Benjamin Franklin Papers

William Bingham to the American Commissioners, 3 March 1779

William Bingham to the American Commissioners

Two ALS:5 American Philosophical Society

St: Pierre, Martinique, March 3d, 1779.


The arrival at this place of the Continental Frigate the Deane, & the armed Brigantine the General Gates, in order to be careened & refitted, & to procure a fresh Supply of Provisions, has greatly embarrassed me, not having sufficient Funds to answer their Demands.6 I am therefore under the Necessity of refusing them the necessary Supplies, or of furnishing myself with Funds for the Purpose by passing my Draughts upon you for the Amount of their Disbursments.7

These are cruel Alternatives, but I think it most proper & advisable to submit to the last. I shall therefore take the Liberty of drawing upon You for their Outfits, as soon as they are compleated.

Although I have no such Permission, in a direct Manner, from Congress, I have it by implication, for the Commanders of these Vessels have Instructions from the Navy Board to address themselves to me for all necessary Supplies, when, so far from having Funds belonging to the Public, for such Purposes, Congress is indebted to me, by their last Accot: Current, Livres 240,000, Currency of this Island.

It is with the greatest Difficulty that I can support the Weight of such heavy Advances, and I find it impossible to enter into any new Engagements, especially, as the Negotiation of Business, in this place, has taken an unfavorable Turn, since the Commencement of Hostilities; every Article being now sold for Cash only.

I shall do myself the Honor of transmitting you Copies of these Disbursments by the same Conveyances that carry my Draughts on you & of which I shall duly inform Congress.8 I have no Doubt but both they & you will acquiesce in the Propriety of the Measure, being fully justified by the Necessity of the Case.

I have the Honor to be, with due Respect, Gentlemen, your most obedient humble Servant.

Wm Bingham

Notation: Bingham March 3. 1779

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5Both are duplicates made and sent by Bingham. The one from which we print also included his March 5 letter, printed below. The other is marked “Copy.”

6Bingham (XXII, 443n) was the congressional representative at Martinique. For the successful cruises of the Deane and General Gates see Gardner W. Allen, A Naval History of the American Revolution (2 vols., Boston and New York, 1913), II, 371–2. Capt. Nicholson of the Deane responded angrily to Bingham’s reluctance to pay his ship’s officers; Bingham eventually borrowed money for the ships from the government officials of Martinique: Robert C. Alberts, The Golden Voyage: the Life and Times of William Bingham, 1752–1804 (Boston, 1969), pp. 72–3.

7A year earlier Bingham had been authorized to draw on the American commissioners in France for 100,000 l.t., but during 1778 he exhausted much, if not all, of this credit: XXVI, 300; XXVII, 217–8n.

8Bingham wrote the committee for foreign affairs on April 13 that he was drawing on BF for another 100,000 l.t. in order to repay the loan he had contracted from the Martinique officials (National Archives); we have found neither the copies of the disbursements nor the drafts themselves.

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