Franks, David Salisbury

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Franks, David Salisbury

FRANKS, DAVID SALISBURY. (1742–1793). Major and aide-de-camp to Benedict Arnold. Canada and Pennsylvania. Born in Philadelphia on 27 March 1742, David Salisbury Franks was the son of a Jewish merchant who moved to Quebec after the end of the Seven Years' War, settling in Montreal in 1774. At the start of the Revolution, he had risen to the position of president of the Montreal Shearith Israel Congregation. He denounced King George III over the Quebec Act, which failed to recognize the civic rights of Jews. For expressing these views, Franks was imprisoned in May 1775, although he was released after two weeks. When the Americans captured Montreal on 13 November 1775, Franks supported their cause with loans and denounced his father as a Loyalist. The following year, General David Wooster made Franks the paymaster of the American garrison. When the Americans retreated from Montreal, Franks went with them.

Franks joined the Continental army in Albany, seeing action at Saratoga. Because he could speak French, he was made liaison to Admiral Valerie d'Estaing in 1778. In July he was promoted to major and became a member of Benedict Arnold's staff in Philadelphia. Franks testified on Arnold's behalf at his court-martial for corruption in May 1779, afterwards transferring to General Benjamin Lincoln's staff in Charleston. In July 1780 he returned to Arnold's staff at West Point. When Arnold defected in September, Franks was suspected of complicity and subjected to two courts of inquiry, both of which attested to his innocence. General George Washington issued a personal commendation after the second verdict in November 1780. In 1781 Franks resigned as a lieutenant colonel and devoted the next six years to serving the United States as a diplomat, making numerous trips to Europe. Congress sent him to Paris in 1784 with the ratification of the peace treaty, and the next year he acted for a short time as vice consul at Marseilles before returning to the United States. In 1786 Franks played an important role in drafting the Morocco trade agreement. In 1789 he failed in an attempt to be made consul general in France and returned to business, becoming assistant cashier of the Bank of North America in 1791. He died in the Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic on 7 October 1793.

SEE ALSO Arnold, Benedict.


Rezneck, Samuel. Unrecognized Patriots: The Jews in the American Revolution. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1975.

                            revised by Michael Bellesiles