Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from John Paul Jones, 20 October 1780

From John Paul Jones

ALS: American Philosophical Society; AL (draft): National Archives

L’Orient Octr. 20. 1780


It being represented to me by Saml. Wharton Esqr. & Captain Hall of Philadelphia,6 Mr. Robt. Mease Merchant of Virginia and Mr. Mathew Mease Purser of the Ariel that Five persons lately arrived here directly from Maryland and Pensylvania were Under the following circumstances Vizt. Mr. Cheston from Maryland confesses he has never taken an Oath of fidelity to the United States, nor taken any Active part in the Revolution, but has rather been a favorer of British Measures, and came here bound for England, as he Says, to settle his Affairs there and with intention to return to America.7 Captain Smith from Maryland Appears to be nearly in the same situation; he says his fortune is in the British Funds.—8 Mr. West from Philadelphia, is a Quaker, son of a Carpinter, and having a considerable intrest there has refused the Oath or Affirmation and was bound for England.—9 Doctor Brown late of the Army is set out three Days ago, as I understand, either directly for Paris, or which is more likely for St. Malo—meaning to go along Shore and to remain in England. Doctor Wilson of St. Kitts also from America and now here is bound for England.— I thought it my Duty in conformity to the Advice of Mr. Wharton &c. to apply to Comte De Maillé1 to prevent the Embarkation of the Four Suspected Persons above Mentioned in a Dutch Ship bound for Ostend, Until they had Obtained Your Excellencies Permission.— I hope You will approve this Step I have taken, as there are now Seven American Vessels here Richly Laden besides the Ariel; and Mr. Cheston and his three Companions being Under no Tie on their Arrival in England, would naturally give information not only of what they know here, but of what they have Seen in America.— These Men Say they are now willing to take the Oath of fidelity to the United States.— I have been Actuated in the matter only by Publick motives.— I have the honor to be with the greatest respect Sir Your Excellencies’ Most Obedient very humble Servant

Jno. P Jones

His Excellency B. Franklin &c. &c.

Notation: J. P. Jones L’Orient Octr 20.80

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6Probably Capt. John Hall of the brigantine Friendship, 12: Claghorn, Naval Officers, p. 133.

7James Cheston wrote to BF from Lorient, also on Oct. 20: he was born in Maryland and had a wife and three children there, although he was educated mostly in England. Between 1769 and 1775 he was a partner in the Bristol merchant firm of Stevenson, Randolph, and Cheston, but resided in Maryland. In August, 1779, he sailed for France. He seeks a passport in order to settle affairs in England and to gather his effects before returning to America. APS. BF witnessed his oath of allegiance on Nov. 19 (APS). It is possible he was the Maryland lawyer James Cheston (b. 1747) for whom see W.W. Abbot et al., eds., The Papers of George Washington: Colonial Series (10 vols., Charlottesville, 1983–95), VIII, 215n.

8Thomas Smith accompanied Cheston to France on the brig Nesbitt. On Oct. 20, he prepared his own memorial (APS). Presently 58 years old, he was born in England and served in the Maryland-London trade for 39 years, rising to the rank of captain. He resided in Maryland from 1775 to 1779, where he still owns land and slaves; until recently he had a wife and family there. He came to Europe in order to withdraw his funds from England and then plans to return to Maryland. He asks a passport if BF approves. BF also witnessed his oath of allegiance on Nov. 19 (APS).

9Based on the additional information on West given by Wharton the same day, below, our guess is that he is a descendant of Charles West, owner of the West shipyard on Vine Street, perhaps his son James or a grandson: Harold E. Gillingham “Some Colonial Ships Built in Philadelphia,” PMHB, LVI (1932), 171.

1Charles-René de Maillé de La Tour-Landry, comte (later duc) de Maillé (1732–1791) for whom see the Dictionnaire de la Noblesse, XII, 822–3, and Croÿ, Journal, IV, 322n. Maillé, a maréchal de camp in the army, became inspector of troops in Brittany on Aug. 1, 1779: Bodinier.

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