Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from the Board of Admiralty, 6 May 1780

From the Board of Admiralty

ALS: National Archives

May 6th 1780


By the enclosed affidavits and protests6 you will perceive that James Robinson Esquire late commander of the continental Sloop Fly being dispossed of that sloop by a Majority of the Crew at Sea, was together with his Docter and Pilot put on board a Schooner called the Daphne bound from Providence to New York7 which schooner they also took possession of and carried her with her Cargo, to the french fleet then laying off Georgia, where the said schooner Daphne and Cargo was taken from them by the Captain of the french frigate Chimére.8 Captain Robinson his docter and Pilot being by a resolved of Congress dated the 14th of October 17779 entitled to the Sole property of said schooner Daphne and Cargo applied to the Board for relief in the premisses, who immediately laid the enclosed Papers before His Excellency the Chevr DelaLuzerne Minister Plenipotentiary of France from whom the Board received the following written Message in the french language, “The Chevalier DelaLuzerne has the Honor to Send back to Mr. Holker the papers relative to the Capture of Captain Robinson, this Gentleman must direct three or four proved Copies of them to Docter Franklin who can follow the Affair to the greatest Advantage. Feby 29th 1780.” Pursuent to the Chevaliers advice we have taken the liberty to trouble you with the enclosed papers in hopes that you may be enabled to Obtain for Captain Robinson some compensation for the loss of the Daphne and Cargo. I have the Honor to be Your Excellencys very Hble Servt

F Lewis

His Excellency Benjamin Franklin Minister plenipotentiary at Paris

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6The now-missing enclosures probably included the Board of Admiralty’s Dec. 31, 1779, letter to La Luzerne forwarding evidence on the incident discussed below: Charles Oscar Paullin, ed., Out-Letters of the Continental Marine Committee and Board of Admiralty, August, 1776–September, 1780 (2 vols., New York, 1914), II, 146–7. In February Congress had ordered it to conduct a board of inquiry (JCC, XVI, 140–1), but we have found no record of one.

7He first wrote “London”, and then interlined “York”. Apparently the crew of the Fly mutinied in order to turn the ship over to the British and put Capt. Robinson, the doctor, and the pilot on board a British ship bound for New York. For Robinson see Claghorn, Naval Officers, p. 261.

8The frigate Chimère, Capt. de Saint-Cézaire, had been part of d’Estaing’s squadron since it was sent to America: France, Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, Les Combattants français de la guerre américaine, 1778–1783 (Paris, 1903), p. 65.

9This congressional resolve (JCC, IX, 802), passed in retaliation for British encouragement of mutinies on American ships, rewarded the captains or crews who brought British ships into American ports or harbors.

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