Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Ferdinand Grand, 14 October 1778

To Ferdinand Grand

LS5 and AL draft: American Philosophical Society

Passy, Oct. 14. 1778.


I have considered the Note you put into my Hands, containing a Complaint of the Conduct of Capt. Cunningham in the Revenge Privateer. We have no Desire to justify him in any Irregularities he may have committed. On the contrary we are obliged to our Friends who give us Information of the Misconduct of any of our Cruisers, that we may take the Occasion of representing the same to our Government, and recommending more effectual Provision for suppressing, punishing and preventing such Practices in future. By the Papers I have the Honour to send you enclosed, and which I request you would put into the Hands of his Excellency Count d’Aranda, the Care of the Congress to avoid giving Offence to neutral Powers will appear most evident; first in the Commission given to Privateers, wherein it appears that Sureties are taken of their Owners that nothing shall be done by them “inconsistent with the Usage and Customs of Nations,” and those Sureties are obliged to make good all Damages: Courts of Admiralty are regularly established in every one of the United States for judging of such Matters; to which Courts any Person injured may apply and will certainly find Redress. Secondly, in the Proclamation of Congress,6 whereby strict Orders are given to all Officers of armed Vessels to pay a sacred Regard to the Rights of neutral Powers and the Usage and Customs of civilized Nations, &ca. and a Declaration made, that if they transgress they shall not be allowed to claim the Protection of the States, but shall suffer such Punishment as by the Usage and Custom of Nations may be inflicted on them. Lastly, in the particular Care taken by Congress to secure the Property of some Subjects of Portugal (a Power that has not been very favourable to us) altho’ no Reclamation had been made.7 All these will shew that the States give no Countenance to Acts of Piracy; and if Captain Cunningham has been guilty of that Crime he will certainly be punished for it when duely prosecuted: For not only a Regard to Justice in general, but a strong Disposition to cultivate the Friendship of Spain, for whose Sovereign they have the greatest Respect, will induce the Congress to pay great Attention to every Complaint that is properly made and authenticated.8 I have the Honour to be Sir Your most obedient and most humble Servant

B. Franklin

Mr. F. Grand.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5In WTF’s hand. For the background of this letter, see our headnote to the preceding document.

6For the proclamation, issued May 9, see JCC, XI, 486.

7BF is probably referring to the action of Congress respecting the snow Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Anthony and her cargo, property of Portuguese subjects, which was sent into Massachusetts as a prize, and whose owner did not claim her: JCC, XI, 487–9.

8In the copy made by WTF, BF crossed out the phrase “that is properly made and authenticated” and substituted “publick or private that shall come from thence.”

Grand’s remarks and BF’s interlineations read as follows:

“Ceci est trop General et meriteroit d’étre particularisé surtout dans le Cas present et en faveur de l’Espagne. On pourroit en Consequence ajouter que vous allés (BF: “Nous allons”) informer vous (BF: “nous”) memes le Congrés des plaintes de la Cour et Le porter a Lui en donner la plus prompte et la plus complette Satisfaction (BF: “sur la Meconduite du Cape. Conyngham en desobeissant les ordres du Roy”) attendu qu’il n’y a rien que les 13 Etats ne fassent non Seulement pour Eviter a La Cour d’Espagne tout ce qui pourroit lui etre desagreable mais au Contraire pour Lui prouver combien ils desirent de meriter Sa bienveuillance, et de parvenir a Etablir des relations qui ne lui Laissent Rien a desirer de leur part.”

Our guess is that, starting with the words “Nous allons” BF planned to incorporate Grand’s modified text into his draft. He must have meant this new letter to be addressed to d’Aranda, for he added “Excellency’s” in the complimentary close, making it read: “I have the Honour to be Sir Your Excellency’s most obedient and most humble Servant . …” Eventually, he returned to the idea of writing to Grand: see below, Nov. 3.

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