Benjamin Franklin Papers

John Paul Jones to the American Commissioners, 15 August 1778: résumé

John Paul Jones to the American Commissioners4

ALS: American Philosophical Society; copies: National Archives (two), United States Naval Academy Museum

<Brest, August 15, 1778: I have been here five days and have neither seen nor heard from Lt. Simpson; but Mr. Hill5 reports the general rumor that I have been turned out of the service, that Simpson has replaced me with a captain’s commission, and that my letter to you of July 16 was only in obedience to your orders. These are not conjectures but melancholy facts. Since the Boston and Providence are about to arrive, I demand redress by a court martial which can now be summoned with the assistance of Capt. Hinman who has the unquestioned right to succeed me in the Ranger’s command. I have faithfully served the dignified cause of human nature ever since the American banner first waved. I conclude by requesting you to question Edward Meyrs,6 at the house of the Swedish ambassador, about my conduct at sea.7>

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4Published in Taylor, Adams Papers, VI, 372–3. Jones reinforced his case against Simpson with an 8-page, exhaustive, undated memorandum intended for BF but sent, we are convinced, in a letter of Aug. 14 to Bancroft (Library of Congress). Jones asked Bancroft to forward the enclosure if he thought fit, and explain that he “was afraid of giving [Franklin] too much trouble.” An incomplete copy of the memorandum is at the APS; a fuller version is at the Library of Congress. It is summarized as [to the commissioners] under the date [Aug. 15], in Charles Henry Lincoln, comp., A Calendar of John Paul Jones Manuscripts in the Library of Congress (Washington, 1903), pp. 45–6.

5Benjamin Hill, midshipman on the Ranger.

6Jones seems to be confusing two of his crew members. Edward Myer, boatswain’s mate, had signed the petition of June 15 against Jones (XXVI, 621–3). The captain undoubtedly meant Lt. Jean Meÿer, the Swedish volunteer who had been introduced to BF by the Swedish ambassador in July (above, De Baër to BF, July 13). Meÿer’s allegiance had been proven: he had warned Jones of a mutiny plot just before the Whitehaven raid, and had saved Jones from being stranded on the beach, as his men had intended, once the raid was over. Meÿer’s certification, April 14, 1780, National Archives.

7The commissioners drafted a reply on Aug. 22, which survives in both Lee and JA’s hands (National Archives; Mass. Hist. Soc.). It acknowledges receipt of this letter, which they mistakenly date Aug. 16, and says that they were requesting Whipple to summon a court martial: Taylor, Adams Papers, VI, 385. This reply was never sent and, as far as we know, the letter to Whipple never drafted, undoubtedly because Whipple’s letter to them of Aug. 19, with its news that Hinman would refuse to serve, arrived in the meantime.

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