Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Alexander Coffin, 28 June 1779

From Alexander Coffin

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Amsterdam 28th June 1779


I Refer your Excellency to Mr Sayers Letter Which he Says will apologize for my Addressing you:7 Tho I am Conscious that a disposition to Render To Our Country, is always Sufficient ground for it. I have myself been made a Prisoner & it may Soon Be my Lot Again Consequntly I feel most Sensibly The Superiority of the English at Sea. It is Therfore With Great Plesure I have Examined A modle of A Ship Contrived By Mr Sayer, Which must hearafter if Adopted give us infinite Advantage in Our Commerce.8

But the Subject of this Letter is Chiefly to assure your Excellency That Mr Sayer Can Construct a Ship On A New princeble, Which Cannot, under any Circumstance Be Taken, Nor Can Any Ship in the Kings Navy escape Capture or resist her force many minutes, the plan is the most Simple & the Effects are the most Evedent of any Thing in Nature, I am Astonished that No man has heretofore Thought of it for I Will Venture to pronounce the Fleet of England good for Nothing, the moment America has Ten of those Ships: They are built for half the money & in half the time Necessary in the Old Construction. Do not Suppose me Carried away With Warmth of Imagination. I Know I am right a Child Would See the Effects.

Mr Sayer is going from here for America he may be made prisoner—9 I hope for the Good of my Country you will in that Case instantly Effect his Exchange. I Trust too your Excellency Will also think me of Some Consequence, being made acquainted With the principles Suggested Especially In Case of Mr Sayers death. He means to go Over With me.

I Congratulate your Excellency present good Appearances for Our Country & for the World at Large. & am most you Obedient Humble Sert.

Alexr. Coffin

Addressed: A Son Excellence / Benj: Franklin Minr / Plenipotentiere / de le Etat Eunis de / Amerique / a Paris

Notation: Coffyn Alex: 28. Juin 1779

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7Presumably Sayre’s June 7 letter to BF, in which he cited the favorable opinions of his new ship design held by Coffin and another ship captain, Alexander Cordis.

8Enclosed with the present letter was a one-page testimonial in Sayre’s hand and signed by Cordis and Coffin stating that the proposed ship “would sail much faster, under any circumstances—would be safer in bad weather—must be vastly stronger—cheaper built—cheaper rigg’d—easier managed with the same hands, and more durable …” than any ship heretofore used.

9Sayre did not return to America until 1783: John R. Alden, Stephen Sayre, American Revolutionary Adventurer (Baton Rouge and London, 1983), pp. 135–6.

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