Benjamin Franklin Papers

The American Commissioners to Sartine: Two Letters, 7 January 1779: letter and résumé

The American Commissioners to Sartine: Two Letters

(I) and (II) AL (draft):6 Massachusetts Historical Society; copies: Library of Congress,7 National Archives (two)


Passy Jany 7. 1779


We have the Honour to inclose your Excellency two Memorials concerning a French Vessell retaken from an English Privateer by An American Privateer the Hampden commanded by Captain Pickering.8

As there is nothing in either of the Treaties between his Majesty and the united States, respecting such Rescues & Recaptures the Laws of each State must govern the Cases of the Vessells carried into it, untill Some new Regulation Shall take Place. The Sale was made before the new Regulations took place & we apprehend that no Law or Ordinance can justly be made to have a Retrospect or a Retroactive Effect.

We beg the favor of your Excellency to order what appears to you just in this particular Case.

M. De Sartine


<Passy, January 7, 1779: Your Excellency informed us that in order to gain the release of Americans captured by French ships it was necessary to demonstrate that they had been prisoners of the English and forced into English service. The following prisoners at Dinan meet those requirements: William Berry, William Keating, John Williams, Abraham Fairman, Robert Boughass, John Hanlen, James White and, at Granville, Jonathan Akin.9>

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6In JA’s hand. Letter II is published in Taylor, Adams Papers, VII, 344.

7This copy of letter II, possibly in WTF’s hand, bears the note that because Jones had received orders from the naval ministry to take all Americans then in prison in France, the letter was never sent.

8We believe the memorials to be Rïou and Pickerin’s to the commissioners of Dec. 23, and the undated memoir on behalf of Lestume and Coquillon that is discussed in the annotation to that letter.

9The seven listed here from Dinan had petitioned the commissioners on Nov. 15. Akin wrote BF on Nov 10.

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