Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from the Massachusetts Delegates to Congress, 12 May 1779

From the Massachusetts Delegates to Congress6

Three LS and copy:7 American Philosophical Society

Philadelphia May 12th: 1779


The Papers enclosed will inform You of the unfortunate Loss of the American Brigantine Fair Play, with 18 of her Crew, on the 5th: Jany last, by the discharge of the Cannon of a two Gun Battery, near Port Louis in Guadaloupe—8

The Governor of the Island thinking it reasonable that the Owners should recieve a Compensation for their Loss, recommended it to the Minister of the Marine of France, in a Letter whereof a translated Copy is enclosed but the Captain of the Brigantine having neglected to take duplicates of the Letter, rendered it necessary for the Owners, of whom Tristram Dalton Esqr. of Newbury port in Massachusetts Bay was one, to take additional Steps, for the recovering of their Interest.

We think it adviseable for Mr. Dalton to obtain a Compensation in the Way proposed by the Governor of Guadaloupe rather than by making a Claim thro’ Congress, on the Principle of Right: as the latter may require time, and produce an Altercation neither agreable to the Court of France nor Congress—and as we have no Reason to suppose that there was any Design in the Commandant of the Fort, to insult the Flag of the United States or injure the property or Persons of its Citizens—

Having stated the Facts we submit to your Determination the Measures proper to be pursued & remain Sir with the greatest Respect your most obt. & very hum Sert

S Adams
E Gerry
James Lovell
S. Holten

Honble. Benj Franklin Esqr. Minister plenipotentiary of the united States at Paris

Addressed: Honble: Benjamin Franklin Esq / Minister Plenipotentiary of / the United States of America / at Paris

Endorsed: Tristram Dalton Esq Papers relating to the Loss of the Fairplay Brigantine—

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6Or at any rate those presently in attendance. Three other delegates, Francis Dana, Timothy Edwards, and John Hancock did not attend during 1779: Smith, Letters, XII, xviii. Three signers of the present letter will be familiar, but Holten has hitherto appeared on our pages only in passing (see XXII, 244). He is Samuel Holten (1738–1816), a physician and early patriot leader: DAB. This letter, as well as the papers it mentions, was enclosed with Tristram Dalton’s of the following day, below, in support of his claim for compensation in the case of the Fair Play. See that letter for further details.

7The three LS are marked “1st Copy,” “3d Copy,” and “4th Copy.” We print from the last of these, which BF endorsed. The copy is in Dalton’s hand and bears BF’s notation, “Letter of 4 Members of Congress.”

8On Jan. 5, 1778, William Bingham had written the American commissioners about the incident: XXVIII, 350.

Index Entries