR>] 484<Laurens>. J'attends que Mr. N me donne des nouvelles ultérieures de cela, & je vous informerai Monsieur de ce que j'en saurai.

2 June 1780, Dumas to Franklin (WE004)

pour savoir si jfetois instruit de quelque chose concernant Mr. 484<Laurens>

qu'ils ne savent pas la somme totale précise à quoi se montent les Traites que 196<Congress> peut avoir lâchées de cette maniere

il n'y a pas moyen de parler a personne; autrement nous aurions pu essayer de proposer a quelques personnes d'obliger en cette rencontre essentielle 196<Congress>

5 June 1780, Franklin to Dumas (WE004)

P.S. I cannot prescribe as you desire anything relating to your affair with 62<also>[should be 64<ambassador>] . Your own Judgement ought to guide you. I shall be careful to furnish you early with any good News we may receive. If the 732<reconcile> cannot be immediately made, it may with Prudence come on by Degrees.

15 June 1780, Dumas to Franklin (WE004)

J'aurai l'honneur de répondre à l'honorée votre du 5e. Le Mr. que vous me nommez, m'est connu de réputation pour un fort galant homme; & je sais qu'il fait des affaires avec Mr. 165<Charlestown>[should be 166<Chaumont>].
En remettant la 732<reconcile[reconciliation]> à mon propre jugement, comme vous faites, Monsieur, vous me faites redoubler de sévérité contre moi-même: & si lfon nfexige rien de trop humiliant, je Sacrifierai au bien du service Americain autant de mon amour propre qu'il sera possible.

4 July 1780, Dumas to Franklin (WE004)

5 & 958<Yorke> brouillent continuellement tout, & 30<Stadholder> suit machinalement leurs impulsions.

20 July 1780, Dumas to Franklin (WE004)

Ce que j'y vois de plus interessant pour nous, & que je crois devoir vous transcrire du Journal du Congrès de Mars, c'est l'article suivant.

"Thursday March 23d. 1780

Resolved, That the thirty-two and 1/4 MLBPUCYQTXOTRY<BAREKSOFINDIGO> & twinty-nine 610<of> 765<rice>. Specified in the invoice & bill of Lading, from 873<the>. S<H[onorable]>.S<H[enry]>. 484<Laurens> 812<ship>'d 136<bring>[should be by] STW<him> 618<on> MYLBO<board> 840<succeed> [should be the]
<brigantineadrianaiosiahhilmaster> 322<for> 533<Martinico> & 300<Europe> be 618<on> 41<account> & BTCAEP<RISQUE> of these 7<[United States]>. & that the said S.<H> 484<Laurens> be 226<credit>ed 322<for> 873<the> 846<sum> 610<of> 232426 1/2 Dollars, being the Cost & charges."

Si vous savez quelque chose, Monsieur, du sort de cela, je me recommande. De mon côté, j'y serai attentif.

948<With> 842<such> a 888<value> 484<Laurens> would do great things 95<at> 68<Amsterdam> & be 431 610<of> its 89<bank>ers by 296<establish>ing 357<good> 222<correspond>ence 948<with> 642<Paris> & 519<Madrid>. Dans mon opinion il y a longtemps qu'on eut du le faire. Cela auroit donne un tres grand relief au credit de l'Amerique: & cela peut le relever encore tres a propos ici. Dieu veuille que le tout arrive.
*Cited resolution is found here.

26 July 1780, Franklin to Dumas (WE004)

I imagine 484<Laurens> went in that Vessel to 533<most>[should be 500<Martinico>?], and may have been detained there for Convoy.

3 August 1780, Dumas to Franklin (WE004)

388<He> 259<do>es 601<not> 262<doubt> 610<of> YEB OEUPYQMBEXCGTNU<OUR DUKEOFBRUNSWICK> 385<have>ing 731<receive>d a 373<great> 720<quantity> 610<of> 382<guinea>s 322<for> 394<his> endeavours to NBYCC<CROSS> 873<the>n 701<project>

11 August 1780, Dumas to Franklin (WE004)

Mr. TULBO<IKARD>[should be Izard?]

3 October 1780, Dumas to Franklin (WE004)

J'eus Vendredi passé un Entretien avec notre Ami, qui sachant que je vois quelquefois 873<the> 64<ambassador> 610<of> 783<Russia> me pria de m'informer là, S'il étoit vrai (comme l'avoit dit à plusieurs grands personnages 873<the> 30<Stadholder> sans date d'apres 958<Yorke>) que le Danemarc fut convenu avec l'Angleterre de renoncer à la Neutralité armée.

3 December 1780, Franklin to Dumas (WE004)

Mr. Adams has written to me for a Copy of a Letter I formerly wrote to 873<the> 373<great> 657<pention>. If you have such an one please to give it to him. I remember of but one, which went with a Copy of 873<the> 897<treat[y]> 948<with> 337<France>.
This decoding is given by Ralph E. Weber.

18-20 January 1781, Franklin to Dumas (WE004)

If not inconvenient or improper, I should be glad to know what pass'd relating to public Affairs while 67<ammunition> was at your 31, & whether he saw 25, &c. With this you will receive three Letters for Mr Laurens, which I request you would forward to Mr Adams.

[October] 1779, Dumas to John Paul Jones (WE003)


(1) Names may be coded differently on different occasions.

On 5 February 1781, Dumas used "Mr. Gn." for Gillon, which name was encoded as 17 in other instances.

Similarly, Henry Laurens was written as WYXCTPER<MONSIEUG>[should be WYXCTPEB<MONSIEUR>] 484<Laurens> on 29 May, which was simplified to "Mr. 484" on 2 June and S<H[onorable]>.S<H[enry]>. 484<Laurens> on 20 July. On 20 October, Dumas would use "Mr. L" and "Mr. Lns" on 25 October and 9 November.

(2) Located in the Netherlands, Grand Pensionary (of Holland) was one of frequently used words. This was encoded as 657<pention>LBI<ARY> on 2 March 1780 but later Franklin used 657<Pention>ry in his letter of 29 March 1780 and Dumas also simplified to 657<pention>y on 7 April and 23 May. Franklin's letter on 3 Decmeber put it 373<great> 657<pention>.

In his letter in French of 26 September ("26e 7bre"), Dumas uses "Gd. Pe." and "Gd. Pense." on 12 January 1781, "Gd. Py." on 25 January 1781 for Grand Pensionnaire.

(3) As mentioned above, initials were often used as a simple means for secrecy. Other instances include: S.M.T.Chr. [Sa Majesté Très Chrétienne] and L.H.P. [Leurs Hautes Puissances]

First posted on 7 February 2009. Last modified on 7 February 2009.
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