Benjamin Franklin and John Adams to William Temple Franklin
Passy, Nov. 20. 1778
You are to go by the shortest Road to Dieppe, and make all the Dispatch possible.1
At Dieppe enquire for Mr. Baron, Merchant there, and take his Advice whether to go off to the Ship, or to acquaint the Captain with your Arrival2 send him the Letters you have for him, and desire him to come and meet you on shore. The last is safest for the Intelligence you may obtain, as well as for you, if the Weather should be stormy.
You are to make all the Enquiries noted in the Paper annexed; and put down the Answers in Writing; as well as other Matters he may communicate to you: in which be very exact and clear.
You are to enquire if he wants Hands, and acquaint him that there may probably be some to be had here at his Return from his Cruise, if that should occasion a Diminution of his Numbers.
You are to keep an exact Account of your Expences, and use the utmost Frugality therein:3 By this, your Diligence and Expedition in going and Returning, and your Exactness in executing these Orders, you will recommend yourself to our Approbation.
RC with one enclosure (NIC). The instructions and the first page of the enclosure containing questions one through fifteen are in Benjamin Franklin’s hand. The canceled question and those numbered sixteen through nineteen appear on the second page of the enclosure and are in JA’s hand.
1. On 17 Nov. a man claiming to be Capt. Job Prince of the privateer Concord wrote to Le Baron at Dieppe, announcing his arrival with a Dieppe shallop recaptured from two English privateers and requesting supplies and advice for a proposed cruise against British shipping (Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S. description begins I. Minis Hays, comp., Calendar of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin in the Library of the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 1908; 5 vols. description ends , 4:276). On the 18th both Le Baron and Prince (same, 1:534) wrote to Franklin: the first to report his provisioning of the Concord and probably to enclose Prince’s letter of the 17th; the second to announce that he had important information for the Commissioners that could not be trusted to writing and to request advice on his intended cruise and the disposal of prizes.
With the letters from Le Baron and Prince in hand, JA and Franklin decided to send Temple Franklin to Dieppe, carrying these instructions and two letters of the same date from Benjamin Franklin (The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Albert Henry Smyth, 10 vols., N.Y., 1907, 7:201–202). The first, to Le Baron, approved moderate expenditures for provisioning the Concord; the second, to Prince, stated that Temple Franklin could be trusted with whatever he wished to communicate to the Commissioners.
A letter from Benjamin Franklin to Le Baron of 21 Nov. (same, 7:202) indicates that the younger Franklin was to leave later that day. In the interval between the drafting of the instructions of 20 Nov. and Temple Franklin’s departure, JA and Benjamin Franklin had second thoughts and prepared a second set of instructions (see below under [?]) that, in part, superseded those of the 20th. When Temple Franklin arrived at Dieppe he found that Prince and the Concord had sailed, thus justifying the doubts about Prince expressed jointly in the second set of instructions, by Franklin alone in his letter to his grandson of 26 Nov. (same, 7:203), and by Le Baron in a letter to Franklin of the 30th (Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S. description begins I. Minis Hays, comp., Calendar of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin in the Library of the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 1908; 5 vols. description ends , 1:539).
Initially JA and Franklin may have thought that this “Job Prince” was either Capt. Job Prince or his son, Job Prince Jr., of Boston. However, although both men had interests in numerous privateers during the war, there is no record that either had any connection with a vessel named Concord and the dates of bonds bearing their names make it likely that both were in America in the fall of 1778 (Allen, Mass. Privateers description begins Gardner Weld Allen, Massachusetts Privateers of the Revolution (Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections, vol. 77), Boston, 1927. description ends , p. 66–278 passim).
A garbled account of this affair appeared in the London Chronicle of 12–15 Dec. The report, dated 29 Nov. at Paris, stated that on 20 Nov. a vessel with dispatches from the congress had arrived at Nantes. The captain, after requesting a guard to prevent his crew from going ashore, sent an express to Franklin asking him to send someone “to whom he might explain the object of his dispatches. Dr. Franklin immediately sent his grandson; and it has been said since he is gone that there has been a bloody battle in America, and that 6,200 men of Washington’s army have gone over to the English.”
2. The words “with your Arrival” were written in the wide left margin, probably after the body of the letter.
3. The degree to which Franklin and JA wished to keep this mission secret, even from Arthur Lee, is indicated by the payment of Temple Franklin’s expenses at Dieppe, not from the funds held by Ferdinand Grand, but rather those used for the household at Passy (Household Accounts, 1 Oct. 1778 to 21 Feb. 1779, entry for 21 Nov., above).