Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to John Paul Jones, 31 March 1780

To John Paul Jones

L4 and copy: Library of Congress

Passy, March 31st. 1780.

Dear Sir,

I received yours of the 14th by Mr Dryburugh. I had also another from Mess. Gourlade and Moylan acquainting me that they had received the Ransom Money about 200£ sterling, as paid to me, agreable to the Bill of Ransom; and had given my Acct. Credit for that Sum.5 This lays me under a Difficulty, for I am thus become accountable for that Sum to the People of the whole Squadron that was under your Command; and if I give it to him, as you seem to desire, I am liable to repay it out of my own Pocket, which I cannot afford. If you had given him what you thought he merited, and satisfied the People with regard to it, I should have made no Objection. As it stands, I can do no other than pay the Sum received into the Mass that is to be divided among the Captors. I furnish’d him however with Ten Pounds more than you had advanced to him, to help him home; and it may be right, if you think fit, to recommend him to Congress.

I think the Copper that was at Nantes, is gone for America, but if any remains, I shall be glad that you can take it, and will write Accordingly.

When in mine of the 18th I mentioned 24000 l.t. Livres to be advanced for the Accommodation of the People of the Bonhomme Richard, I meant it also for those of the Alliance, and desire it may be so understood.6

I understand that Orders are gone down to value the Prize Ships the Serapis and Countess of Scarborough. I shall endeavour to procure another for dividing the Sum they amount to among the Squadron. But this will I fear occasion such delay, that you will not be ready to sail with the Convoy. As the usual Forms of Examination of the Ships and Stores &ca and the Evaluation of each Article, may take some Weeks; during all this time too, an enormous Expence is going on in maintaining so many People. These Things perplex and chagrin me exceedingly and I earnestly wish to have nothing more to do with Ships, being quite a Novice in such Business.

There is now a Proposition of sending by you besides the 15,000 small Arms, 1000 Barrels of Powder. The Powder is already at Port Louis, and two thirds of the Arms. I shall be able to write more precisely about this tomorrow. I am sure of your Willingness to take all you can: but I doubt more is expected of you than is possible.

With great Esteem I am, ever, Dear Sir, Your most obedt and most humble Servant.

W.T. Franklin for B.F.

Honble Comme Jones.—

Notation: Wm/B. Franklin Per B Franklin No. 30 mar 31—80

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4In WTF’s hand and signed by him on behalf of his grandfather.

5Gourlade and Moylan’s letter is missing.

6Jones’s friend Jacques-Alexandre Gourlade later told him that he had encouraged BF to double the amount. BF supposedly pleaded financial embarrassment for not doing so; the only money he had received was from the French government and he regretted having to ask it for more. Bancroft for his part claimed to have asked BF to add 12,000 l.t. to the amount: Bradford, Jones Papers, reel 5, nos. 1035, 1048.

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