To Whom It May Concern

Visiting France in 1777, Benjamin Franklin received hundreds of inquiries from ardent Frenchmen seeking to join the American army. Finally he penned a “model of a letter of recommendation of a person you are unacquainted with”:

Sir.–The bearer of this, who is going to America, presses me to give him a letter of recommendation, though I know nothing of him, not even his name. This may seem extraordinary, but I assure you it is not uncommon here. Sometimes, indeed, one unknown person brings another equally unknown to recommend him; and sometimes they recommend one another! As to this gentleman, I must refer you to himself for his character and merits, with which he is certainly better acquainted than I can possibly be; I recommend him however to those civilities which every stranger, of whom one knows no harm, has a right to, and I request you will do him all the good offices and show him all the favour that, on acquaintance, you shall find him to deserve. I have the honour to be, &c.

See Backhanded Letters of Reference.