Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to All Captains and Commanders of Vessels of War, [18 May 1779]

To All Captains and Commanders of Vessels of War

ALS (draft): American Philosophical Society

[May 18, 1779]


The Bearer of this, Mr. George F. Norton,8 a Native of Virginia, and returning thither with his Family, has, during his Residence in England, manifested on all Occasions his Attachment to the Cause of Liberty, and his Compassion towards his Countrymen confin’d in the English Prisons, many of whom he has assisted in their Distresses with a liberal Hand, as they have acknowledged to me with grateful Expressions of their Obligation to him.—9 I therefore recommend it earnestly to you, that if in his Passage you should happen to meet with him, you would not consider him as an Enemy on Account of his having lived in England; but treat him as a Friend & Countryman with all Civility, not retarding him in his Voyage, but affording him all the Assistance in your Power that his Situation & Circumstances may render necessary. With best Wishes for your Success in your Cruizes, I have the honour to be Gentn Y. m. o. h. S.—

M. P. of the U.S.

To all Captains & Commanders of Vessels of War, Privateers & Letters of Marque belonging to the United States of America,

Notation: Pass for Mr Norton.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8George Flowerdewe Norton (b. 1751), son of the Virginia tobacco trader John Norton, who became a partner in the firm of John Norton & Sons in 1774. George had been sent to London for schooling at the age of ten, and was joined by his family three years later. Since the summer of 1778 he had been plagued by ill health and failing finances; by the spring of 1779 the family had planned to remove to America. Frances Norton Mason, ed., John Norton & Sons, Merchants of London and Virginia … (2nd ed.; Newton Abbot, 1968) pp. 367, 417, 422, 515–16.

9The only evidence in BF’s papers of Norton’s assistance is an extract of a letter he wrote Matthew Ridley on Sept. 30, 1778, which Ridley forwarded to BF and which was docketed by both WTF and JA. Norton reminds Ridley of the “Friends whom I hope by this time you have seen,” who had received from him twenty guineas. APS.

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